In 2015, I started a hands-on STEM library program. Libraries hired me to present as a part of their summer reading programs. In all the places I visited, librarians loved how it was hands-on. The word spread that Too many programs would promise a hands-on experience and deliver a lecture. For years I would spend long days in the car, bringing my program to a few libraries at a time all summer.
The kids who come to library programs come in all types. What was interesting was how varied in ability they could be. A group of kids would rock my challenges. All the older kids would try the hardest challenges and make them look easy. A few miles down the road, a new group of kids would have trouble folding paper to get started. I’ll never forget thinking that these kids have never used their hands before.
Libraries would put me wherever they had a little space. Sometimes this was a huge, open room. Other times it was jammed in between the rows of books. No matter what, librarians and the kids who attended appreciated the hands-on programs and fun challenges. It was a great four years. I was just getting more teachers started when covid shut it down.
This was a great experience and I learned so much. For example,
- How to be ultra flexible. No power nearby? Only one table? Less time? More kids? – No problem
- Break each lesson down into the tiniest possible bits of information and thread it as a story
- Reusable materials and customizable projects are out there
- Calling it a challenge is best
- The same challenge can hit a large range of kids with some simple modifications
- Do a great job and word of mouth takes over
- I don’t mind travelling and meeting new people, as long as they are friendly librarians!
My new focus is on developing Puzzle Shift Create and Innovative Arts. Libraries were a great way to get started on this path.