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STEM highlights from MLA Conference

Yesterday I attended the Massachusetts Library Association's Annual Conference in Hyannis, MA. It had an amazing selection of presenters. They talked about the many facets of librarianship from programming to reader's advisory with some STEM highlights:


Mattapoisett, Rochester, and Marion public libraries came together for a MOBY (My Own Backyard) LSTA grant. Librarians from all three librarians as well as a science curriculum educator collaborated to provide backpacks with science related activities for patrons to check out as well as programming to highlight each bag. This goes back to that theory that if no one knows about it, the greatest stuff could just sit on the shelves. A great tip I learned from another presentation is even if many people don't show up to a program, just highlighting the database or product that you want to promote as an event, say one on one with lynda.com tutorials, could increase use. Some people might not be able to make the event, life happens, but maybe they didn't know the library had the product in the first place.  This happened recently with a ukulele workshop that we did. I specifically did it to promote having ukulele's to check out at the library. If someone was interested in the event but couldn't come or didn't have a ukulele of their own, I made sure to promote our circulating ukuleles in all advertisements. They are never on the shelves!


Back to the MOBY bags, they included hands on tools, books, and a journal to record observations. Each library has a different set of kits from tapping maple syrup to tidepools kits for the beach. They have had great success with the backpacks (no losses of materials) with occasional washing of items upon return.  They are more than willing to share their information as long as you provide them credit. If you want to learn more check out their joint Facebook page.

Even if you don't have grant money, there are still some great ideas for circulating items in the kits to purchase. One item in a backpack that I hadn't heard of was sticklets. Sticklets are silicon adapters that encourage outdoor model creations using sticks. What an ingenious idea! Without having the backpacks, this is still a viable circulating item.   These would be great to have outside on the library lawn to encourage sculpture design this summer (if you are near many trees).

In the afternoon I attended a presentation on the 6 Principles of the Montessori Prepared Environment which fits nicely into STEM drop in programming or a re-design of the children's play area. Having small interactive displays or selecting STEM toys like magnets, scales, and magnifying glasses to have out in bins for free play encourages child directed learning. No signs prompting the parent required.  Chokeable? Leave it near the children's desk on a higher shelf.  It is all about beautifying your space and encouraging free play that stimulates social and intellectual skills.  We, as librarians, are already doing this! Will it be messy? Perhaps, I wouldn't put paint or sand out there unsupervised.  We also instituted a sticker reward for cleanup and it works well. What is the cost? Put some rocks or other free natural items with a scale (lakeshorelearning) and magnifying glass (cheap in bulk from oriental trading or buy more sturdy ones from lakeshore) surrounded by science books and watch the learning happen. Try to come up with at least a theme for your prepared environment but be prepared for the child to use it however they see fit.
The last thing I saw was a demo of a vinyl cutter from the Goodnow Library in Sudbury, MA.  It's not available for patron use yet, just programming because the librarians just got trained on it themselves. This would be a great addition to makerspace. Be warned the price tag is $2,000 but the results were impressive.  We finally got our Cameo Silhouette ($230) up and running cutting vinyl and other materials but it was a learning curve with getting proper blade pressure. If something comes out jagged, it doesn't look right and we end up re-cutting it anyway. With something this large, we could cut multiple vinyl stickers at once. We could have printed our own summer reading badges! I'd rather have a large size poster printer but it's worth adding to the dream library.

Thanks to all the wonderful presenters who volunteer their time to inspire and share with others!

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