Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Highlights from the Teen Summit

I had the opportunity to attend the annual Teen Summit, hosted by the Massachusetts Library System and the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services in Worcester this past week.  Youth librarians from both states were invited to come together and talk shop. The theme this year was "Full STEAM Ahead", a subject that here at the DFL, is right on target.

The keynote speaker was the delightful YA author, Marissa Meyer, who surprisingly spent a small amount of time talking about her wonderful science fiction fairy tale quartet "The Lunar Chronicles" and most of her presentation introducing the concept of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math). Using her childhood love of Star Trek, she posed the question; When does science fiction inspire fact or visa versa? Did the Star Trek communicator inspire a flip phone? Will warp speed ever exist? Did the fashionable Geordi La Forge visors inspire tools that grant sight?

These were just a few cross discipline inspirations featured. Stressing the importance of the addition of Art in the STEM concept, Meyer wrote the first draft of the first two books during November's National Novel Writing Month or NANOWRIMO, to try to win a contest for a guest spot on Star Trek.  Meyer was charming and extremely knowledgeable. Interestingly enough, Meyer heavily researched scientific journals at her local library during her research process for the books. The half-cyborg Cinder, the main character in her remake of the fairy tale Cinderella, is based on current scientific research and either can or will happen in the upcoming years. The technological singularity is upon us!

My first break out session was hosted by the Peabody Institute Library's Creativity Lab opening this February. With the help of many community partners, they will be transforming their library basement into a Do-It-Yourself makerspace complete with spots for woodworking , sewing, 3D printing, soldering and a recording studio open to the public. Goals for the space include providing leadership opportunities for teens in the community to run the lab while providing access to tools for scientific and art exploration for all ages. In the meantime, teen librarian Melissa Robinson, has begun hosting many DIY inspired activities with a focus on activism and civic duty.   In her group, Art Activists, teens create photography, music, and design projects to raise public awareness on issues important to them. In addition to learning new skills and having fun while doing it, teens also earn community service hours. She also hosts an inventors club and a gaming for good program to inspire teens to create video games that inspire social change.  It was truly inspiring and a new spin on art concepts that I hadn't thought about in library programming before. Looking for some ideas on where to start? try these webinars.

The second breakout session was "STEAM in the Library: Practical Programming YOU Can Do," hosted by librarians, Tanya Paglia and Sue Rosseau of Portsmouth and Johnston, RI.  Ideas included: stomp rockets, catapults, marshmallow buildings, World Record Wednesdays, stop motion projects, and live Angry Birds. Many of their programs incorporate the goal of "sneaky STEM", where the kids are learning scientific concepts with a more engaging hands on approach as opposed to lectures. The presenters stressed how easy it was to create engaging science programming on a small budget that anyone can do. 

Our closing speaker,  Dr. Carol Giuriceo, Director of the Rhode Island STEM Center, introduced us to the curriculum frameworks behind STEM and stressed the fact that many grants out there are moving in this direction. She inspired us to think of ourselves as scientists and inventors as we brainstormed some inventions we'd love to see in our lifetimes.  Bright ideas included an app that tells you what is in your fridge and when it expires, a book cart with a built in step stool, and easier methods of leaf disposal.

I hope that one thing we all left with was the confidence that although many of us lack a "science background", we can all implement maker space programming on whatever budget we have available and empower members of the community to educate us and our fellow community.  Luckily for librarians, we are surrounded by a plethora of information in various formats and a natural curiosity of the world around us.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Developing Local Skills

Today we started with a Makerspace initiative teaching basic soldering to our Middle school rapscallions, the PHILS, with the super "newbie-friendly" Maker badge. Suzanne and I felt pretty confident based on our previous tinkering...

We were able to refresh our own soldering know-how while giving our antsy Middle Schoolers the training they needed while they had their after-school snacks.
Thank goodness for youtube video tutorials.
Here's the one we watched:

Lo and behold, the guys dove right in without hesitation and, after a few false starts (be sure to buy a couple extra kits), they all got their badges to light up!

Then, in the evening, we shifted gears and hosted Kerrie Capraro and her awesome family of Suburban Homesteaders as they presented, Raising Chickens in the Suburbs! Wow. They really made their case for this exciting family project - so many wonderful experiences that enrich family life.

 There was much experience and expertise shared generously. What I found fascinating was that many of the folks who turned up were either already embarked on this big life-shifting experiment, raising chickens as a family enterprise in a suburban location, OR are getting ready to take the plunge. We made sure everyone had the opportunity to join an email list and make suggestions as to what other programs might be interesting for the library to host.

For example:  
  • Sharing Home Remedies
  • Foraging

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Possibilities of Tinkering Tuesday format

Many of you know that Jessica and I are trying things out on our Middle School group, the PHILS, on Tuesday afternoons, with the objective being to gauge activity flow, supervision requirements, etc. in preparation for a more robust on-going Tuesday program for a more diverse age group.

One of the interesting things we have found is that it's good to have a couple of options to choose from on any given day. Gathering first to explain and perhaps grab a teachable moment, then allow some free flow between activities. Some kids really like to dig into one thing, others like to try a few things out.

This feels important to me because if we want this program to be on-going and a bit self-sustaining, we can't be constantly coming up with unique activities every week, but I don't feel that that's necessary!

The Take-Apart Table is ALWAYS interesting. I learned that limiting the number of things to take apart is better. Yesterday, someone took apart an old keyboard. Inside there was a matrix-like diagram following the keys to their various connections internally - a great example of how the face of something can mask the really inter-connectedness underneath.

Some kids are hams and enjoyed the silly Green Screen recording. Actually teaching them the editing skills will require much more concentrated time and attention.
Others really got into using the Little Bits circuitry and built some interesting things. This is a very "learn-on-your-own" kind of activity.

We are beginning to see how sessions might take shape.