Family STEM nights are a great way to encourage people to visit the library, because you are able to engage the entire family at one event. Sometimes, this can be easier for parents — being able to take the entire family out for one fun event that is appropriate for all ages. For our STEM events, we also worked with the adult programmers, so we would have an adult programming perspective on some of the activities. This also helped when staffing the event, since we had participation from youth services and adult programming staff.
We had two STEM nights – Space and Engineering. We chose these subjects because of their high interest in our community. When choosing which subjects to tackle, make sure you are aware of what seems to be popular in your community. This can be evident by participation in other STEM programming, or by talking to library patrons. Library staff created most of the stations, many of which were created for participants to do without staff supervision. We made sure to have at least one station for each age group (preschool, grades K-2, grades 3-5, teen, and adult), but most stations were set up to accommodate all ages participating. With our stations, we wanted families to work on projects together, and encourage the parents to try the activity as well. By having stations that were for different age groups, this encouraged parents to help their younger children with the activity, or “compete” with their older children in creating the best lunar lander or tower. Community members were also asked to help provide stations – through demonstrations or their own activities. For Space Night, we had someone bring in their collection of space rocks. For the Engineering Night, we had a local school’s Energy Club talk about energy engineering and a local high school’s robotics club did a demonstration for us. This is a great opportunity to reach out to your community!
The Family STEM Nights were some of the best programs I’ve done, because you’re able to see the whole family working together to learn something new or complete a project. So, give it a try!
Examples of activities at the Space STEM Night:
Learn how a crater is made. We filled a baby pool with sand and had several different sized and weighted balls. Participants are able to stand on a stool and drop the balls into the sand to see what impact they can make on the surface of a planet or moon.
Phases of the Moon
Using eight ping-pong balls and foam board, participants are able to see the phases of the moon. Cut a hole in the middle of the foam board, so participants are able to place it over their head. Use a sharpie to color half of the ping-pong balls, then glue them around the hole in the foam board, so the black halves of the balls are facing the same way. Participants are able to see the phases of the moon as they move the foam board around their heads. So much fun!
Provide each person with the same materials (cardboard, paper cup, tape, index cards), and have them create a lunar lander that will land without ejecting the astronauts (cotton balls). Participants can make their lunar lander however they wish, but must have the astronauts in the cup, and the cup must have the opening up (you couldn’t tape the astronauts in the cup, or tape the cup upside down, trapping your astronauts). Have a stool, so participants can test their finished lunar lander.
Examples of activities at the Engineering STEM Night:
Create a catapult with popsicle sticks, rubber bands, a plastic spoon, yarn, and a small plastic cup. It works best if everyone gets the same amount of materials, so everyone is limited in the same way. Then, participants are able to create their own designs.
Can Paper Hold up a Book?
Participants are offered three pieces of paper and masking tape. They must try to figure out a way to get the paper to hold up a reference book. Here are the examples of what our participants came up with:
Building with Marshmallows and Spaghetti
Participants build a tower using uncooked spaghetti and marshmallows.