What’s Up in the STEM Room? And a $10 Tuesday!

Programs, STEAM stuff, Ten Dollar Tuesdays

The Library where I work has a small multi-purpose room.  We call it the STEM room.  Most days we have a live feed playing on the monitor via AppleTv and an iPad.  For most of the Spring, we had the Hanover, PA eagle cam playing… until the eaglets spread their wings and moved the camera.  Lately we have the Tennessee Aquarium playing in the background.  It’s relaxing to see the animals in the water and gives patrons of all ages something to talk about. In the STEM Room we offer hands-on fun like Keva Planks and Magnaforms as well as other products from Lakeshore Learning.

Last year the local high school science teacher contacted us and asked if we could somehow collaborate with them and present science to kids.  We were thrilled. I’m a generalist, not a specialist; and as we’ve discussed before, science isn’t my thing. He recruited students to volunteer and the STEM Squad was born.  Kids teaching kids.  It’s a really great thing!

Today we had our first program.  The theme was solvency and the activity was shaving cream tie-dyed cards.  Less tie-dye and more marbling…but fun nonetheless.  Like every drop-in program, we had no idea how many kids would actually show up. The leftover index card count was 7, which meant 93 cards were made.

Activity 1:Shaving cream cards

List of Materials needed:
3×5 index cards
shaving cream (we used six cans)
food coloring  (six boxes)
popsicle sticks
foil pans (we had eight)
garbage cans
tarp to protect the table
paper towels

Place a small amount of shaving cream in the foil pans.  Add drops of food coloring.  With the popsicle sticks, marble the food coloring in to the shaving cream.  It’s best to leave some white — too much mixing will create colored shaving cream and not give you the pretty marbling you’re looking for.  Place the index card onto your shaving cream.  Give it a good press and remove.  Scrap the remaining shaving cream off with the popsicle stick and blot it dry.

(null) IMG_6213

I think they’re really pretty.

Activity 2: Color Separation
This was neat.

List of Materials Needed:
Petri dishes (or small shallow dishes)
Skittles and/or M&Ms

1. Putting four different pieces of candy  (don’t mix the candies, pick one brand per dish) add a small amount of water — enough to cover the candies.

2. Wait.

CI63f3zUcAAS70PYou can see it best in this picture.The color is removed from the Skittle and separates into the water.  I think it’s fascinating that the colors don’t bleed together.  (At least until dish is upset, then all bets are off.)  In the second dish, the colors are completely gone and the whitish part is the sugar dissolving.

We did one more experiment using M&Ms. The colors separated much like the Skittles, but the candy coating didn’t dissolve during the time we had our program.  The little rice paper Ms were left on, which was fun to see.

What’s up in the STEM Room for the rest of the month? Lots of mad science: liquid nitrogen, dry ice, and more.  We’re excited to work with the local high school science teachers. It’s such an amazing opportunity for our department and patrons!



Ten Dollar Tuesdays: Engineering Challenge: Marble Runs

Guest post, Programs, Ten Dollar Tuesdays

We are happy to feature a guest post from Ann Carpenter!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ann Carpenter is the Youth Services Librarian at the Brooks Free Library in Harwch, MA. Among many other programs, she runs a monthly Engineering Challenge for school aged children.

  • Program:

Engineering Challenge: Marble Runs

  • Age range:

Around 15-20 school aged kids can participate. More can be accommodated if you have them work in groups. Each group should have at least two pieces of foam.

  • Cost:

10 6 foot pipe foam pieces at $1 a piece. You will also need marbles and masking tape, but those are things I had around the library anyway.

  • Activity:

We talked about momentum demonstrating that a marble rolled along a mostly flat track will stop, but a marble rolled down an inclined track will keep going, and that marble rolled down a very steep track can build up enough momentum to keep going even uphill. Once they had the general idea, I gave them the first challenge: to build a roller coaster that allowed the marble to go up and over a hill. I purposefully make my first level of challenge relatively simple so that every child participating will have at least one success by the end of the program.

To accomplish their challenge the children were given pipe foam that I had cut in half lengthwise, forming a channeled track. The pipe foam was perfect for our purposes: very flexible for young hands to manipulate and very cheap at about $1 for a 6 ft tube, which provided 2 channels. I also OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAgave them access to lots of tape. Our second level of challenge was to create a loop-the-loop. I told the children who completed the second challenge that they could either do a free design, or they could try for two loop-the-loops. Most chose to try for two loops.

  • Difficulties and challenges:

One thing I noticed during this program was that it was not enough for the children to accomplish the task: they needed me to be a witness to their success. This meant running around the room quite a bit so that I could personally watch marbles rolling around the tracks. The looks of delight were definitely worth it. Emphasize that engineering is a process, and they may need to try out their design, then go back and make adjustments based on results.

Ten Dollar Tuesdays: 3-D Roller Coaster

Ten Dollar Tuesdays

3d1This week for our $10 Tuesdays we are putting the A in STEAM and talking about making 3-D roller coasters!

The idea for this program came from what I consider a children’s librarian’s best friend – pinterest. Originally posted on the smART Class blog, we thought 3-D roller coasters would be a hit! The activity incorporates elements of design, building, and creativity. It was also just plain old fun!


Our program was for grades K-1, but I think it can be adapted for a lot of ages.


$0 – $10

I think most libraries will have the supplies on hand. The one thing that you will need to purchase are the pizza circles.


  • Cardboard Pizza Circles (You can get these in bulk for cheap)
  • Strips of construction paper
  • Paper of various weights
  • Markers/crayons
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Digital Camera and set up for printing photos quickly. (I’m assuming most libraries can get their hands on one).


The prep time for this is fairly quick. You need some pre-cut strips, but otherwise you can just let the kids create! During the program you will need a staffer to take photos of the kids in their roller coaster poses and print them while the kid’s are building their structures. That way they can add themselves to their roller coasters.