National Week of Making is upon us, and with that, I thought it would be fun to highlight some program ideas that I have done at my library, and some that were shared on the YALSA’s Teen Programming HQ. STEM programs becoming more and more prevalent in libraries, and it is possible to do these programs in the smallest of libraries to the largest.

As we all know, STEM programs are a great way to get preteens and teens excited about coming to the library. It is a chance for them to expand their STEM skills, and to use devices, programs, and materials that may not be available to them in their schools. At my library, we work with a lot of schools that are disadvantaged, and we want to be a place for preteens and teens to learn something outside of school that could interest them enough to make a career out of it. With this in mind, we started a STEM Club a couple of years ago, along with a dedicated teen volunteer. Within our club, we have taught teens how to code, print on a 3D printer, make apps, build with Strawbees, and so much more.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library; University City STEM 101 Club

Although the Sphero robot does run to be about $130, but there are also Ozobots that run about half of that price. I was lucky enough to win a Sphero, and then myself and our other teen librarian,  Hayley, decided to use budget money to purchase a second. These robots are so much fun for preteens and teens. They can learn to code on them, build their own programs, race them, and more. They can even go in water and paint. Shannon Schreur-Klein shared a program plan on the Teen Programming HQ with steps on how she set up a Sphero and Ozobot program that is worth reading if you are interested in programming with robots.

Hayley also found Strawbees which are these simple, but fun building straws. The kit comes with connector pieces, and straws. We noticed that if the straws break, you can easily go to the grocery store, and replace them with regular straws. We have used these a lot in programs, and would be a fun minute-to-win-it challenge. You could easily give participants one minute to see who can build the most intricate, tallest, etc. structure.

Some other fun activities we have added to our club are Google Cardboard glasses that allow participants to experience virtual reality through their phone, building games and coding with Scratch, building catapults with everyday materials, and more. I actually wrote a little more in-depth about some of these activities in a YALSA blog post last June. My fellow YALSA Blogger, Casey McCoy wrote a post on STEAM that is worth checking out as well.

Another great program idea involves a solo cup and legos. Aaron Volner shared the One Scoop Challenge, which has preteens and teens getting one solo cup full of Legos. They must use every piece in their cup to make something they imagine. This would be a great program to have as a timed challenge as well.

Flannery Crump posted about making ‘maker carts.’ A maker cart would be a create aspect to any teen space; you can wheel it into the area at any given time, and have it stocked with STEM activities for teens. This is also great since so many teens enjoy doing self-directed programs and projects. A lot of the above mentioned materials could even be placed on the cart for teens to use. The carts would be a great way to get teen library volunteers involved with their peers; instead of staff monitoring the cart, teen volunteers can work with fellow teens to use materials on the maker carts.

There are so many money friendly STEM activities out there, you just need to do a little bit of research. One great place to look is YALSA’s Teen Programming HQ. Do you have any fun STEM programming ideas? Share them below or on YALSA’s Teen Programming HQ!

About Maeve Dodds

Maeve is a Teen Lead Librarian for Charlotte Mecklenburg County, University City Branch, in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has worked in adult and children services, and was previously an elementary school media specialist. She likes reading in her hammock and trying new foods.

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