By Mary G. Adamowski, Head of Youth Services, Orland Park Public Library
Over the past several years, there has been a substantial awareness and focus on STEM education in schools. As defined by Francis Eberle, Ph.D., the executive director for the National Science Teachers Association, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education is the “preparation of students in competencies and skills in the four disciplines. A successful STEM education provides students with science, math, engineering and technology in sequences that build upon each other and can be used in every day situations.”
The pressure for educators to improve STEM education is steadily increasing. Some teachers feel inadequate in providing valuable scientific lessons because of their lack of science background, and also due to the many financial challenges felt by school districts across the country. Teachers have stated that limited funds for supplies and equipment is a huge challenge to teaching science to the standards that are being demanded.
President Obama has also stated that educators need to increase student achievement in mathematics and science and expand STEM education to all including underrepresented groups. In a speech at the National Academies of Science in April 2011, Obama said, “Reaffirming and strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation is essential to meeting the challenges of this century. That is why I am committed to making the improvement of STEM education over the next decade a national priority.”
In the September/October 2011 issue of American Libraries, (americanlibrariesmagazine.org/columns/youth-matters/lowdown-stem), Linda Braun, educational technology consultant for LEO: Librarians and Educators Online, wrote of the struggle librarians have on a daily basis of figuring out what their role should be in the STEM educational universe. Her article outlines solid ideas and pointers that teen librarians, both public and school, can use to increase STEM programming, as well as connecting with the community to let them know that librarians are focused on current educational issues.
Youth Services Librarians have been supporting science education through our extensive collection of science books and AV materials, events such as LEGO Club, programmers and computers to access valuable science-related websites. Today, many libraries are providing STEM-based programs that enhance and complement the education curriculum. I recently spoke with Phyllis Davis, Head of Youth Services at Matteson Public Library (firstname.lastname@example.org) about STEM programs at her library. Phyllis was impressed to begin her emphasis on science programs with President Obama’s call for participation by many elements of society, including educators and librarians, to join the cause of elevating STEM education as a national priority. As we all desire, Phyllis wants to increase the awareness of educators, parents and patrons that public libraries “are a vital educational service within the community.” She, along with fellow colleague Joseph Friedman (email@example.com), recently demonstrated STEM programming ideas to the librarians of C.L.A.S.S. (Childrens’ Librarians of the South Suburbs.) Their hands-on presentation also included invaluable STEM-related book, website and partnership suggestions to assist librarians when preparing scientific programs and events.
At Orland Park Public Library, Assistant Head of Youth Services Diane Norris-Kuczynski (firstname.lastname@example.org), has created the EnvironMental Club2 (E=MC2) which meets on a weekly basis. Diane’s emphasis for her group and its programming is environmentally focused. Diane believes “the children are the future of this world and I want to plant a seed in their head that we all need to love and respect our Earth and nature.” Diane and her 3rd –5th grade students are anxiously looking forward to their summer activity in which they will be planting, caring for and harvesting container gardens in the library’s plaza. Each of the seven containers will hold a variety of herbs, root plants, vine plants, flowering plants and more! Diane is eager to have the children learn through this hands-on experience where their food comes from, the difference between organic and genetically modified foods and the unbridled power and beauty of nature.
As strong partners within our community, libraries strive to stay current with issues within the educational world. The time to educate our children so they may be well prepared for their future career opportunities is now. Libraries are extremely viable sources to help with the future of STEM education through our collections, events and services. Look to each other for assistance as you begin to offer STEM programming @ your library!