Amy Holcomb

About Amy Holcomb

Amy manages the BOOMbox: Skokie Public Library's STEAM space that features a different theme every few months. She is a 2014 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and values the DIY (do it yourself) and DIT (do it together) approach to learning.

Ocean Acidification


This month’s Be the Scientist program for grades 3-5 focused on a single experiment about ocean acidification. It’s been a little while since we provided a more STEM based program where everyone follows along with specific instructions, but we see the value in exposing youth patrons to the scientific method while also including room for processing observations and debriefing the activity to really drive home specific concepts. Here’s what we did. We started off in true Be the Scientist fashion with a short slide show that welcomed information sharing about oceans and climate change from participants. We also included a video [...]

Ocean Acidification2019-12-20T11:44:43-07:00



November programs at Skokie Public Library focused on food in a variety of ways. On Mondays, we provided an International Snack Cart showcasing local restaurants and continued our Be the Chef workshop series. To align with this theme, Be the Scientist, a hands-on STEAM program for grades 3-5, featured vermicomposting this month. Here’s what we did. Program supplies We purchased shoe-box sized plastic bins and limited the program to 12 participants. The boxes were prepared in advance of the program as this required cutting a 2in x 2in opening in the top and then affixing netting wit a hot [...]


Exploring the Lunar Surface


In honor of the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, Be the Scientist, a STEAM program for grades 3-5, explored the lunar surface this month. This program series generally has a short slide presentation to introduce the topic and the hands on challenge. Additionally, this month we were able to feature a lunar sample disk from NASA Johnson Space Center. Here’s what we did. The program was based off of this Explore the Moon activity from NASA. We began with a slide presentation that asked participants to share what they knew about the moon (Earth’s moon, to be precise) and we [...]

Exploring the Lunar Surface2019-10-28T15:44:39-06:00

Pitch and Frequency


This month’s Be the Scientist program for kids in grades 3-5 returned to sound exploration like we did last Fall with the Science of Sound program. This time, we aligned it with Hispanic Heritage month to offer a suite of programs that focused on South American cultures. And the result was exploring pitch and frequency with Pipes of Pan. Here’s what we did. We started off with a brief slideshow to introduce the topic and provide key definitions. This has become a staple in the Be the Scientist program as it sets a foundation for the hands-on portion of the program [...]

Pitch and Frequency2019-09-30T07:58:52-06:00

Evaluating STEAM Experiences


Earlier this month I participated in a forum about library makerspaces and how we evaluate engagement and measure success. Since my library’s equivalent of a makerspace is STEAM focused, I used my time at the forum to reflect on how I have been evaluating the BOOMbox and related STEAM programming for youth.  End of Shift Report used to collect data. When the BOOMbox opened in November of 2014, we had evaluation methods in place. We asked learners to complete a participation survey after every visit and the survey questions aligned to the goals of the BOOMbox: peer learning and [...]

Evaluating STEAM Experiences2019-08-30T12:21:41-06:00

Exploring Insects


This summer, Skokie Public Library committed to providing quality STEAM programs for youth in elementary grades while in the hustle that is summer reading. Youth Services Librarian Gudrun Premier facilitated a Be the Scientist program for grades 3-5 earlier this month and focused on insects. Here’s what she did. Gudrun began the program in our youth program room with an introductory slide show about insects. She focused on how and why insects rest, what they do in winter, and why we, as humans, should care about them. Gudrun then transitioned into a discussion about pollination, having participants share what they know [...]

Exploring Insects2019-07-31T14:02:10-06:00

BLOOMbox All Summer Long


This summer the BOOMbox, our self-directed STEAM learning space, is looking at topics related to gardening, botany, and ecology and has been dubbed BLOOMbox for the duration of the rotation. We’ve focused on these topics previously and have found our community is really drawn to the hands-on learning associated with gardening alongside discussion topics related to ecology, sustainability, and conservation. We learned a lot from the first go around and here’s an overview of what we’re exploring this summer. The rotation is designed to feature about three stations each week, with one always being very hands-on and more maker-based while the [...]

BLOOMbox All Summer Long2019-06-30T11:17:36-06:00

Be the Scientist: Tie-Dye


One of my favorite STEAM programs is tie-dye. This can be presented as a family drop-in event, perhaps on the library’s front lawn, or as a grade specific program. For the last Be the Scientist, we featured tie-dye as a hands-on spring event for participants in grades 3-5. While the program is inherently entertaining, we focused on a few STEM concepts for a more enriching experience. Here’s what we did.   We provided all the supplies for this program and advertised as such. Since this is a more expensive offering, we limited to 16 participants and provided one white t-shirt to [...]

Be the Scientist: Tie-Dye2019-05-28T17:18:22-06:00

3D Printing Boot Camp


Skokie Public Library has previously offered multiple day programs over school breaks to engage learners in a deeper dive of a specific content. Boot camp style programs tend to do well with higher tech topics like coding. This year during Spring Break, Ben, one of our Experiential Learning Specialists, designed a two day boot camp style program on 3D design and printing for kids in grades 3-5. The program was co-facilitated by Erica, another Experiential Learning Specialist. Both Ben and Erica primarily work in SPL’s youth computer lab. Here’s what they did. Ben decided to frame this program around Tinkercad, a [...]

3D Printing Boot Camp2019-04-28T16:14:47-06:00

Community Video Gaming


Video games continue to be a source of community based learning and entertainment for youth and teens at Skokie Public Library. We have embraced this and provide multiple channels for youth and teens to participate either individually or as a group. But we really value group gaming as it supports collaboration, communication, and community, which are key 21st century learning skills. Here are a few community based gaming opportunities our gamers enjoy.   Minecraft Mania Teens play coop video games in The Lab. 21 Mar 2019 Minecraft continues to be the most popular game at SPL. Kids use library [...]

Community Video Gaming2019-03-26T13:47:28-06:00
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