Anyone Can Do Science

Looking at the March 8 Astronomy Picture of the Day, Solar Eclipse Shoes in the Classroom, in preparation for this blog post brought back a vivid memory that I hadn’t thought about in years. Like the students in the photograph, I witnessed a partial solar eclipse in high school. We poked pinholes in sheets of paper to watch the sun’s projection change shape against a second sheet of paper without burning our eyes. Spots of sunlight filtering through the tree leaves shrunk to half circles, then banana slivers as the light took on a golden hue that was uncharacteristic for the middle of the day.

Any time I feel anxiety over science programming, it’s helpful to remember how easy it can be. It doesn’t need to involve something as amazing as an eclipse. It doesn’t even need to be “programming,” it could simply mean asking teens, “Hey look at this cool/weird/mysterious thing, any guesses what it is?” Over the past year, the teens that visit my library have been entertained by a chunk of evaporating dry ice, helium-filled balloons, Pop Rocks, and vegetable oil + water + food coloring + alka-seltzer tablets in a bottle.

Earth, as viewed from the Cassini spacecraft as it passed near Saturn. Neil deGgrasse Tyson displayed the image during his 2015 tour.

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, one of my science heroes, gives advice to children who want to know what they can do to help the earth. Explore things, he tells them, do fun things even when it might annoy your parents. His advice to adults is to get out of their way. Kids are naturally curious about the world, and adults have a responsibility to not suppress that curiosity. Bill Nye, another science hero, encourages people of all ages to ask questions about the world around them (with the disclaimer to be aware of social interactions while doing so).

Library staff generally take pride in answering patrons’ questions, and I think many of us feel anxiety over questions we don’t know how to answer. Instead of feeling anxious, we can encourage patrons’ natural curiosity by inviting them to make their own hypotheses, and introducing them to resources where they might find the answers.  Continue reading

STEM Into Winter Programming

Everyone’s talking about STEM (or the arts-added version showcased in the October issue of School Library Journal), and YALSA’s STEM task force produced an updated toolkit earlier this year to provide 41 pages of STEM programming resources just for young adult librarians.

SLJ_CV_OCT2013

If you’re stumped for ideas and looking how to integrate science, technology, engineering and math into your program schedule, look no further than YALSA’s STEM Toolkit.

It includes step-by-step program plans, advocacy information if you need to justify your program plans, resources, and dozens of ideas to get your program going.’ ‘ Chock-full of research on best practices and “why” STEM should be a priority for library professionals, the toolkit highlights the importance of developing a thorough program plan and guides you through initial brainstorming efforts to an adaptable teenprogram evaluation. Passive and active programming ideas from around the country are included,including three immediately replicable projects.

Check it out today! ‘ And ‘ thanks to STEM Task Force Member Jennifer Knight for the heads-up on this great resource.

 

YA Programming Behind the Scenes: Science Experiments You Can Eat

At our library, we would like to fit more STEM ‘ into our programming, but I struggle with coming up with STEM projects that appeal to our service age group. Anything that sounds remotely like a classroom activity is dismissed by teens.

I was pleasantly surprised when the Science Experiments You Can Eat program passed through our TAG (teen advisory group) vetting! Perhaps the appeal involved using food, as our annual Teen Top Chef competition in the fall is one of our most popular events of the year.

713 Science Experiments You Can Eat

The program had the advantage of being inexpensive, because the supplies were all household ingredients and supplies.

The experiments we carried out included:

Straw through Potato

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App of the Week: Smash Your Food

‘ Title: Smash Your Food HD

‘ Platform: iPad

‘ Cost: $2.99

It’s back to school time and this month the YALSA App of the Week bloggers are’  focusing each week on apps that are good for students and teachers. We’ll cover research, science, math, and staying organized. If you have a favorite school related app feel free to post information about it in the comments on our App of the Week posts. And, don’t forget, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) is taking nominations for Best Apps for Teaching and Learning. You can make a nomination on the AASL website.

I must admit, I love science. It started in 7th grade when I had to make a 3D’ model of a cell and include real world things to represent’ each part of the cell. I don’t remember all the objects’ my lab partner and I used, but I remember we had a lot of fun and I still’ understand the function of mitochondria. Since then, I have always’ had an interest in the biological sciences. To me, it seems that the biological sciences have an ugly step-sister in health class. Nobody wants to take health. You might have to talk about changes in your body (Uncomfortable.) or listen to a teacher drone on about how calories are energy and are misunderstood (Boring.). Lately, I have been on’ a mission to find interesting health apps to help people understand that your health affects your biology in a’ very direct way.

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September Eureka Moments

Even if you don’t work in a school media center, I’m guessing your life still tends to run on an academic schedule when you work with teens. So welcome to the new school year! Here’s what I think might be interesting, useful, or intriguing to you and your patrons this month.

  • If your teens are interested in what’s new in the going green movement, have them look more globally to see what’s going on. In coastal Ecuador, young people from farming families are heading up efforts to save, cultivate, and redistribute heirloom seeds to revitalize the environment and help farmers prosper. Part of an organization called FOCCAHL, 20-year-old Cesar Guale Vasquez travels throughout nearby areas collecting seeds from farmers and also hosts swapping events so that farmers can trade seeds with each other in order to have more vibrant and diverse crops. Now take that for inspiration and add to it your own library’s resources on climate change, farming, and nutrition and plan an interesting program that combines science with activism and see what your advisory board wants to do with it. Many libraries now are creating their own seed libraries, and whether they’re for wildflowers or corn, they can be a great way to bring communities together, get young people to work with older people, and freshen up your local environment while doing your small part to keep the world cleaner and greener.
    Matthews, J. (2012). Ecuador’s seed savior. World Ark, May 2012: 10-15. Continue reading

Mad Science with Victor Frankenstein

Another aspect of the CSLP theme “Own the Night” is Mad Science which ties in excellently with the 2012 BFYA pick, This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel. The book follows young Victor Frankenstein’s early attempts at alchemy as he strives to create the Elixir of Life to restore his ill twin brother. There are so many science programs that could be linked up with this book. Here are a few of my favorites. Continue reading

App of the Week: Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe

Title: Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe
Cost: 6.99
Platform: iPad 2 and higher with iOS 5 or higher

“Wonders of the Universe, a new app from the BBC, HarperCollins, and Professor Brian Cox, takes you zooming through our universe, from a broad view at multiple galaxies all the way down to a look at subatomic particles–with more than a film’s worth of videos, a staggering amount of gorgeous space photos, and hundreds of interesting articles as well. It takes the idea of an interactive textbook far beyond what we’ve seen before.” — from Wonders of the Universe App Is Your Space Textbook of the Future

In previous App of the Week posts I’ve talked about how librarians will want to start thinking about and looking at apps as a part of their non-fiction and textbook collections. Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe is a perfect example of this. The app is filled with lots of good text-based information. Continue reading

App of the Week: Frog Dissection

Title:‘ Frog Dissection
Cost: $3.99
Platform: iPad iOS 4.3 or later.

This app gives students a seemingly real frog dissection experience without the nasty smell of formaldehyde. The graphics are stunning and the 360 degree views give students a close-up, 3D look at each different organ within the frog’s body cavity.

I can remember dissecting frogs in 10th grade biology class with my lab partner. Once we were finally able to open the frog’s belly, everything inside sort of looked the same. Due to the storage process of the specimens, the brine the frogs are kept in has a way of washing out the color of the frog, making everything appear grey in color. This makes it hard to decipher the different parts of the frog and where they are located. The app brings the dissection process from the lab right to your iPad. If I had this app to review before and after the actual live dissection in class, I would have been better equipped for the proceeding test.

The dissection portion of this app is both interactive and educational. I found myself enjoying using the scalpel to cut and the forceps to pull back the layers of the epidermis. Other parts of the app serve as study guides and tutorials to reinforce what you have just learned during the dissection. Continue reading