2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Offsite Programming Extends Opportunities for Youth

“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.Teens take a trip to the Center of Science and Industry

Teens take a trip to the Center of Science and Industry

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.

Teens take a trip to the Center of Science and Industry

Teens take a trip to the Center of Science and Industry

Teens take a trip to the Center of Science and Industry

 

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. 

 

Teens take a trip to the Center of Science and Industry

Teens take a trip to the Center of Science and Industry

Caitlynn Melick, MLIS, is the Youth Services Manager for the Muskingum County Library System.

 

References

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

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Pi in the Sky – Combining AstroCamp with Legacy Gaming

The 2019 YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant allowed us to make the most of our summer kids and teens program Nerd Camp. Nerd Camp was five days at each of our branches where the campers were able to perform from NASA’s and Stennis Space Center’s AstroCamp as well as a day of retro video gaming using Raspberry Pis, monitors and controllers purchased with our grant. By partnering with Stennis Space Center, we were able to increase the learning opportunities for rural and under-served teens and youth and present them with NASA created projects to pique interested in space-related learning. Stennis provided eight hours of training in science as well as many projects that we integrated seamlessly into our program. This training allowed us to pass the knowledge on to youth service specialists and volunteers within the program. The coverage created by this allowed for all our volunteers, our summer intern, as well as our youth specialists to engage with the youth and ensure a higher level of help and learning.

These activities mixed into our existing ideas and program well and flowed directly into our retro gaming and raspberry pi ending extremely well. This showed how science and technology can pair with programming and computers and the use of the pis showed a common use that simple computing knowledge can achieve. Also, this built excitement for science and technology within an underserved community that dovetailed into the summer reading theme of “A Universe of Stories.”

With our five Nerd Camps across all five of our branches, we saw a preponderance of engagement from the community. Our community is an economically diverse one. Because many of our youth patrons get free lunches at school during the year, we wanted to be able to offer that for the days of our camps. To do this we partnered with various restaurants at each branch to provide lunch for the youth and volunteers at each camp. This allowed our partners to have an impact in the community and for the youth at our camps to have a provided meal. While we were able to provide lunch every day at our camps, there was a time we struggled to find partnerships. In the end, however, we locked in both local eateries as well as chains to have lunch provided. Also, through working with McAllister’s Deli we were able to provide snacks and iced tea to two camps as well. During our time in the Canton branch we utilized the summer free lunch program that we offer through the school district at the branch to provide meals for the campers. This allowed us to focus on finding partners for our other four branches while ensuring that the youth at Canton had food provided.

Engagement during camp was a wonderful success. At the Madison branch, we saw a turnout of 20 children. This number was steady through all four days of our camp. At our Camden branch, which is a rural community that serves a population of 900, we saw 10 campers daily. During these days, we were able to have the youth design and fire rockets, learn about computer and gaming, and be exposed to STEM concepts in a fun and engaging way.

 

Dawn Collins is the Youth Services Director for the Madison County Library System.

2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Managing Teen Summer Interns – (Some) Mistakes Were Made

The Ypsilanti District Library’s (YDL) 2019 Teen Summer Intern program was a great learning experience, not only for the teen interns, but also for the YDL staff! This was my first year managing teen interns at YDL and, as a result, I did not have my predecessor’s resources or anecdotes on past teen internships… I was starting from scratch for literally everything involving this process. I recruited for our internships mainly by word of mouth with our regular teen volunteers and patrons. I also added the application to our Teen Interest Page on the library’s website. All interested teens had to submit an application to me by June 1st in order to be considered. After distributing at least 12 applications in person, I only received five back, only three of which were totally complete. We had a lot of teens express interest after the deadline, which led into multiple conversations about prioritizing, managing deadlines and “there’s always next year”. Given the status of completed applications, my choices were pretty apparent and I hired the three teens who filled out their applications correctly and completely. I did have individual conversations with the other two teens about the incomplete status of their applications and encouraged them to try again next year, letting them know the reason as to why they were not selected. I felt like this aspect of the process was extremely important, as a lot of our teen patrons come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and are interested in working but lack work experience and 21st century career skills. This remained a constant theme throughout the summer with multiple conversations about anything from being late to cell phone use during shift times.

Photo by K. Scott

Once the interns were selected, we did a quick one-on-one session to go over expectations, tour the library spaces they would be working in and the supplies they were going to be using. They were also given their summer schedules based on their noted availability from their applications. In retrospect, as a time saver, I would plan for the future to have this be a more formal training that everyone attends at the same time. This would also ensure that the teens are all receiving the same information. I would also make sure to introduce the teens (maybe via email with their pictures, as well as walking them around for in-person introductions) to all the library staff, so they are familiar with the teen interns and understand why they are in the “staff-only” areas during the summer months.  One of our teen interns was incredibly shy and laconic. This was challenging for some of our librarians and library staff who did not work directly with the teen interns. Some misconstrued her demeanor as rude or unengaged. She also felt shy because there were a few staff members who kept forgetting her name and repeatedly did not recognize her. The only time she conveyed this to me was in her final evaluation and review meeting. In retrospect, I also wish I had hosted a couple mid-summer check-in meetings with the teen interns, as I could have hopefully made her feel more comfortable sooner and also allowed for more opportunities for her to engage with the staff members who did not know her. Providing the teens with nametags and lanyards would also have been helpful, to create a more “official” vibe for them when working at the library in their roles as interns. Lastly, and most importantly, I think managing library staff’s expectations for teen volunteers would be essential. Providing them in advance with information on the teen brain and how to engage teens would have been helpful for both staff and the teen interns. 

Photo by K. Scott

Our Summer Learning & Reading Challenge kicked off on June 15th, which was the first day our teen interns officially started working. Throughout the summer, our interns mostly helped with programs- prep, running the events, and cleanup. Overall, our internships were successful and it was a lot of fun getting to know the teens better and watching their confidence grow over the summer. The most heartwarming aspects were watching the interns learn how to create iPad book trailers and then engaging with youth patrons at our Library Lab STEM program, teaching the younger children how to create their own book trailers. It’s been a long, crazy-busy summer, but our teen interns were super helpful and it was so much fun getting to know them these past couple months!  I am already looking forward to implementing some more positive changes and improvements to our internship program for the summer of 2020!

 

Kelly Scott is the Teen Librarian at Ypsilanti District Library.

The Liberation of Not Knowing All the Answers

This post was written by Jill O’Connor who was a school librarian for 12 years before making the switch to a public library and, as the Youth Services Librarian at the Merrill Memorial Library in Yarmouth, Maine, she is  loving the freedom to craft programs for a willing audience. She is an avid reader of YA and middle grade books and a book reviewer with the Maine State Library Book Review group. When not thinking up glorious new STEM programming, she can be found driving to her son’s hockey games or her daughter’s dance classes, routing for the local baseball team, or cooking up new foods to tantalize her family.

As a former school librarian, I am new to the public library world. In the public library setting, programming looks very different than it did in school where you are a teacher, on par with all other educators in the school with learning objectives and curricula in hand. A school offers an audience of a knowable set of bodies in your class every day. You plan classes (programs) that hit your objectives and you present information. You don’t have to know everything, and it’s okay to say, “I don’t know, let’s look it up,” but for the most part, I always felt that I had to be the one in the know and in the position of teaching my audience something.

Fast forward to this past fall, I am the shiny new Youth Services Librarian at a public library, excited to try new things in a completely different setting, no longer hostage to the multiple classes-per-day grind. My domain is 3rd through 12th grade, and I am in charge of collection development, reader’s advisory, and all programming for the patrons within my assigned demographic. I know that I have to offer some STEM programming; it’s being asked for by parents and it’s a sensible and sought-after topic for all kids to be participating in, but what to do?!

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Girls Who Code @ Russell Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

In the summer of 2017 the Russell Library in Middletown Connecticut, was accepted to participate in the national non-profit Girls Who Code©. Girls Who Code (GWC) partners with other groups, such as libraries, to prepare students for careers in technology fields by introducing computer programming. Starting in September 2017 the Russell Library offered its first GWC course for 20 weeks to a full class of 12 students and a waiting list! The popularity and the community’s positive response suggested that the library should offer the course again.

As a Teen Librarian with a MLS and no official Computer Science background, after the first session I realized I needed reinforcements. The YALSA/ Dollar General Grant fit the perfect spot to be able to offer the program again.  (*Side Note- GWC suggests a CS Degree or CS experience is not necessary; that anyone can run a GWC program with the tools and resources they provide.)

The initial impetus in searching for a grant was our robust teen volunteer program, which offers important job preparation skills to the teens of Middletown. Teens volunteer at the library all year long, with the majority of the hours in the summer. During the brainstorming process, the concept transformed from volunteers assisting in all Youth and Family Learning Summer Learning Programs to two interns for a specific program, GWC.

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YALSAblog News of the Month – November 2016

Welcome to the YALSAblog News of the Month. In this post we highlight a few news items from the past month that we think are of interest to staff working with teens in libraries, schools, and youth development organizations.

YALSAblog News of the Month – July 2016

Welcome to the YALSAblog News of the Month. In this post we highlight a few news items from the past month that we think are of interest to staff working with teens in libraries, schools, and youth development organizations.

STEM in Informal Learning Settings

wikimedia photo of someone working with a robot “After a 15-month review of the current evidence base, the National Research Council’s (NRC) Board on Science Education concluded in a recent 2015 study that out-of-school programs have been shown to:

  • contribute to young people’s interest in and understanding of STEM,
  • connect young people to caring adults who serve as role models, and
  • reduce the achievement gap Continue reading

YALS – Libraries and Learning: A Resource Guide for “Make, Do, Share”

cover of spring yalsYou should have already or will soon be receiving your Spring 2016 edition of YALS. The topic of the issue is Libraries and Learning. All the articles are excellent but the one that stood out to me was the featured interview with Shannon Peterson, the Youth Services Manager for the Kitsap (WA) Regional Library (KRL). The library received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for their program Make, Do, Share: Sustainable STEM Leadership in a Box.

One of the great things about this interview is that not only did we learn the context of this project (it began with a project called BiblioTEC, sponsored through the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation) but also heard about how Shannon and her staff frame the work they are doing. Many times in public libraries, we are so focused on helping our community, we don’t think about the reasoning behind our behaviors. These behaviors and the programming we create can be influenced by the theory we read and the theory we believe grounds our work as librarians. Shannon’s interview was full of all the things she and KRL was thinking of as they created the Make, Do, Share programming.
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