“I don’t like going to events like these with a lot of people I don’t know to somewhere I haven’t been before.” I was told this by a 13-year-old girl on the bus going to COSI (Center of Science and Industry), who was going only because her sister had talked her into it. By the end of the trip, she changed her tune to asking when we were going to be putting on another event like this one and if there was space for her to register for it. We were happy to see the sisters return to the library for the National Teen Library Lock-In event.
This is just one success story of many that we encountered in our trip with teens to COSI. Seeing the friendships formed, connections made, and being able to encourage the youth of our community made this trip a successful example of our library’s mission statement: “We open doors for curious minds, foster a love of reading, encourage exploration and discovery, enable learning, and inspire creativity by connecting people with information, ideas, and each other.”
For our community, United Way states 46% of the Muskingum County population lives below the “ALICE Threshold” (OUW.org, 2019). This acronym describes how a significant segment of the community suffers from Asset, Limited, Income, Constrained, Employed circumstances. Such terminology means, even while employed, many families still suffer from economic disparity. Many students from Muskingum County, an Appalachian community, confront socioeconomic challenges that limit their perspective and educational/career options. Often students remain unacquainted with possible future job possibilities. An unfortunate “interest gap” further complicates the issue (Boyington, 2018). Public libraries can help stimulate interests in these STEM fields with outreach programs that highlight the opportunity for youth patrons.
COSI (2019) is recognized nationally as a trusted educational resource encompassing STEM for all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. This field trip offered an opportunity for Muskingum County youth to learn and engage in an immersive environment (Ramlo, 2019). Careers of the future will require STEM education, and our trip to COSI supports this goal. To incorporate such outreach programming ensures public libraries respond to their respective community and respond to future educational and economic trends (Bartlett and Bos, 2018). Such programming also counteracts financial obstacles.
A reduced stress environment is beneficial for motivating STEM youth learning. For this age demographic, formal educational structures serve as the primary resource. However, public libraries deliver education without the pressure of grade anxiety. The concept of Informal Science Education (ISE) proves relevant to public libraries. Organizations such as the MCLS can offer STEM opportunities without undue apprehension. The MCLS/COSI field trip provided a pathway to a STEM learning experience (National Science Foundation, 2019). Because of the generous funding provided by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, students attending the COSI Trip have witnessed STEM in action. Without this financial support, the MCLS would have been unable to provide for this summer learning event.
Caitlynn Melick, MLIS, is the Youth Services Manager for the Muskingum County Library System.
Bartlett, C., & Bos, L. (2018). STEAM Around the World: Successfully Incorporating Hands-On Learning and Diversity into Children’s Programming. Journal of Library Administration, 58(2), 174-182. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/01930826.2017.1392223
Boyington, S. C. (2018). INSPIRING the Next Generation of the STEM Workforce. Techniques: Connecting Education & Careers, 93(3), 22–27. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=128260808&site=ehost-live
“About COSI.” COSI, 2019, cosi.org/about-cosi.
National Science Foundation. (2019). Advancing Informal STEM Learning. Retrieved from https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=504793
Ohio United Way. (2019). ALICE. Retrieved from http://ouw.org/alice/?id=muskingumdiv#content-sidebar-wrap
Ramlo, S. (2019). Examining Urban, American, Middle-School Students’ Divergent Views of Nature Before and After a Field Trip to a University Field Station and Nature Preserve. Urban Review, 51(2), 231–246. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-018-0473-x