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.



With the weather finally warming up, we decided to focus our latest STEM program on something fun and practical: vermicomposting! This was an hour long program for 16 kids in grades 3-5 with all supplies provided by the library. Here’s what we did. In the days before the program, we prepped all the supplies. Each participant received a shoebox sized plastic bin altered for vermicomposting. This required staff to rinse the bins ahead of time, cut about a 2.5 in by 1.5 in rectangular hole on top of the lid, and hot glue a mesh square covering the hole. We recommend [...]


Collecting Specimens


Last month we shared a program for grades 3-5 at Skokie Public Library inspired by a visit to the Field Museum in Chicago about visualizing animals. This month we extended our inspiration and with the same grade range, focused on learning about animal specimens. Here’s what we did. We provided a brief slide presentation like the previous program to provide a foundation of knowledge before moving on to the hands on portion. The presentation defined “specimen” and provided photographs of various types of specimen, like life mounts, wet prep and pinned insects. We had a small group and they were all [...]

Collecting Specimens2018-03-01T08:45:30-07:00

Visualizing Animals


After a fall visit to the Field Museum, my colleague and I were inspired to share knowledge from the museum's extensive Specimens exhibit. We were particularly struck by the information about the Tully Monster, a prehistoric water animal whose fossils are abundantly found in Illinois, not too far from Skokie Public Library. We decided to focus on two main concepts for a Be the Scientist Program for grades 3-5: what are fossils and how do scientists determine what animals look like from them. Here’s what we did. We began the program with a brief slide presentation with background information about fossils. [...]

Visualizing Animals2018-02-02T16:10:58-07:00

Baking Chemistry Boot Camp


As we’ve posted before, school breaks tend to include multi-day programs for grades 3-5. We previously challenged participants to choreograph a robot dance party and extract their own DNA. This past winter break featured a two day program about the science of baking. Each day covered science concepts related to the recipes we tested. And the best part: participants ate their experiment products! We should note that we have approval from our village’s health department to provide food related programs. Our library is equipped with a kitchen and participants were making the food item themselves rather than staff. Before exploring food [...]

Baking Chemistry Boot Camp2018-01-14T18:51:13-07:00

Coding at the Library


As part of our commitment to digital literacy, Skokie Public Library began offering a drop-in, one-hour coding program twice a month for kids in grades 3-5. The program is intended to expose kids to coding concepts and resources readily available in the library, and to help them create a community of practice where, regardless of skill level, kids are able to help and be helped by peers. We have two main facilitators for the program and host this out in the open of the Youth Department--all the better to attract curious kids who just happen to be in the library on [...]

Coding at the Library2017-12-06T16:08:39-07:00

Building an ISS Model


Our library is hosting the Explore Space: A Cosmic Journey exhibit* for the next two months, and as part of this special exhibit we have lined up several space-themed STEAM programs for youth in grades K-5. One of our first programs took place before the exhibit’s opening: a challenge-based family program where the goal was to build a model of the International Space Station using cardboard boxes and other on-hand materials. We were inspired to host this program after seeing cardboard construction activities at other libraries, and we adapted the concept to our community. Here’s what we did. Starting in June, [...]

Building an ISS Model2017-10-27T16:26:29-06:00

STEAM Benchmarks


We know that hands-on or experiential learning is great for patrons of all ages, and that it’s particularly powerful in STEAM learning opportunities. Skokie Public Library has developed STEAM programming benchmarks for our youth patrons, from pre-kindergarten through grade 5, that ensure we have regular STEAM offerings on a variety of topics. We’ve found that these benchmarks are a great way for us to ensure we’re offering a variety of STEAM program options during each program cycle, and also to think about how we might want to theme our programs around core concepts or disciplines (like space, botany, or architecture). Here’s [...]

STEAM Benchmarks2017-09-08T14:56:34-06:00

Watercraft Design


Challenge-based programming is well received by multiple age groups at Skokie Public Library. These programs support 21st century learning skills like creative thinking, problem solving, and collaboration, all skills we’re eager to promote in activities for youth of a variety of ages. In various programs, we have facilitated watercraft design challenges where patrons are presented with a prompt, use limited materials to design and build their watercrafts, and then test them using a small water table. We’ve run this activity several ways, with several age ranges, and in several spaces; here’s a recap of them all, the better to give you [...]

Watercraft Design2017-07-24T17:42:56-06:00

Community Photo Walk


In celebration of the spring weather, Skokie Public Library took our latest offering of Be the Scientist outdoors for a community photo walk. Be the Scientist is an hour-long program offered monthly for kids in grades 3-5 and encourages participants to try on different STEAM-related personas. It is part of a monthly series of programming including Be the Chef and Be the Artist. For this month, we asked participants to be photographers as well as civic engineers. Here’s what we did. Dandelion in hand by Marcus The program began with two discussion prompts: What makes a community? What makes [...]

Community Photo Walk2017-05-22T12:40:08-06:00

Green Screen Challenge


In December, we wanted to frame our family STEAM program, Mission BOOMbox, around the idea of holiday card giving. We opted for a green screen challenge program that utilized the library’s classroom set of iPads and the purchase of one incredible green screen app in order to allow families to create their own unique greeting card images. Green screen technology has become easier to use with the evolution of apps for mobile devices. Such easily accessible green screen technology aligned perfectly with our goals for this program: ease of use and the ability for families to make many images that represent [...]

Green Screen Challenge2017-03-26T15:45:22-06:00
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