- Rebecca Purdy
If you're the caregiver for a school age child, then STEM is probably already a household word. An acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, STEM is a focused initiative in the nation's schools and ties in closely with the library's educational mission. Its origins lie with Congress’ America Competes Act, aptly named because when it comes to these subject areas, the consensus has been that our students are not prepared to do the STEM-related jobs we will need filled in the near future.
STEM is more than just a buzzword; it's a necessity in today's technologically-driven society and closely related to 21st Century Skills, the proficiencies needed to allow U.S. students to compete in a global and innovative economy. A few that naturally tie in with library programming are:
- Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
- Creativity and Innovation
- Communication and Collaboration
- Visual Literacy
- Cross-Disciplinary Thinking
- Global Awareness
- Initiative and Self-Direction
Our MakerLabs are STEM exploration spaces for customers of all ages to enjoy hands-on learning with a wide variety of high and low-tech equipment and activities.
Libraries have always played a critical role in your child's education, and this is no exception. The STARnet* website perfectly explains the role the public library plays in STEM education.
We have always incorporated STEM into our youth programming, but now we do it more consciously.
- Branches present at least one STEM-related class per quarter.
- We make it easier for you to identify STEM-related classes and events by labeling them as such.
- Each branch has Nature Adventure Packs available for checkout. These backpacks are filled with books, activities and materials to encourage scientific exploration of the natural world.
- Our annual summertime Discovery Table activities deal with STEM subjects from planet scavenger hunts to games that develop critical thinking skills.
- We actively seek out area partnerships that will provide new STEM opportunities and experiences for our customers, from the University of Mary Washington's Education Department, Virginia Tech's Engineering School and the National Girls Collaborative Project, as well as grant-related programming such as the recent Discover Earth and Discover Tech exhibits held at our England Run branch. Every year we celebrate the International Observe the Moon Night in partnership with NASA Solar System Ambassadors Program and the Rappahannock Astronomy Club.
Highlights from our many STEM activities are featured in the following slideshow.
*STAR_Net is a production of the Space Science Institute's National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL) in collaboration with the American Library Association, the Lunar and Planetary Institute, and the National Girls Collaborative Project. Major funding is provided by the National Science Foundation.