STEAM or STEM programs are one of my favorite programs! For those who do not know, STEM programs are common in libraries and schools across the country and stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Some choose to incorporate art into their program, making it STEAM.
Why are STEM (or STEAM) programs so important? According to the National Math and Science Initiative, “STEM job creation over the next 10 years will outpace non-STEM jobs significantly, growing 17 percent, as compared to 9.8 percent for non-stem positions. Jobs in computer systems design and related services – a field dependent on high-level math and problem-solving skills – are projected to grow 45 percent between 2008 and 2018. The occupations with the fastest growth in the coming years – such as biomedical engineers, network systems and data communications analysts, and medical scientists – all call for degrees in STEM fields.”
But I’m not a teacher, how can I encourage STEAM education and development? Early STEAM
activities require little to no scientific background on the part of the program provider. LEGOS and other block activities encourage spatial reasoning and early engineering skills, as do gingerbread houses and sandcastles. Easy chemistry experiments are also fun. At the Chisago Lakes Area Library we’ve experimented with invisible ink and candy. Throughout the experiments we ask questions, such as “which invisible ink will work better?”, “what happens to the candy corn when we submerge it in soda?” Thinking critically and asking questions are imperative in science. Early experiments like these also get children used to words like Hypothesis, Experiment and Analyze.
Examples of other simple STEAM programs are listed below:
We made stethoscopes out of two liter bottles and paper towel tubes, and listened to our heart beats standing, after light exercise and after more intensive exercise.
Jello, baking powder, water, and various beads/trinkets, were frozen in ice cube trays. The pirate scientists (ages 3-8) had to figure out the best way to get the treasure out of the “treasure chest.” They especially enjoyed watching the chests fizz once vinegar was added. After retrieving their treasure, the pirates had to distribute their loot, working on math and sorting.
Build a concert venue with toothpicks and marshmallows
The structures were modeled on different concert venues, and they talked about the different designs and the best way to build a solid structure.
Patrons discussed the Caesar shift code, and binary code. Patrons made their own code wheel and binary code bracelets. This program focused on patterns and simple math.
Glass soda bottles were filled with different levels of water. Patrons blew over the rim of the bottles making different sounds. We discussed why some bottles had lower pitches and some had higher. We then poured in more water or poured out water to change the sound.
By Elizabeth Shirek, Chisago Lakes Branch Librarian