Guest blogger Amy Koester of The Show Me Librarian blog returns with her monthly series!  This series focuses on weaving STEM principles and concepts into the arts & crafts programs youth services librarians are already doing.  We just love these program ideas, and I think you will too! ~Katie

by Amy Koester

A Classic Striped Gravity Painting

A Classic Striped Gravity Painting

If I took an impromptu poll of libraries serving youth and asked “Who currently has paint in their craft supplies?” my guess is that most, if not all, libraries would respond in the affirmative. Paint is one of our staple craft supplies, and kids generally love the chance to use paint and get messy and creative. Have you ever thought about ways to use paint with a STEM angle?

Painting with Forces

Intended for preschool through teen audiences

The arts and crafts aspect:

Two words: provide paint. I suppose it may be a little more complicated than that depending on the age of youth you’re working with, but the general idea is straightforward. To paint, you need paint and something to paint on.

Gravity Painting

Gravity Painting

The STEM hack:

Don’t just limit kids to painting with paintbrushes. Instead, introduce the forces of gravity and magnetism and use those forces to create the works of art.

Gravity Painting – To set the premise for gravity painting, introduce or review what gravity is and how it works. Gravity is a force in which large bodies of mass, like the Earth, attract other bodies, like people and books and, yes, paint. Gravity painters use paint that has been thinned. I use water to thin out tempera paint, but you could also use water with liquid food dye mixed in. The painter dips a brush or sponge into the watery paint and dabs it on one end of the paper/canvas, then immediately holds the paper perpendicular to the ground. The power of gravity will pull the paint towards the ground, and painters can manipulate the lines that are drawn by rotating the paper.

Magnet Painting

Magnet Painting

Magnet Painting – Introduce the concept of magnetism using a library book or an online source; my favorites are Wonderopolis’s “How Are Magnets Used?” for younger children and How Stuff Works’s “How Magnets Work” for older children and teens. From there, set up some magnet painting stations. Place a piece of paper in the bottom of an empty book box or shoe box—nothing with too thick of a bottom. Prop that box up using two pieces of plywood or, as in my case, two packages of sticky notes. Squeeze a bit of paint onto the page, then plop a strongly magnetic object in as well; magnetic marbles and ball bearings work best, but washers or key rings can work, too. Use a strong magnet (e.g., a magnet wand, a magnet block from the hardware store, etc.) placed underneath the box to attract the magnetic object in the box. As you move the magnet under the box, it moves the one in the box through the paint, creating an artwork determined entirely by how the magnet under the box is wielded.

There you have it: STEM potential in something as commonplace in libraries as a painting activity. Bonus points for libraries who create a gallery—be it in the library or a digital gallery online—to showcase creations used with the assistance of everyday forces.

Amy Koester Profile Photo

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.

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