Cook Memorial Public Library Children’s Librarians Heather Beverley, Heather Thompson, and Sue McCowin are the dynamic team behind our popular Science Explorers (for grades 4-6) and Science Explorers Jr. (grades 1-3) program series. Last month they shared their success with librarians from all over the state when they presented “52 Weeks of Science” at the Illinois Library Association Conference in Peoria. Next spring they will display their expertise on a national stage at the Public Library Association Conference in Denver, Colorado.
To support the academic emphasis on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math), these programs introduce scientific principles using fun and engaging projects. Here are two examples:
- Computer Programming Unplugged: Participants wrote code to navigate a maze drawn on the floor and then each became a robot, following the code through the maze. If it didn’t work, they had to go back and fix the bug in their coding. The response was an overwhelming, “Let’s do it again!”
- Catapults: Not content with the basic instructions for building a catapult, some students modified the design dramatically. One girl wowed the librarians by creating a functioning double catapult operated by a switch.
So that our patrons can enjoy science fun and learning at home, the two Heathers and colleague Jan Hastings wrote a proposal that resulted in a $2000 grant from IEEE, the world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology, to purchase and circulate Science Explorer to Go kits. With the IEEE funds, generously matched by The Friends of Cook Memorial Public Library, our staff has purchased 72 kits for Cook Park and Aspen Drive Libraries (36 for each library). Every kit contains extensive equipment, an activity card, and related books. Putting them together required a major cataloging and labeling effort by our Technical Services Department. You may want to try these kits among many others:
• Snap Circuits Rover Kit (make a remote-control vehicle)
• LEGO® WeDO kit (programmable LEGO® creation)
• MakeyMakey kit (make any object function as a computer or a computer keyboard)
• Microscope Kit
• Galaxy Planetarium Kit
• Frog Dissection Kit
To see what’s available, enter the words “science kit” in our online catalog search box or stop by the Children’s Reference Desk to look through a binder of photos and info pages about each kit. Check out a kit for one week; you can renew twice as long as there are no holds. (Note that there is a $5/day late fee.) The kits have no age restrictions, but of course many of them have small parts and aren’t suitable for our youngest patrons. Otherwise, fun for the whole family!