Brainstorming – STEAM

STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. It’s an educational philosophy that I am struggling to learn, but I feel the need to because it seems really critical. From what I have gathered it is very hands-on, and more about critical thinking and experimenting than rote memorization. I am basically approaching it as science play. If we need to read for fun and pretend for fun, it seems logical to me that we should art and science for fun too. Sadly, from what I have seen in my community there is little focus on STEAM programs. We don’t have a truly local children’s science center, and programs that do exist certainly aren’t free or accessible to my library kids.

Makerspaces are sort of a dedicated, DIY space with crafts, electronics, and other supplies.  I have read about school libraries that have makerspaces, but I have never had a patron talk about one or seen them at any school I had visited. Additionally, it seems to me as though public libraries, if they happen to have a makerspace, tend to cater to the adult patrons with 3D printers and other fabrication machines. One day I was thinking about the STEAM programs, makerspaces,  and about the Matthew effect.

The Matthew effect of accumulated advantage, described in sociology, is a phenomenon sometimes summarized by the adage that “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”

If the Matthew effect applies to reading, with the argument that weak readers fall further and further behind, wouldn’t a similar gap apply to the kids that are behind in science play? And if so, what could I realistically do about it?

My library does not have the space or the staff to have a dedicated makerspace, but maybe I could use some of my programming time to have a STEAM/Makerspace hybrid program. I would want to run it at least once a month to help justify any purchases to be made. If it does well I might be able to expend it to tween/teens which is a historically difficult demographic for me.

My next step (in progress) is to come up with activities and incentives. I had been thinking about badges, buttons, and stickers for a long time but I decided I want to have a log book with badges that the kids can keep track of their progress. I think the gamification of the program will keep interest up and encourage kids to try new things. They can earn some kind of prize for completing badges. I know some librarians have let the kids earn books or candy bars. I also have access to some general giveaways and prizes we use like pencils and wristbands.

I want a majority of the activities to be used individually or in a small group. My goal is for them to take 20-50 minutes so that kids can focus on one more difficult activity or two smaller, activities and have time to clean up. I spent some time on amazon looking for STEM games and toys as well as brainstorming what activities I have previously done with the kids that could work for this program, and what science topics would be the most interesting.

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