STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) has become an emphasis in many schools throughout the United States.You have probably noticed that here at Kitsap Regional Library, we offer STEM programs for children and teens. So why the push? Youth need to be grounded in these subjects as they start to navigate life in the 21st century, especially in their career paths. STEM jobs are steadily increasing and it is important that youth are prepared to successfully enter these professions. STEM learning also promotes necessary skills like critical thinking, problem solving, team work and cooperation.
As a Youth Services Librarian, I attempt to support STEM learning in various ways. Not only do I offer STEM programs, but I am trying to gain an understanding of what youth need to thrive and succeed in the 21st century. One aspect of STEM learning that I initially struggled with is where art and creativity fit into it. I will admit I was a creative writing major during my undergraduate years and the sciences and math were the furthest thing from my mind at the time. So STEM has been a bit of a learning curve for me. But I have come to realize that art and creativity go hand in hand with STEM learning. It is easy to think of STEM and art as very distinct categories, but they actually complement each other and together can reinforce important concepts.
The STEM programs we offer at the library take place in an informal learning environment and promote connected learning. One example of how STEM learning and creativity go hand in hand is a program I offered last year about catapults. The kids and I spent some time discussing the science behind catapults and then the kids each made a catapult using tongue depressors, rubber bands, and plastic spoons. They were also asked to design and build a fortress out of poster board, popsicle sticks and tape. Amazing fortresses were built and then the kids were challenged to break through each other's fortresses by catapulting marshmallows. The kids learned about force in relation to the catapult and creatively designed fortresses in which they had to problem solve various issues such as how to make them free standing.
As you can see, STEM learning is not limited to formal environments. It is something you can support at home and there are many resources available to help get you started. Most likely, you already do things at home that support STEM learning. One thing to consider is purchasing some STEM toys. It is the season of gift giving and many stores and organizations offer lists of STEM toys in their gift giving guides. Pinterest is a great resource for finding hands on STEM projects that also incorporate art. And don't forget the library! We are here to support you. Come to one of the many STEM programs we offer. We also have books that can be used as a resource for parents and caregivers along with books for kids that promote STEM concepts and creativity. Here are a few of my favorites:
For parents and caregivers:
Tinkerlab: A Hands on Guide for Little Inventors by Rachelle Doorley
The Curious Kid's Science Book by Asia Citro
Art Lab for Kids by Susan Schwake
The Kids' Book of Simple Machines by Kelly Doudna
Secret Coders by Gene Yuen Lang
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty