When participating in outreach opportunities throughout the community, a great way to stimulate interest is by incorporating STEM activities.  STEM activities can be simple enough to have during an outreach event, while also garnering a lot of interest from those participating.  There are several ways that you can incorporate simple STEM activities in your outreach events:

Community Stops

At the library I work at, our library bus visits a community each week.  During these visits, children are allowed to check items out, if they have a library card, or receive a free book from the library to keep forever.  However, we noticed that many of the children were not staying on the bus for very long, and most were very young children.  Wanting to engage the children, and their older siblings, we decided to start STEM programming on the bus.

Activities have included:

Mini Motors

Instructions can be found here: http://www.scienceandmath.com/public/Build-a-Simple-Electric-Motor.cfm

These mini motors are really fun to play with and are popular with all ages, even adults!  All you need are some AA batteries, copper wire, screws or paper clips, and strong magnets, and you are ready to go.  If you watch the video on the link provided above, you can see exactly how they will work.

Mini Museum

Some of our science books will come with materials related to the topic.  We purchased small display cases and placed those items inside to create the mini museums.

Microscope

We purchased an inexpensive handheld microscope and some slides to give children the chance to see items through a microscope.

Rocks and Minerals

Using free kits from a conference, we placed these kits out for children to play with.  We also included magnifying glasses.  Children had fun guessing the different rocks and minerals, and then using the identification keys to determine if they were correct.

Squishy Circuits

Squishy Circuits website: http://courseweb.stthomas.edu/apthomas/SquishyCircuits/index.htm

The dough is extremely easy to make (and remake) and the kits are relatively inexpensive to purchase (kits include LED lights, battery packs, and buzzers).  It’s so much fun to see their creations.

These activities allows the children to be engaged in something STEM related, while allowing us to talk about the activity and the library.  After two years of these activities, we now see many children who come on the bus, and the first thing they do is ask about the activities.  We are also seeing an older group of children, many of which are in upper elementary or middle school, that are very interested in visiting the library bus and learning more about what the library can do for them.

Tabling Events

At certain tabling events, it can be difficult to get anyone to talk to you about the library.  Adding a fun activity could be just the thing to garner more interest in your table and information.  Many of the activities above can be easily used for tabling events.  Other activities that have proven popular:

Screaming Balloons

Instructions can be found here: http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/screaming-balloon

All you need are some hexnuts and balloons!  The sound can get annoying after a while, but the rush of people at your table will be worth it.

Hand Model and Brain Hat

Hand Model Instructions can be found here:  http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/projects/modelhand.html

Brain Hat Instructions (and templates) can be found here: http://www.ellenjmchenry.com/homeschool-freedownloads/lifesciences-games/brainhemishpere.php

The Hand Model is made from straws and string, and is attached to a tissue box.  By pulling on the strings, children can learn how tendons work in the hand to move the fingers.  The Brain Hat is just fun to have around, because it helps children to learn the different parts of the brain and what they control.

 

Taking STEM out into the community can be simple, easy, and low cost.  And – bonus – you can also build in-house programming around these same ideas.  So, start finding simple STEM ideas and take your show on the road!