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.

LED Light Up Cards

2019-02-23T17:53:29-07:00

This month we combined card-making with circuitry for our latest Be the Scientist program for grades 3-5. We facilitated this program near Valentine’s Day thinking it would help spark interest. Here’s what we did. We started the program by talking about circuitry, asking participants what they knew about how a circuit works and what its used for. In addition to talking about how a circuit works, we used a Snap Circuits Jr. kit to demonstrate a basic circuit, pointing out the power source, connecting wires, switch, and light. This bridged into the day’s activity and we explained how basic circuits can [...]

LED Light Up Cards2019-02-23T17:53:29-07:00

STEAM Kits

2019-01-16T17:17:42-07:00

One way we promote self-directed STEAM learning at Skokie Public Library is through our STEAM Kit collection. We have about 30 kits that cardholders can checkout for one week at a time. Here’s how we create, circulate, and promote this specialized collection.   Kit Topics and Contents Our STEAM kits are carefully curated by staff in the Learning Experiences department. Often, kits are inspired by previous BOOMbox rotation equipment. We strive to pair hands on resources with books and DVDs related to the topic or concept. For example, our Makey Makey kit comes with a Makey Makey, related wire connectors, and [...]

STEAM Kits2019-01-16T17:17:42-07:00

STEAM Engines

2018-12-27T17:00:13-07:00

Youth Services Librarian Caitlin Savage took over STEAM programming for grades K-2 last spring at Skokie Public Library. Under her direction, the bi-monthly Science Club program became monthly and was re-branded as STEAM Engines. This program is becoming a destination for budding scientists and explorers, and serves a bridge to other STEAM opportunities at the library, including the BOOMbox. Here’s how it is designed and facilitated. STEAM Engines follows a similar model to Science Club, using picture books, songs, and short slideshows to explore scientific concepts followed by hands-on activities and experiments. The STEAM moniker gives Caitlin a bit more room [...]

STEAM Engines2018-12-27T17:00:13-07:00

Exploring Music

2018-11-27T20:00:34-07:00

This fall our STEAM space, the BOOMbox, is exploring music. Every two weeks, we focused drop-in experiences on a different aspect of music, from physics to history to genres. We used a variety of tools and resources for hands-on learning, experimentation, and exploration, largely engaging learners in grades 2-7. Here are some of the focus areas and related activities we featured.   Sound The first month explored sound: what it is, how it’s made, and how we hear. Exploration and activity stations included DIY instruments with recyclables, experimenting with the production of sound using different instruments like ukuleles and wood blocks, [...]

Exploring Music2018-11-27T20:00:34-07:00

Science of Sound

2018-10-26T11:47:36-06:00

This fall our informal learning space, the BOOMbox, is exploring all things music. The rotation is 16 weeks long and we’re focusing on a different concept related to music about every two weeks. This month’s STEAM program for youth grades 3-5 aligned with the rotation and we explored the physics of sound in a hands on way by making membranophones, courtesy of the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Here’s what we did. Like previous Be the Scientist programs featured on the blog, the program began with an overview using a short slide presentation. This allows us to set the stage for the [...]

Science of Sound2018-10-26T11:47:36-06:00

STEM Learning in the Library

2018-09-30T18:12:03-06:00

This month I had the opportunity to participate in the Working Group on Partnerships for Middle School and STEM Learning with the Urban Libraries Council. Professional Development Coordinator Keliann LaConte and Education Coordinator Brooks Mitchell, both team members for the STAR_Net program, were also in attendance where we discussed our views of STEM learning in libraries and how we can develop intentional, sustainable, and strategic partnerships within communities. Here are some key takeaways. How libraries define STEM varies but what the majority of us agreed on is that STEM learning includes fostering curiosity through hands-on learning that leads to active and [...]

STEM Learning in the Library2018-09-30T18:12:03-06:00

Nature Play

2018-08-28T13:29:47-06:00

Under the direction of Sue Teller, Children’s Librarian/Staff Artist, Skokie Public Library has been bringing informal, nature-based STEAM learning to our youngest patrons via Nature Play. This is a weekly program intended for children ages 3-6 who participate with an adult caregiver. Sue was inspired by a program at one of the annual conferences hosted by the Chicago Botanic Garden and wanted to bring nature into the lives of young children and their caregivers in an accessible and safe way. The program is relatively simple but the positive impact is huge. Here’s how it is designed and facilitated. Nature Play is [...]

Nature Play2018-08-28T13:29:47-06:00

Exploring Chemical Engineering

2018-07-30T19:35:21-06:00

This summer our informal learning space, the BOOMbox, is exploring all things engineering. The rotation is 16 weeks long and we’re focusing on a different field of engineering every two weeks. Last month we shared information about a program related to civil engineering and this month, we’re sharing highlights from our two weeks of exploring chemical engineering. Please note these activities were intended to provide a foundation of chemistry knowledge. We used that as a starting point for discussing what chemical engineering is with participants, and how it affects us on a day to day basis. Here’s what we featured. We [...]

Exploring Chemical Engineering2018-07-30T19:35:21-06:00

Exploring Civil Engineering

2018-06-10T21:25:18-06:00

This summer our STEAM space, the BOOMbox, is exploring engineering. We’re focusing on a different field of engineering every two weeks to help kids understand the breadth and overlap of this STEAM topic. While the BOOMbox offers drop-in experiences, our Be the Scientist program series for grades 3-5 provided a more structured exploration of civil engineering, specifically looking at bike paths in Skokie. Here’s what we did. We began with a short slide presentation to start discussion about what engineering is and why it is valuable. We also reviewed the seven steps of engineering design from Engineered! Engineering Design at Work [...]

Exploring Civil Engineering2018-06-10T21:25:18-06:00

Dissecting Owl Pellets

2018-05-03T09:00:44-06:00

In our most recent family science program, we featured owl pellet dissection. This allowed for hands on science exploration for youth in grades K-5 with a grownup using tools and resources to mimic scientists in the field. Here’s what we did. Program supplies included hand wipes, tweezers, pencils and plastic jars with lids. We ordered barn owl pellets from a science supplies distributor via Amazon. We learned that barn owl populations are on a decline so we limited our program to use 12 pellets, for a total of 12 children plus their adult caregiver. From previous programs, we had [...]

Dissecting Owl Pellets2018-05-03T09:00:44-06:00
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