S.T.E.A.M.-ing into the Future at the Tigard Library
Give me an S. Give me a T. Give me an E. Give me an A. Give me an M. What’s it spell? S.T.E.A.M.! What’s it mean? Science! Technology! Engineering! Arts! Mathematics! Huh?
S.T.E.A.M. (also known as S.T.E.M.) is an education initiative to prepare grade school and high school students for college studies in the S.T.E.A.M. fields. It also aims to foster inquiring minds, logical reasoning and collaboration skills.
Tigard Library programs like Coding Club and Slime Lab encourage kids to develop those skills while having fun. At a recent Coding Club session, the Tigard High School Tech Team demonstrated their robot. Not R2D2, but fun, educational and fascinating to curious 8-to-14 year olds as the elaborate machine lifted objects.
“I learned today that it takes a long time to build a really complicated robot,” said Evy, age 10. “It doesn’t take just a couple of days. It takes months and months.”
Parents appreciate how the S.T.E.A.M. programs supplement what their children learn in school. “She gets some S.T.E.M. in middle school, but when she comes here, she gets a lot of hands-on and gets to try a lot of new things,” said Carolyn Lund, whose daughter has attended several library S.T.E.A.M. programs.
Connecting the Technological Dots
Kari Kunst, the youth services librarian who runs Coding Club, enjoys watching kids connect the technological dots. “Some moments that have been cool are when kids have that kind of Aha! light bulb moment,” she said, describing how a pair of four-year-olds faced technological challenges and succeeded in making a circular fan blade fly. “Things like that, when kids can get something to work is pretty exciting.”
Coding Club lets kids explore different opportunities. Eleven-year-old Yuthika has been coding since she was nine. “I just think coding is really amazing. It’s super fun. It opens up a lot of possibilities, and it lets you do it your style,” she said. “You can just choose the coding language that best fits you. Just find your groove.”
“If the kids have fun and they come back another time and they’ve learned something new, then I’m happy,” Kunst said. “That’s my main goal.”
What’s Slime have to do with S.T.E.A.M.? Making slime is actually a science experiment. That pink, purple, blue goo represents chemistry as kids learn how the various ingredients in the formula interact to create the concoction. These programs are an investment in the future. As the need for technology jobs increases, S.T.E.A.M. programs can encourage students to pursue degrees in those fields and provide an adequate pool of trained, talented employees to fill them. With adequate funding, the library can S.T.E.A.M. into the future with more of these fun, educational programs.