Friday, July 26, 2013

Playground Adventures: A STEAM Program

I had a great conversation with a library mom the other day. She came to tell me how much her son enjoys the school-age science programs at my branch, and she asked if I had heard of something called STEAM--STEM with an A. Oh, boy. Do I need to tell you how excited I was to have a conversation about STEAM, one of my favorite things in the whole wide world, with this enthusiastic customer? It was great! And even better, I was able to tell her about our upcoming STEAM programs--including Playground Adventures, which she brought her son to after our conversation. I love when these sorts of interactions happen.

But let's talk about Playground Adventures. My thought process for the program was to combine some information about and examples of simple machines with a hands-on crafty/building/making activity. After I attended a STAR_Net webinar called Playful Building, I knew playgrounds were the perfect premise for this program.

We started off talking about simple machines. I asked the kids in attendance (about a dozen) what they already knew about simple machines, then I talked about some of the common ones. I used everyday objects as examples: inclined track and train from the train table for inclined plane; doorstop for wedge; yo-yo for pulley; catapult for lever. As I talked about and demonstrated each machine, I asked the kids to think about where they might see these machines at work on the playground. They had great ideas.

Then we spent the rest of the program time--45 minutes--building our own playgrounds. I set out legal-size paper as the building base, and I assembled a variety of other materials for building as well: different colors of paper, drinking straws, assorted wooden pieces, thimbles, yarn... We had tape and a hot glue gun for assembling playground parts (I wielded the hot glue gun), and markers and colored pencils were available for optional embellishment. These kids spent the entirety of the remaining 45 minutes deep in their building processes, coming up with great playground ideas and very smart engineering problem-solving decisions to build what they had envisioned. The resulting playgrounds were varied and great, and the children described them to me with definite pride.

Despite how relatively simple and low-intensity the program was, all of the kids thanked me profusely for offering the program. That response serves to reinforce my belief that one of the key things we (libraries) can provide for children is a space in which they feel comfortable to explore their own ideas.


No comments:

Post a Comment