By Michele Farrell and Timothy Owens
Senior Library Program Officers, IMLS
We recently had the good fortune to participate in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) workshop for librarians at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond. Sponsored by the Library of Virginia with IMLS Grants to States funds, this session brought together over 60 librarians from across the state to learn about STEM resources, get ideas for successful programs, and partner with their museum colleagues.
Chuck English, Director of Playful Learning and Inquiry at the museum, led a highly interactive session that offered plenty of opportunities for participation. He shared great tips on how to actively engage participants without making STEM intimidating or like formal schoolwork. It was just what you might expect from someone with his job title.
So how do you get folks to actively learn in a workshop? To be willing to answer questions without fearing that their answers aren’t correct? One technique is to have each participant write his or her answer on a piece of paper along with his or her rationale, crumple it up in a ball, and throw it into a large tub or basket. Once collected, answers can be pulled out and shared without identifying anyone. You can then discuss the correct answer and why other responses were incorrect.
The day was modeled as a program for kids, in this case big kids (adults), and included several “challenges” that made learning fun. For example, we were given a bag of materials and sent off to develop a prosthetic arm for a one-armed monkey. At another point we were handed an iPad and told to make a short video about bones. In another activity, participants were asked to draw the human body. So maybe the workshop could have been called “STEAM,” adding an A for arts. Chuck stressed that one of the keys to success was providing challenges that offered room for creativity. There was no single right way to do something and participants were able to infuse the end product with a bit of their own personality.
At the end of the day, library staff came away with many ideas and resources to offer STEM activities for kids in their own communities. We look forward to hearing their success stories!
Check out a blog post from the YALSA blog about this workshop.