We have all heard of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), right?
But have you heard about the “A” that is missing?
The “A” stands for arts.
I have the privilege of working at a library system that is very well known for their STEAM programs. So much that it made me want to start a series of blog posts about the importance of STEAM and feature interviews with those in the field incorporating STEAM.
What are some examples of STEAM?
STEAM concepts can be applied to many existing programs that libraries provide. Including:
- Science storytimes
- Read a story and relate STEAM concepts to it with activities. Sometimes, just changing the way you ask questions can make a storytime STEAM. Use words like “hypothesis” or “observation” makes science not so scary. It becomes more natural and comfortable. For preschoolers, you can read a book that has to do with bears and then have a discussion about hibernation.
- Hosting building events
- Lego nights
- Video game making/playing
- Robot kits
- The science of art
STEAM is more than just crafts that are traditionally used to end storytimes. STEAM is about activating the creativity in young minds and sparking their curiosity.
Why promote STEAM in libraries?
1) Promote the collection and inspire interest
On the reference desk, there is nothing better than having a child come up and ask for books on dogs, or robots, or art and taking them over to the nonfiction section to explore all the possibilities of books they can take home.
That interaction is something that all public librarians should all strive for. We want to inspire children to engage in information seeking behavior during or long before they start seeking for information for school projects only.
2) Aid in life-long learning
This has to do with “Growth vs. Fixed mindset“. Show children and young adults that they are learning and help them stay learning. Children are naturally curious but the way we interact with them can make all the difference. Using STEAM in programs allows us to stretch their thinking and gives us material to talk to them about. Instead of “Good job, you are so smart!” you can say, “Good job, you are learning so much!”.
3) Life skills
Being successful isn’t just about reading. By providing a place where children and young adults can converse, work together, and collaborate increases their soft skills (skills that can’t be learned through studying like math or science). That’s why employers are looking for people that are great at group work or communication.
4) Hands-on activities
Many of us learn the best when we apply concepts that we learned. That’s why we are in an MLIS program that teaches theory but then let’s us apply it through projects. This way, the theory won’t go to waste and will help us solve problems in our future careers. When I look back on being in school and learning, my best memories are when we did hands-on activities in class (origami, building towers, making bottle rockets). Also, it’s FUN! It’s fun for the kids and fun for the parents.
When something is advertised as an at program, a few people come. But if something is advertised as a program about the science of art, more people come. The activities may be the same but the purpose is slightly different. It’s a great way of getting people into the doors of the library.
So are you ready for a series about STEAM in the field?
For some great programming ideas, check out the Show Me Librarian: All Things STEAM
For a full presentation on what STEAM is, examples, and resources, check our these slides from the ALA.
This blog post was written by Melody Leung. She is a 1st year residential student interested in youth services. She loves public libraries and performing storytimes for children every chance she can get. Her studies include multicultural resources, entrepreneurial support, and outreach. On her spare time, she enjoys doing wushu (Chinese martial art), watching sit coms, and cooking.