The STEM Room at Downers Grove Library

Programs

In the Spring of 2013 our library was making plans for a renovation.  We went on field trips to other libraries and noticed things we liked here and didn’t like too much there.  Really, we had small dreams: new carpet, improved lighting.  We were pretty content with our department, we just really want to be refreshened.  Then I had a conversation with our director and he said to me, “Encourage big thinking!” Well, dreaming is when I do my best brainstorming and one night (April 23, 2013 — I checked my Google drive), I woke up at  4 a.m. with ideas.  I went downstairs and started typing.  One of the things I typed was

create a STEM space: I don’t know what this means yet….robotics; digital media; creative, it could be as easy as a hands-on place to see Science at work. Maybe this would be just watching and graphing an avocado seed grow…

I haven’t read that in a while and I confess to be surprised by that particular verbage. Did I really use the word robotics? Where did I get that idea from?  I notice I capitalized science.  That was either a middle-of-the-night mistake or intentional–Science as a living breathing thing.

Looking at that document this week really surprised me.  Virtually everything we brainstormed happened.  We don’t have a digital media lab in our department, but we can use the one upstairs.   We created a STEM space and it debuted this weekend at our library’s renovation celebration.

P1010738

The STEM Room. Just needs the console games installed.

The STEM room has a strategic plan and in writing it we developed a focus.

Our focus: The Children’s Services STEM room is designed to serve grade school children by providing them with opportunities to explore science, technology, engineering, math and other activities that might stimulate their curiosity supported by trained children’s services staff.

We’re using the room for console gaming.  On Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday we will have open gaming for school age kids through eighth grade.  On Thursday and Friday in the morning we will have hands-on activities for preschoolers. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons we  are turning off the TV and will have hands-on activities for school age kids.

Getting ready for the STEM room

We didn’t really know what we wanted to do.  We knew that we wanted to make the STEM room much more than a room for gaming.  And that was our challenge: As soon as after-school gaming starts, certain kids will want us to only have gaming. Our newly designed department has an iPad bar (part of that original brainstorming) and six no-hassle internet computers and three purchased Minecraft accounts we can log kids in to.  We have the gaming covered on non-gaming days. So our focus has to be to come up with things that a small, busy staff can handle.  Most of our activities won’t be able to have staff supervision.

Here are some of the ideas that I’ve proposed we purchased for use on a rotating basis:
→Beebots Basic coding for kids as young as three.
→Cubelets (Purchased.)
Competition Cups.  We have one set and will be buying another with the timer.  I thought there would be one for learning and one for timing.  Kids can post their times on our mobile whiteboard.
→Keva Planks.  These and tinker toys would make for some great open ended activities.  One thing I’ve learned from Robot Test Kitchen is not every activity has to be planned to death. Open-ended discovery is both good and important.  The best mistakes in life are the ones that are discoveries.
Kinetic Sands and molds.  Fun exploratory play.
Magnets We purchased from Lakeshore learning.
Snap Circuits.  I’m still on the fence about these. They’re so great, but we’ll need several sets of them in order to meet our needs.
→Squishy Circuits.  This is a kit purchased for ILEAD-USA. It’s been so well received at other libraries, I’m looking forward to doing it during preschool time.

Our STEM Room is a work in progress; an on-going experiment if you will.  I’m so excited that this space is here. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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