Overheard at the Preston Royal Branch of the Dallas Public Library: a mother suggested to her daughter a trip to the State Fair of Texas, but the little girl had other ideas.
“But what about STEM?” she asked. “I want to go to STEM.”
Libraries have always been go-to places when seeking knowledge and now also offer programs that cater to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) or STEAM (the “A” is for art) education.
Of the five years, Connie Maxwell has managed the Preston Royal Branch, the STEM program has been hosting STEM & Stories for four. The goal is to expose school-aged children to STEM in fun ways.
Laura Collins, the youth services librarian at the Highland Park Harvey R. “Bum” Bright Library, has noticed an equal interest from both girls and boys in the STEAM program there.
“We provide a place for kids to blow off steam…no pun intended.” -Connie Maxwell
The library has 11 STEAM kits thanks to grants from La Fiesta de las Seis Banderas. The kits, available for children as young as 3, include a Night Sky kit, which contains a telescope and helps teach children about constellations and planets. With the Dash! robot kit, users do basic coding to make the robot respond to voice, surroundings, and other inputs.
The Highland Park library also hosts events such as the Code-a-thon and a Star Wars-themed technology lab for children, ages 9 to 14, who are interested in tech and coding. The library frequently combines old crafts with new technology such as virtual reality headsets.
“We see a lot of people come in during finals,” Collins said. “We provide a place for kids to blow off steam…no pun intended.”
University Park Public Library has been hosting STEAM Station and Elementary Explorers for a year. While the STEAM Station is more interactive and hands-on, Elementary Explorers is more like a class where children ages 6 and older learn new concepts and how those ideas are used in everyday life.
“I try to give them visuals to understand the concepts,” said Zoe Williams, University Parks youth services librarian.
While the libraries may not tie into schools’ curriculum directly, librarians stay in touch with teachers to promote what the libraries have to offer.
While the programs are there to engage students, librarians stressed the importance of parental or guardian involvement. Learning is a group sport, and the STEM/STEAM programs are opening the minds of students to prepare them for a lifetime of learning, they said.