We are pleased as punch to announce our partnership with Amy Koester of The Show Me Librarian blog! Amy’s early and unique approach to STEM programming in the library caught our attention, as well as the attention of School Library Journal and countless thankful librarians. This post is the first in a series focusing on integrating STEM principles into the arts & crafts programs we already know and love. Enjoy! ~Katie
by Amy Koester
Arts and crafts programs are a staple offering of many a public library. Whether for preschoolers, school-age children, teens, or adults, arts and crafts programs are attractive to many folks because they provide opportunities to create something personal and meaningful. These types of programs are great from a librarian’s perspective, too, because they promote creative expression, following instructions, and skills development. Those benefits are tremendous in and of themselves, but have you considered the potential in arts and crafts programs to connect informally to other areas of learning, too?
Arts and crafts programs are fertile ground for sharing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) principles with library customers of any age, and doing so will make programs even more engaging and satisfying for participants.
Think about those preschool storytimes that end with finger painting. Getting messy and making art is fun on its own, but using paint is a great opportunity to explore the science of color, too. What happens when two different colors of paint are mixed together? Encourage preschoolers to experiment and find out. Even better: encourage caregivers to ask questions about colors and color mixing experiments, including what the child thinks will happen and what actually happens. Now that common storytime craft, finger painting, introduces children to the scientific method and basic chemistry as well.
Traditional school-age craft programs have great potential for STEM connections, too. Take making valentines, for instance, a common February arts and crafts program. By adding pop-up card resources to the supplies table, that basic cut, paste, and color valentine’s heart can become an exploration of using engineering and math to create truly terrific cards. Master paper engineer Robert Sabuda offers templates for creating pop-up hearts, animals, and other objects on his website, and his instructions can easily be followed—and even adapted—by children, often with minimal adult assistance. Figuring out how to build a pop-up card is small-scale engineering, and it encourages visual problem-solving and creative thinking while using basic math skills like measuring. When children realize they’re using more than just their creativity to make their cards, they have even more pride in themselves and their final products.
What about arts and craft programs for teens and adults? Photography programs have been a hit in my library district—both in-library events and ongoing photography contests garner high participation. The opportunity to learn and experiment with photography skills is a huge draw to many folks in the communities we serve; expanding those opportunities to include photo editing technology only increases enthusiasm. Libraries can tap local photographers and photography instructors to offer introductory workshops on high-demand topics. Think better utilizing the features on a digital camera, learning basics of Adobe Photoshop, or converting standard photos to 3-D. These workshops move beyond the aesthetic principles of capturing a great photograph and engage attendees in honing new technology skills.
The most engaging arts and crafts programs at the library offer some level of connection to STEM principles; by drawing out that STEM potential, arts and craft programs become even more gratifying for participants. STEM in arts and crafts lets our customers use their whole brains, to exercise both their creative and methodical selves. It’s wholly possible for arts and craft program providers to harness these STEM connections to make programs as impactful and engaging as possible.
- Check out The Show Me Librarian for tons more STEAM ideas, as well as storytime tidbits and book reviews.
- Read Amy’s article in School Library Journal, “Full STEAM Ahead: Injecting Art and Creativity into STEM”
- Amy has also collected some excellent resources & articles on adding Art to the STEM acronym.
- Desperately seeking STEAM library ideas? Check out Library Makers, Laura’s S.T.E.A.M.punks Club, Heidi’s Science Meets Crafts program kits, and Rebecca’s Pages to Projects series.
Amy Koester is the Children’s Librarian at the Corporate Parkway Branch of the St. Charles (MO) City-County Library District. She shares youth services programs and library musings as the Show Me Librarian, and she shares a STEM program every month on the ALSC Blog. She served on the 2014 Newbery Committee.