STEAM Zone: an Afternoon of Mechanical Engineering at Miami-Dade Public Library

The Miami-Dade Public Library hosted a series of innovative, technology-based programs for center city youth that focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (a/k/a STEAM). 

A Mechanical Engineering class at the North Central Branch was attended by over twenty students. The class is the brainchild of Carol and Brianna Frachtman and is one of many offered by their school Engineering For Kids Broward. It focused on the creation of two hands-on projects that introduced a variety of engineering concepts and skill sets to a highly enthusiastic group of youth.

“We like to build on children’s natural curiosities and unlimited imaginations by offering inquiry-based, collaborative lessons that spark enthusiasm. It’s about discovery and play and having fun while learning,” said Carol.

The first lesson centered on the creation of a Candy Catapult. Carol explained how these simple machines were used to hoist weapons abCandy catapultsove the high ramparts of medieval villages. The youth were given all the supplies needed to create their own catapult, the foundation of which is a box of DOTS gumdrops. When several students asked if they might consume some candy, Carol quickly explained how that would compromise the volume and weight of their catapult’s foundation—the box of candy—and they might not be able to get enough tension to hurl their projectiles where they wanted.

To foster team building, the students broke into small groups and assembled their catapults. Once the catapults were completed, the concepts of accuracy and precision were discussed.

Continue reading

Takeaways from Portland: YALSA15

imageI practically lived on coffee and doughnuts this past weekend at the YALSA Symposium in Portland. Not that I’m complaining; if you’re going to drink lots of coffee, Portland is the place to do it. I began my symposium experience with the Friday afternoon preconference Hip Hop Dance and Scratch: Facilitating Connected Learning in Libraries with the hope of gaining some programming ideas. I walked out three hours later with a newfound comfort-level using the program and, yes, concrete ideas for how to use it at my library. Having three hours allotted for experimenting, asking questions, and watching what other people created helped immensely.

At Teen Services without Borders, a panel of school and public librarians and an independent bookseller that discussed challenges and successful partnerships that cross library, departmental, and district lines. Boundaries can feel like brick walls when they prevent teens from accessing the library, and the panel members ultimately decided they needed to serve teens and not the rules, viewing themselves as part of the same community, not competitors. Tips they shared include: Give up your ego. Put kids first. Promote each other’s programs and services. Ask for help and keep trying until you find the right person. Finally, take a hard look at the rules – can any be broken?

Continue reading

Teen Read Week: Using Pinterest to Plan Terrific Programming

One of the best things about using Pinterest for me is that I never know when inspiration for library programming is going to strike. Whether it happens when I’m actually surfing through my feed of pins from boards I follow (and following a diversity of interests is key here) or when I’m combing through my RSS feed in the morning, I invariably find ideas that would make great programs. But how do you use Pinterest when you are actively trying to plan specific programs, particularly with Teen Read Week in mind?

Curating Information

The first use for Pinterest is as a visual board to present pre-curated ideas, one I use quite frequently with my Library Advisory Board when we are discussing possible ideas for special events. When we planned our Night of Writing Dangerously last year (an evening where kids came to do nothing but eat and write in a fun environment), I first projected my Writing Tips & Tricks Board as inspiration for their thoughts. Not only did my students have fun picking out the t-shirts and mugs that would become our prizes, but the infographics and tips had them asking if volunteer teachers could be “grammar police” someone could flag down with a question, or if we could use one of our glass walls to chart the rise and fall of a short story. My Hunger Games Library Programming Ideas Board absolutely made our party when the first movie came out (over half our school came to it) since it enabled students to plan Capitol hair and make up stations, Wii archery tournaments, and a Facebook Profile picture corner with life-size cardboard cutouts of the actors – and I owe it all to Pinterest.

Adding students or other faculty (or librarians) to a collaborative board is a terrific way of putting the power of idea generation in their hands. YALSA traditionally adds members of the Teen Read Week committee to the Teen Read Week 2013 Board and you can see the theme of “Seek the Unknown” played out largely in the areas of science fiction and mystery-related pins, the two pieces the majority of librarians identify as their intended focus for next week. Many minds are usually superior to a measly single mind, so collaborative boards often build off each other, and you can set your account to notify you by email when someone else pins to the board in question. There have been many instances that I see what someone pinned in an email notification and it makes me think of a whole new search term to try, a fact which brings us to our next (and most crucial) point regarding Pinterest. Continue reading