Ask An Agent: Great Stem/Steam Ideas?

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Question: Do you have any great ideas for STEM (or STEAM) programs. I am a new librarian and I was asked to incorporate STEM programs into our fall programming. The age level would probably be tweens (or perhaps 3rd grade and up). I would love any input you have, including websites, ideas, etc.


Jenni (South San Francisco Public Library) says:

I started a science club for our tweens this summer. I start with an explanation of the science concept, usually backed up with a short (five minutes or less) video reinforcing what I’ve said. If I have a demonstration experiment, I do that next. The final thing we do is an individual/group experiment. I try to do things that can be replicated at home and that are simple enough for elementary-aged children to complete with very little help. For example, this week we are learning about geysers. I am going to talk about geysers (and have a geyser book display), then we are going to try blowing up balloons inside of soda bottles (if you poke holes in the bottom of the bottle, then you can inflate the balloon). The individual experiment involves Alka-Seltzer and small water bottles. I will be posting information and details about these programs on my blog during July and August, so feel free to steal the projects as needed, or contact me personally and I’ll share what I’ve done.

Jan(Moline Public Library) says:

LEGO robotics is huge, especially with the pre-teen crowd. The kits are a little pricy up front, but the kids can work together to build and program a robot. And the kits offer multiple set-up options so they can be used over and over again.

Natalie (Farmingdale Public Library) says:

I recently did a great program on Candy Experiments. We tested the acidity of sour patch kids, melted cotton candy in water, saw how long it took for Skittles to lose their color in water and Gatorade, and ended by putting Mentos into Diet Coke (i did this program outside to help with the mess).There are two books called Candy Experiments for ideas and more can be found by doing a simple search on the internet.
Nikki (Cleveland Bradley County Public Library) says:

We have been running a Tween STEAM program for about a year now and Pinterest is my BFF. The program is open to ages 6-12  and I have members of TAG assisting. The teens have been so interested that they asked to transition our monthly teen craft to  more STEAM-oriented activities in the fall. When we first started the program, we were using very simple experiments (making an Archimedes spiral out of paper to move cereal from a bottle to a bowl or marble mazes with paper tubes, newspaper towers) that worked with materials we already had but as it’s grown more successful we have been able to invest in it and purchase some great equipment like Snap Circuits and Makey Makey kits and our children’s librarian wrote a grant and received four Cube 3D printers that – along with our library iPads – we’ve been able to use with free apps like Tinkerplay and 123Design to allow patrons to explore 3D design.

One of our easiest and cheapest activities had to be Doodlebots! Using battery-operated toothburshes from Dollar Tree to supply the motors, we made drawing “robots” with markers for legs and plastic cups as bodies. Then we staged a Doodlebot battle and I had the teens hypothesize about why some were going in spirals, others were going straight, how the way the motor was attached, number of legs, etc. affected the way they moved. I used pool noodles on the table perimeter and covered it in craft paper to create the arena.

Last year, we also did our first science expo and families designed and tested their own experiments and then each family had a table in our community room to share their results. The main goal was to introduce the scientific method and some inquiry-based thinking strategies and to encourage them to explore science together.
For fall, my teens will be doing pendulum painting, doing conductivity experiments using batteries and copper wire, making fizzy water color, and doing milk painting experiments. All found on Pinterest, though a lot of the activities are geared toward younger children and have to be modified to be a little less simplistic. I have also really loved the book Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun by Michael Caduto for experiments about energy.

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