What is STEM?

The following resources present lessons learned in implementing STEM learning experiences in libraries or with libraries as partners, and highlight tools, resources, strategies, outcomes, and community impacts that others can use.

Survey Report

Jim S. Hakala et al (2016)
STEM in Libraries: National Survey Results
University of Colorado/Space Science Institute

*Presented at the 2015 Public Libraries & STEM Conference. View Conference Program

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In the winter of 2015, the STAR_Net project team developed and implemented a two phased front-end evaluation of Library Professionals and STEM professionals utilizing an on-line front-end survey and conducting telephone interviews with select participants. The goals of evaluation were to determine: 1. What STEM programming is currently in place in libraries, and how do libraries approach and implement STEM programs? 2. What obstacles prevent libraries from incorporating more STEM programming? 3. What kind of training and resources would be most helpful to librarians? 4. And what factors influence and enhance the success of establishing and maintaining a “Community of Practice” or professional learning community? Over 500 library and STEM professionals completed the survey and 25 participants were interviewed. This presentation will focus on the results of the evaluation, implications of the results, and recommendations to the project team.

Presentations

Golden G., Race M. (2015)
Aliens, Astronauts and Asteroids! Bringing Space Exploration to your Library
Lafayette Library & Learning Center, Contra Costa County Library

*Presented at the 2015 Public Libraries & STEM Conference. View Conference Program

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The Lafayette Library & Learning Center, part of Contra Costa County Public, is an innovative model for libraries. Home of the Glenn Seaborg Learning Consortium, this partnership is comprised of distinguished educational and cultural resources, leading to a wealth of STEM programming, including the future of space exploration. This poster session features the “Mission: Mars” program including activities culminating in a visit from Dr. Pascal Lee, Chairman of the Mars Institute, author of “Mission: Mars.” Children participated in varied learning activities: Mars fact-finding, astronaut training, telescope viewing, “Gravity” presented by Lawrence Hall of Science, and a presentation by NASA scientist Dr. Race discussing the search for life, followed by a “Make a Martian” challenge based on atmospheric conditions on Mars. Children wrote essays detailing why they would be the best candidate for future missions to Mars, with responses judged by NASA scientists. Participants received prizes and completion certificates. Program sponsors included NASA, SETI Institute, Mars Institute, Chabot Space & Science Center and Lawrence Hall of Science. The display focuses on visually providing ideas for libraries to adapt for their own Space Science programming. It includes “Mission: Mars” promotional materials, the program’s “Training Manual,” and event photographs. This poster session was presented at the ALA Conference in SF and is a scheduled program for the upcoming CLA Conference.

Hall M. K., Mayhew M. A., Madrid T. M. (2015)
A Collaborative Model to Enhance STEM in Libraries with a Focus on Reaching Under-served Groups 
The Teen Science Café Network

*Presented at the 2015 Public Libraries & STEM Conference. View Conference Program

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The Teen Science Café Network (teensciencecafe.org) is an open community of practice engaged in developing Teen Science Cafés led by teens for teens. Ideas and resources are freely shared, as well as lessons learned in developing cafés in each location. The Teen Science Café Network provides professional development, mentoring and small grants for starting a new program to new Members. In this presentation, we will share insights into starting a Teen Science Café within a library and the impacts these programs have on both the teens and the STEM expert presenters. We will also discuss how the structure of the program incorporating STEM experts and teen leaders can provide a foundation for additional STEM programming within libraries. Teen Cafés are informal, interactive programs that promote exploration, creativity, and life long learning in STEM. Teens explore the latest ideas in science and technology through stimulating conversations with scientists, engineers, and inventors in an informal and relaxed setting. Free food is served. Key elements of successful teen cafés are strong partnerships with local STEM organizations and teen leadership of the program. STEM organizations can provide access to eager and engaging STEM experts for the teen café and beyond. Teen leaders take great pride in helping to bring something new to their community. Teen leaders also can help libraries gain insight into how to serve teens better.

Heil D. and Zeigler M. (2015)
Public Libraries as Dynamic Community Resources for Advancing STEM Learning:  From Books to Interactive Exhibits, Activity Kits, and Family Events
Foundation for Family Science & Engineering

*Presented at the 2015 Public Libraries & STEM Conference. View Conference Program

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In the past two decades, public libraries have been actively transforming themselves into being far more than just a place for books and quiet reading. This provides an excellent opportunity for advancing STEM learning in diverse communities across the globe. This poster/presentation will highlight two decades of successful experiments stretching the traditional view of what a public library currently is and will be in the future. Featured projects include: A Library Services & Construction Act and National Science Foundation funded project that designed and circulated small, highly interactive museum quality exhibits through public libraries. Topics included Dino Stories, Brain Teasers, Animals As Architects, Light & Color, Earth Quirks, and Move It! Incorporating hands-on STEM activities into library resources such as Raising A Reader book bags and small take-home discovery kits. Innovative collaboration between public libraries, family support agencies and local school districts called Supporting Early Engagement & Development in STEM (SEEDS), to advance STEM learning and school readiness at the PreK and Kindergarten levels. Hosting hands-on Family STEM events in public libraries and other community settings using resources from the Foundation for Family Science & Engineering.

Hill D. H. (2015)
Growing STEM Programming in a Library System  Kits, and Family Events
Marion County Free Library

*Presented at the 2015 Public Libraries & STEM Conference. View Conference Program

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Developing STEM programming into a library system can be a challenge with outdated facilities, unenthusiastic staff and not know where to begin. STEM programming can grow to an integral part of libraries strategic goals by building upon success, identifying key individuals, working with community partners, conducting events outside of the physical walls of the Library and ensure engaging activities. The Marin County Free Library went from some resistance to introducing STEM to having a diverse offering of programming year-round throughout the County. Simple experiments, 3D printing, collaborating with schools, attending community events. Community reception to STEM programming has been very popular and has brought youth to the Library.

Long A. L. (2015)
The Public Library and the STEM Community:  Working Towards a Common Goal  
Haltom City Public Library

*Presented at the 2015 Public Libraries & STEM Conference. View Conference Program

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Though libraries have always been seen as places of information and education, it is more important than ever for us to make available concepts of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The Haltom City Public Library has partnered with community STEM entities such as Haltom High School, Bethesda Private School, Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, the University of Texas at Dallas, area business leaders, of course the Lunar and Planetary Institute. Our city is economically, educationally and culturally diverse. The rate of high school graduation is only about 35%. It is the goal of our library employees, city leaders and STEM partners to increase education and the love of learning in our children.

Lucas K. G. (2015)
STEM from the Start   
Madison Public Library

*Presented at the 2015 Public Libraries & STEM Conference. View Conference Program

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At the Madison Public Library we create meaningful STEM experiences for children ages 3 – 5 years both in the Public Library and in Head Starts and Preschools. This poster session will demonstrate examples of quality STEM experiences with Madison Public Library’s (MPL) WonderWorks programs, our 2014 University of Wisconsin Geology Museum collaboration, and our initiative to create circulating STEM kits for Head Starts and preschools. MPL’s WonderWorks programs began in 2012.They include a book aligned with the topic and 2-4 hands-on experiments – opportunities to explore the topic and share conversations about what is being learned with parents/caregivers. WonderWorks programs have inspired a blog that was mentioned in School Library Journal, and sharing via Pinterest. In 2014 the UW Geology Museum (funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute) was responsible for funding Madison Public Library’s Summer Reading Club. This included providing science-themed play materials for libraries, science themed prizes for Summer Reading, including free books, and a wealth of programming from archeology to space exploration .In 2015 MPL will be taking WonderWorks on the road by creating kits for Head Start teachers to use in their classrooms. Our goal is to introduce young children to STEM experiences to increase interest, competence and vocabulary in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math among children who are not able to get these experiences in a physical Public Library setting.

Compton E. A. (2015)
Make It at the Library! 
Idaho Commission for Libraries

*Presented at the 2015 Public Libraries & STEM Conference. View Conference Program

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Offering rich and engaging out-of-school programming is an important step toward preparing our youth for the future. Libraries are at the heart of many communities and perfectly poised to provide rich and meaningful learning opportunities during out-of-school time. And since the typical 18-year old has only spent 18% of their time in formal educational settings, out-of-school time is critical to success!

The Idaho Commission for Libraries developed and launched the Make It at the Library project in 2012 to implement innovative “maker” programming in libraries across the state. Their model incorporates extensive training through hands-on workshops, the provision of innovative and easy-to-use tools and materials, and ongoing support to ensure sustainability and success. The focus is on creating activities that are not only fun but which teach critical thinking, creativity, and twenty-first-century skills as emphasized in the Common Core and the new Next Generation Science Standards.

In year three we have 19 public libraries and 2 school libraries offering everything from soldering and programming to 3D design/printing and robotics. These libraries are located in communities large and small and in 2014 reached over 23,064 teens and tweens through in-house and outreach programming. The program has gained national attention and has been represented at numerous convenings, conferences, and workshops over the past two years.

Mokros J., Allen S., Keller T. (2015)
Libraries as Anchors in Rural STEM Hubs
Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance

*Presented at the 2015 Public Libraries & STEM Conference. View Conference Program

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Local libraries are a key component of Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance’s work to connect rural youth with STEM opportunities. Libraries in rural areas are not only active community hubs, but also serve as strong levers for educational and economic development (Hilferth, 2007). We are a nonprofit STEM organization that is partnering directly with small libraries in three rural areas of Maine. We are also collaborating with Cornerstones of Science, a Maine-based program that distributes STEM tools, such as telescopes, through libraries Through these collaborations, we are:1) establishing libraries as “go to” places for STEM resources, including local events, programs, and camps as well as virtual STEM resources;2) enabling libraries to become gathering places for the implementation of high-quality programs such as the NSF-funded Teen Science Cafes and Boston Museum of Science’s Engineering Everywhere programs;3) building networks of local STEM people—ranging from local organic farmers to arctic researchers—who are connected to youth and to each other through libraries;and4) acquainting librarians with existing STEM resources that are a good match with their youth audiences.

We have developed a Maine-based STEM Resource Bank that is being disseminated through the Maine State Library (www.steminme.org). The project currently involves six rural libraries and will roughly double in size over the next 3 years through funding from the National Science Foundation.

Yang G., Jenner F., Noomnam P. (2015)
Shaping STEM Learning Experiences Through Community Partnerships and Staff Education 
The Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library

*Presented at the 2015 Public Libraries & STEM Conference. View Conference Program

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The Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library has been offering science programs to the Broomfield community since 2004. The primary focus has been to build foundations in STEM concepts for tweens and teens (ages 9–14). In 2014, the library launched the Discovery Lab- a STEM/Makerspace which both increased and challenged our abilities to present a wider variety of science education through staff education, renovated space, and new community partnerships. In this session, library staff will share our experiences, successes, and challenges in developing five new programming formats including: Drop-in hands-on exploration; Multi-session skill building; Passive programming; Pilot programs and community partnerships; and Maker-in-residence with community artists. We will provide an overview of the realities of current STEM programming and how staff resources and community partnerships shaped the structure and nature of the STEM learning experiences we could offer. We will consider future needs and ways to strengthen partnerships with community members and organizations.

Race M. S. (2015)
Astrobiology and Science Programs: Not just for Students!
SETI Institute

Presented at the 2015 Public Libraries & STEM Conference. View Conference Program

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The Lafayette Library & Learning Center is home of the Glenn Seaborg Learning Consortium, a partnership of regional education and cultural institutions and resources, that has developed a wealth of programming centered on space exploration, astrobiology and science in the news. In addition to offering a variety of STEM programs linked with standard K-8 curricula, we haven’t ignored younger or older library visitors either. We believe in the importance of life-long learning —following the mantra “Don’t reinvent the Wheel.” Building upon diverse templates, we found ways to develop diverse programs that easily adapt to library audiences of all ages. This poster provides case examples and suggestions adaptable anywhere, using free or low-cost materials, and tailored to local needs and audiences Examples include the use of stand alone photo-exhibits, thematic book collections, and simple activities with traditional story-telling programs for young crowds; family drop-in programs linked with NASA missions & space events in the news (e.g. transit of Venus; Mars landings; Pluto flyby) –often in collaboration with local volunteer astronomers who set up telescopes outdoors; career nights for middle and high school students; and Science Cafés featuring notable scientists who present STEM along with societal or technological issues aimed at adult audiences and informal evening gatherings—complete with beverages, book signings and desserts. The sky’s the limit!

Rokos S. Z., Shapiro R. D. (2015)
Science @ the Library 
The Mohawk Valley Library System

*Presented at the 2015 Public Libraries & STEM Conference. View Conference Program

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The Mohawk Valley Library System’s (MVLS) Science @ the Library program began in 1992 with a three-fold purpose. It was developed as a means to bring science education to elementary school children and their families outside the confines of the regular classroom. It was designed to offer accessible science programming to member libraries in rural areas that otherwise would be unable to provide for these services. And most importantly, it was created to give children an opportunity to meet and collaborate with real scientists, generating positive science experiences and planting the seeds for careers in science.GE Volunteer scientists direct and provide science programs consisting of 1-1/2 hour sessions in science fair format with hands-on experiments in energy, surface tension, buoyancy, sound, light, electricity, magnetism and chemistry. The program has evolved from “talking at” to “doing with,” as we recognized early that children learn best through play and interaction, not words, especially since many GE scientists tended to lecture, which is not the best way to engage grade school children. Early evidence that parents brought their sons to the “hard” science activities and their daughters to the “soft” ones led to lessons that incorporated both aspects, to facilitate learning by boys and girls in both arenas.

Solórzano R. M. (2015)
Delivering Specialized STEM Programming via Makerspace Activities and Local 
Ventura County Library System

*Presented at the 2015 Public Libraries & STEM Conference. View Conference Program

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The E.P. Foster Library in Ventura, CA, has risen to meet the educational needs of its community by offering exciting new STEM-related programs. A major component of this effort is the library’s new makerspace—called the Library LAB—which is equipped with a 3D printer and a laser cutter/engraver that are freely available for the public to explore. As part of our LAB programs, library staff have directed workshops for all ages on 3D modeling and printing and have facilitated a series of STEM-related activities for school-aged children. These activities ranged in cost from $0.50 to $7 per participant and required minimal staff training and time commitment (one facilitator and one assistant). Response from the public—particularly parents—has been overwhelmingly positive, and a second series of activities is in the planning stage. Additionally, the library has been able to partner with California State University, Channel Islands, on a number of STEM-related events, including the 2014 Science Carnival (aimed at elementary school students) and the 2015 STEM Expo (middle and high school students). In both instances library staff volunteered to help plan and execute learning activities under the CSUCI banner while creating awareness of the library as a resource for STEM programming. Thanks to its partnership with CSUCI, the library has been able to use shared resources and knowledge to perform outreach at local schools and bring attention to the LAB as a community asset.

Stawowy M. M. (2015)
Growing Scientists: Community Engagement for Preschoolers and Families through STEM
San Rafael Public Library

*Presented at the 2015 Public Libraries & STEM Conference. View Conference Program

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San Rafael Public Library’s children’s services librarians became enthusiastic about presenting STEM programs for preschoolers after attending an Association of Library Services for Children (ALSC) conference in 2014. In the San Rafael community, due to hectic schedules, families with preschoolers are a challenging demographic to significantly engage in recurring library programs. STEM (also referred to as STEAM) has proven successful right from the start. When designing programs for preschoolers, it is imperative to consider best practices for preschool learning by incorporating age appropriate education elements, such as stories, songs, games, experiential activities, and experiments. Families respond enthusiastically as reflected in attendance statistics and a mention on a local mother’s website. The program was also covered in a local newspaper feature article (http://www.marinij.com/general-news/ 20150307/preschoolers-get-ahead-of-steam-learning-with-new-library-program). San Rafael Public Library will continue to present preschool STEM programs, both staff-developed and in partnership with local organizations such as the Bay Area Discovery Museum.

Raj S. (2015)
Trailblazer! Driving STEM Success in Underrepresented Communities Through Mobile STEM Museums 
Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering (TAME)

*Presented at the 2015 Public Libraries & STEM Conference. View Conference Program

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Texas is big: 269,000 square miles, reaching from the plains of the Panhandle to the smokestacks on the Gulf and down to the Mexican border. Our population is big: over 27.7 million people, almost half of us Hispanic. And STEM is big: by 2018, STEM jobs are expected to grow by 22%. Employers are already struggling to find qualified, local employees. How do we reach across Texas to bring kids into the STEM pipeline? Educators in Texas face both a digital divide and a distance divide: the distance between a family in which no-one has gone past the 6th grade and a career in electrical engineering, and the distance of 300 miles of desert between a school and the nearest college computer lab. Enter the TAME Trailblazer, a mobile STEM-museum on wheels. The Trailblazer program is designed to spark excitement about STEM careers, from cardiology to aeronautics, through hands-on exhibits that tie fun science concepts directly to career paths and salaries. Often anchoring Family STEM Nights at local schools and libraries, the Trailblazers are one part of a comprehensive strategy designed to introduce students and communities to real opportunities in STEM. The program includes pre-visit training for librarians on STEM program design and delivery and access to a collection of curated, frequently updated STEM resources. Librarians report that the program has led to an increase in the number of patrons, increase in STEM books checked out and increased awareness of STEM in the community.

Publications

Anderton, H. (2012)
STEM, Teens, and Public Libraries: It’s Easier than You Think!
Young Adult Library Services

Online Article

Braun, Linda W. (2011)
The Lowdown on STEM: A Formula for Luring Teens toward Science and Math
American Libraries Magazine

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Dusenbery, P.B. (2014)
The STEM Education Movement in Public Libraries
Informal Learning Review, No. 124, Informal Learning Experiences, Denver, CO

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Institute of Museum and Library Services (2014)
Talking Points: Libraries and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)
Institute of Museum and Library Services

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NCIL, in partnership with the Lunar and Planetary Institute, received funding from the National Science Foundation for the first-ever Public Libraries & STEM conference that took place at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel in Colorado, August 20-22, 2015. This invitation-only conference brought 150+ library and STEM professionals and funders together to build productive relationships; explore promising practices in designing effective programs; help define a 21st century vision of STEM learning in public libraries; and develop the foundation for a future evaluation and research agenda for libraries and their partners engaged in STEM education efforts. The conference background reports, presentation files, and results were used as the foundation of the resources compiled For more information, download the following documents.

Conference Summary | Conference Evaluation Report | Public Libraries and STEM

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Numbers DRL-1413783 and DRL-1421427. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.