Children participating in CLACE programs shown with their families.

Children participating in CLACE programs shown with their families.

Research shows that parental involvement is critical to a child’s academic success. But we’re finding out that other adults can also play an important role in student achievement. The evidence is clear that students do better academically when families, schools, and communities work together to support their learning. In this equation for success, public libraries can provide the community involvement that contributes to a child’s evolving identity as a STEM learner.

Many libraries offer STEM programs for school-age children. When developing these programs, consider finding ways to connect them to the community. For example, a science program for children—especially one that takes place over several sessions—could conclude with a presentation by the children for their parents and others. This model of students presenting their work to the community has been successful in out-of-school programs, such as those developed in my neighborhood by CLACE, and could easily be implemented in a library setting.

Many libraries already display children’s artwork. But now, as libraries add science and technology to the literacies they address, it’s easy to imagine expanding student art displays to include science-themed artwork and posters describing science projects.

The Louisville (Colorado) Public Library, which is near my home, recently invited a high school robotics club to demonstrate their robots at the library. Many high schools have astronomy clubs. Programming staff could invite astronomy club students to host a star party one evening at the library. Students who are involved in citizen science activities, such as collecting data about plants or rainfall, could give presentations at the library on their activities and findings.

If your library works through partnerships or on its own to add community to STEM education, please tell us about it in the comments area below or by contacting me.

— Lisa Curtis



Beth Antunez, “When Everyone Is Involved: Parents and Communities in School Reform.” In Framing Effective Practice. (Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education, 2000): pp. 53-59.

Philip Bell et al. (Eds.) (2009), Learning Science in Informal Education Settings: People, Places, and Pursuits. (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2009).

Anne Henderson and Karen Mapp (Eds.), A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community. Annual Synthesis. (Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 2002).

Peter Scales, Peter Benson, and Marc Mannes, “The Contribution to Adolescent Well-being Made by Nonfamily Adults: An Examination of Developmental Assets as Contexts and Processes,” Journal of Community Psychology, 34 no. 4 (July 2006): 401-413.

Peter Scales et al., “The Role of Neighborhood and Community in Building Developmental Assets for Children and Youth: A National Study of Social Norms among American Adults,” Journal of Community Psychology, 29, no. 6 (November 2001): 703-727.