Many libraries across the country are offering great STEAM programs for teens; but are these programs as accessible and interesting to diverse teens as we would like them to be? Teens identified as underrepresented minorities–i.e., African-American, American Indian, Hispanic/Latino, and Pacific Islander teens–routinely score below their white peers’ in math and science. It’s not about aptitude, though; it’s about whether these teens have adequate access to learning opportunities that prepare and inspire them to pursue and succeed in science, technology, engineering, and math. That’s where the library can step in with informal learning opportunities that engage all teens in STEAM.

To make STEAM programs accessible and motivating, directly involve teens in the process of “doing” STEAM. Hands-on learning is great, as it emphasizes that every person is capable of doing science. Even better is collaborative work, which allows teens to work together to create a product greater than they could accomplish on their own; this is often called “citizen science.” Hands-on activities also allow teens to prioritize the things they enjoy and find interesting in a program.

Library Landmarks Highlights Map

Program Length: 60-90 minutes


  • map of the library
  • digital cameras, tablets, and/or smartphones
  • cords to transfer photos to the computer
  • computer with an internet connection
  • free Google account
  • account with a web-based photo-hosting site (Google+, WordPress, and Flickr are options; talk to your IT department about the best option for you)
  • cords to connect the computer to a projector

Program Itinerary:

After welcoming teens to the program, share a map of the library. What is typically shown on the map? What would teens rather have on a map of the library to show their friends the best parts of the library? Allow teens to brainstorm their ideal library map landmarks, then send them into the library with cameras–digital cameras, tablets, or smartphones–to capture these sites. While teens are out taking photos, log in to Google and any other relevant accounts in the program space.

When the teens return, upload their photos to the photo-hosting site of your choice; make sure each photo has a static URL.

In another window, go to Google Maps. Underneath the search bar in the upper left, click “My maps.” Click the “Create” icon that pops up. Give this new map a title, then use zoom functions to focus in on the library building. Make sure the entire library is within the screen view. Add markers to the map to correspond to the locations the teens photographed. (To add a marker to the map, click the “Add marker” button underneath the search bar. Then click the mouse on the point of the map you intend to mark.) After a marker is placed, name the place before clicking the photo icon. To add a photo, paste the proper image’s URL in the “Image URL” function. Repeat this process for all of the photos the teens took in the library. Have books available for teens to browse while they wait their turn to add their photos to the map (see list below).

When the map is complete, project it onto a screen or wall so that teens can share their library landmark highlights with one another. With any luck, teens will learn about places in the library they didn’t know previously. Since the map is hosted online, share the map’s URL with attendees; they can share it with friends who may be coming to the library. Share the link on library social media, too, to give other customers a chance to explore the library from a teen’s point of view.

Books on Display:

For more information on Building STEAM with Día and the importance of making STEAM programs and services accessible and interesting to diverse youth, check out the free archive of the webinar Building STEAM with Día: The Whys and Hows to Getting Started. The full Building STEAM with Día toolkit will be available in summer 2015.


Amy Koester is Youth & Family Program Coordinator at Skokie (IL) Public Library. She blogs regularly as the Show Me Librarian, and she has written articles and given presentations across the country about STEAM programs and services for youth. Amy is authoring the Building STEAM with Día toolkit.

3 Thoughts on “30 Days of Teen Programming: Engaging All Teens in STEAM: Thinking Diversely, with a Program Plan

  1. Emma Walker on April 10, 2015 at 4:41 pm said:

    I’d be really interested in seeing one of these finished/in progress. Do you have a link you could share?

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