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.

Family Science Expo


At the end of January, we hosted our fourth annual Family Science Expo here at Skokie Public Library. When we first offered the all-ages family event in winter 2014, we used the same model pioneered by one of our nearby libraries, Des Plaines Public Library: we offered access to a variety of exhibitors from local science-related businesses as well as representatives from STEAM societies and organizations. At that time, we didn’t yet offer a lot of science programming led by library staff on a regular basis. In the years since, however, we’ve really amped up our STEAM programming throughout the year--which [...]

Family Science Expo2017-02-10T14:19:27-07:00

Scratch Jr. Code Camp


This past winter break, Skokie Public Library experimented with offering a variety of 3-day camps for patrons grades K-5, all in some way connected to STEAM topics. One camp for grades K-2 focused on coding using Scratch Jr., a free iOS app that is an adaptation of the web-based, visual programming language Scratch intended for younger audiences. We chose Scratch Jr. for several reasons. The fact that the platform is free is a big one. We also looked at this camp as an opportunity to extend learning beyond the library’s walls into the youths’ homes--and thus the camp was a gateway [...]

Scratch Jr. Code Camp2017-01-18T14:14:11-07:00

DNA Extraction from Cheek Cells


We know that hands-on experimentation often leads to more meaningful learner engagement and a deeper understanding of concepts. We recently facilitated a catchy yet easy-to-execute experiment during drop-in hours in the BOOMbox, Skokie Public Library’s STEAM learning space. Our experiment: human DNA extraction. While DNA extraction may seem daunting, this experiment is relatively simple and uses inexpensive household items. And we were even able to complete the experiment without a sink! We used an experiment from NOVA as our starting point--it has a teacher resource sheet in addition to the printable experiment. Read the full experiment linked here for the step-by-step [...]

DNA Extraction from Cheek Cells2016-12-15T11:39:20-07:00

Family Escape Room Challenge


A family working on Gravity Maze challenge cards. Have you noticed the escape room trend popping up in library programming? We decided to jump on that bandwagon and framed our latest STEAM family challenge program around the escape room trend, incorporating logic and teamwork around a series of puzzles. I’ve mentioned Mission: BOOMbox in a previous post about architecture themed programming; the program lasts one hour and is intended for youth in kindergarten through 5th grade with their adult caregiver. This iteration of the program was themed around what makes us human, a general theme aligned with two spaces [...]

Family Escape Room Challenge2016-11-08T12:25:50-07:00

DIY Giant Bubbles


The last weeks of summer are a great time to take science outside. At Skokie Public Library, we featured giant bubbles and bubble wand making at two outdoor events, one at a local school and one in conjunction with a bookmobile visit in the community. Here’s what we did. Photo by Andrew Dworek Two staff members were present to help with setting up the supplies and to assist participants with making wands and blowing bubbles. Supplies included water, liquid dish soap, yarn or string, scissors, plastic straws, and vegetable glycerin, plus a few plastic wash tubs for mixing the [...]

DIY Giant Bubbles2016-09-16T12:03:01-06:00

Roller Coaster Family Challenge


Long collaborative coaster We’ve been exploring all things architecture this summer in the BOOMbox, Skokie Public Library’s experiential learning STEAM space. I’ve mentioned a foray into preschool programming around the architecture theme in a previous post, and now I’m glad to share a challenge aimed at this school-age audience. We just hosted our second architecture-themed STEAM family challenge of the summer: it’s a one-hour program for youth in kindergarten through 5th grade with their adult caregiver called Mission: BOOMbox. This program’s challenge was to design, build, and test the ultimate indoor roller coaster using a combination of various building [...]

Roller Coaster Family Challenge2016-08-11T12:40:00-06:00

Blooming Paper Flowers


This summer, Skokie Public Library is offering daily after-lunch drop-in programs for youth entering grades 3-5. Every Friday is billed as “Science Friday,” and these days are reserved for simple and engaging science experiments and inquiry. We have been attracting a solid group of kids--larger audiences than we’ve traditionally seen for drop-in science activities--so we purposefully think about offering activities that will engage and interest a wide range of kids. I recently went the STEAM route with blooming paper flowers, an activity requiring few supplies and that can be hosted inside or out. For the supplies, you’ll need regular printer paper, [...]

Blooming Paper Flowers2016-07-06T13:56:57-06:00

Three Little Pigs and the Budding Architects


Skokie Public Library’s experiential learning space, the BOOMbox, focuses on a different STEAM theme every four months, providing tools and inspiration to learn more about a topic through hands on experimentation. While this space is intended for youth, teens, and adults, it is not developmentally appropriate for children younger than kindergarten So, in conjunction with the BOOMbox theme, we offer a STEAM program designed for preschoolers (ages 3-5 with an adult caregiver) every other month. Science Club Jr., as we shared in a previous post, aims to equip youth participants with background knowledge to understand foundational science concepts at a very [...]

Three Little Pigs and the Budding Architects2016-06-09T11:32:04-06:00

Host a BioBlitz at the Library


BioBlitz participant examining a planter with a magnifying glass. As part of Earth Day celebrations, the Skokie Public Library hosted a BioBlitz, inspired by the annual event of the same name coordinated by National Geographic. A BioBlitz is a survey of a defined geographical area in an attempt to inventory all the species (animals, plants, bugs, etc.) in that area in a set, short amount of time. Everything living counts and is counted in a BioBlitz, and in the end, we have a biodiversity data snapshot of a given place at a given time. National Geographic hosts 24 hour [...]

Host a BioBlitz at the Library2016-05-03T09:25:56-06:00

Life on Mars: Citizen Science for Upper Elementary


One of my favorite STEM programs combines the awe factor of potentially living on Mars and the positive impact of Citizen Science. This “Life on Mars” program was presented to youth in grades 3-5 at Skokie Public Library and would work well through grade 6. Citizen Science, where the general public contributes to science research, is resurfacing with the help of online platforms--like Zooniverse--that curate various Citizen Science projects to support research in areas like space, climate, social science, and art. Emphasize the importance of Citizen Science to youth in the library: when non-scientists are doing scientific work for the betterment [...]

Life on Mars: Citizen Science for Upper Elementary2016-04-21T09:41:12-06:00
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