Nation’s Museums and Libraries Feed Minds and Bodies this Summer

Ed. Note: This blog was originally posted on the USDA blog. To view the original post, click here.

By Tony Craddock, Jr.
Program Analyst
USDA Food and Nutrition Service

Kids participating in summer programming with counselors.

While providing children with nutritious meals is the top priority of USDA’s summer meal programs, activity programming is also important for healthy kids.

Libraries remain a part of the fiber of American communities, with over 123,000 operating across the nation.  And in states like Idaho, libraries provided children with more than just books!  For the second straight year, the Idaho Commission for Libraries teamed up with AmeriCorps VISTAs and local summer meal sites to offer “Literacy in the Park”, a program to bring fun educational activities to existing Summer Food Service Program meal sites.

They say “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”!  But “Literacy in the Park” proved that you can certainly add to it!  Julie Armstrong from the Commission for Libraries said, “We thought, if kids are already at the parks eating, let’s offer them literacy activities along with those meals.”  Ten AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers from the Idaho Foodbank assisted with literacy programs at different Boise sites, each sponsored by the Idaho Foodbank and the Oasis Food Center.

The AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate Program supports USDA’s effort to ensure children do not go hungry during summer months, but they also want to make sure kids don’t lose ground when they return to class in the fall.  USDA has partnered with the Corporation for National and Community Service for four years to strategically place VISTAs in areas of need, where great programs like “Literacy in the Park” make a difference in children’s lives.

Museums can play important roles as well.  FNS partners with the Institute of Museum and Library Services to feed minds and bodies during the summer.  In fact, there are more than 35,000 museums in the United States, so the opportunities Idaho leveraged with libraries are possible with museums.  So not only can museums and libraries support existing sites, they can become sites themselves!

FNS continues to encourage partnerships between the Institute of Museum and Library Services, VISTAs and the Summer Food Service Program… And now you can do the same!

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Early Learning, Health | Leave a comment

A Comprehensive Strategy to Strengthen STEM Learning Must Include Libraries and Museums

Photo of Susan HildrethBy Susan H. Hildreth
Director, IMLS

Quality STEM education is important for the nation as a whole and for individual citizens. A robust and capable STEM workforce is crucial to United States competiveness. Research links STEM educa­tion to the future security and economic success of the United States, and opportunities for STEM-related careers are increasing. However, we know that students in the U.S. rank in the middle of the pack compared to their peers internationally, and, in some economic sectors, job applicants do not have the STEM knowledge and problem-solving skills that employers need.

It is gratifying to see that at the national level, the role of informal learning in supporting major student outcomes in STEM education—and, in particular, of libraries and museums—is recognized in two National Research Council reports, STEM Learning is Everywhere and STEM Integration in K-12.

The National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2014 reports that public interest in informal learning opportunities is high. In fact, the majority of Americans visit zoos, natural history museums, aquariums, or science technology centers each year. It is clear that these institutions play an essential role in reaching the public, inspiring STEM interest, and supporting STEM skills. A comprehensive strategy to improve STEM achievement must embrace informal learning opportunities.

Just this summer, the Board on Science Education assembled a 13-person expert committee, led by our National Museum and Library Services Board member Eric Jolly, to develop a concise primer on successful out-of-school STEM learning based on evidence of successful practice and informed by a 2-day public workshop that explores the current evidence. The primer on best practices in out-of-school STEM learning will be written for policy-makers, funders, nonprofit and private industry representatives, and other representatives from civic society.

Here at IMLS, we established a funding priority for STEM-related projects in FY 2013 and FY 2014. I am pleased to announce that we have invested more than $23 million in 140 STEM-related projects during that time.

All types of libraries—public, academic, school, and tribal—are represented in our portfolio, and many museum disciplines, from science tech centers to art museums to zoos. These programs are supporting teachers, faculty, and classroom learning, are providing quality out-of-school opportunities, and are reaching underserved populations.  They also help prepare library and museum professionals to create programs that help citizens develop a broad range of STEM skills, from data mining to video production and more.

I encourage you to take a look at the descriptions of these recently funded programs. I promise you will be astonished at the variety and depth of these investments. We will be following this work and continuing to strategically invest in strengthening STEM learning experiences.

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Director's Messages, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) | Leave a comment

Taking Big Steps at the Museum

By Melissa Heintz
Public Affairs Specialist, IMLS

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis was one of 10 winners of the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor for libraries and museums that are serving their communities in exceptional ways. Community member Spencer Hahn traveled with President & CEO Jeffrey Patchen to Washington D.C.  this past May to accept the award.

Erica Hahn had been told by doctors that her son, Spencer, suffered a stroke in utero that destroyed the left side of his brain. After years of being told that he would never walk or talk, something magical happened at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. It was at the museum that Spencer reached developmental milestones, like speaking his first words and taking his first steps. “Out of nowhere, he says, ‘Mama,’ and I can’t even tell you the emotion,” said Erica. The museum is at the forefront of creating learning experiences with the power to transform the lives of children and families. Spencer continues to visit the museum and learns about other cultures, history, science, and to visit his favorite green dinosaur, Rex.

Do you know of a museum or library that has made a difference? Nominations are now being accepted for the 2015 National Medal. Nomination Forms must be mailed and postmarked by October 15, 2014.

Posted in Accessibility, Afterschool/Out-of-School, Early Learning, Education Support, Lifelong learning/ Intergenerational, National Medal for Museum and Library Service | Leave a comment