You know what I love? Writing that stretches my thinking. Writing that helps me ask questions. Writing that asks me to be reflective of my own practices.
If you don’t follow Adventures in Storytime (and Beyond) I highly recommend you do. Jen writes fantastic programming and reflection posts. Her recent post, S-T-E-M is a Four-Letter Word, got me thinking.
Jen has observed how the ‘T for Technology’ has come to dominate STEM discussions and programs, with a particular emphasis on coding. She lists many reasons why this is an issue (I won’t list them; go read the post).
This discussion is of particular interest to me because I am currently on a working group planning the layout and equipment for a new space focused on STEM learning and digital creativity. It made me question if I had been overemphasizing the T when doing my own research.
When I first started looking into STEM learning spaces I focused on the big picture framework and less on the “this is what to buy and use in programming.” I really like how this article frames STEM through a play framework. It is based on research from the LEGO Foundation. Usually I’m weary of reports from companies that use research to encourage people to buy more of their product, but their messages around play fall in line with other research done by libraries.
When thinking about what to buy I can look back on these concepts and consider if the toys and gadgets facilitate playful learning.
I also liked the “guide on the side” approach described in the Children and Libraries Fall 2020 issue called STEAM Learning in Public Libraries: A “Guide on the Side” Approach for Inclusive Learning. They talk about creating scenarios which lead to ‘playful failure’ where library staff act as a “facilitator [who] chooses prompts, questions, and STEAM activities carefully to set families up for learning explorations” (8). Again, I could see using this lens to think carefully about what to purchase – which hands-on devices and toys will allow staff to create opportunities for families to take risks, make mistakes, and learn alongside them?
Then I got to the point in my research where I started to look into the actual toys and gadgets. Whoo boy, was Jen right! Many of the items I had bookmarked had to do with coding. Things like:
- Kano computer coding kits
- Arduino programming kits
And those things are great! Coding is a skill many people will need to get jobs in the future. But moving forward I want to ensure I am thinking about all aspects of STEM before deciding on exactly what to buy. I really appreciate Jen sharing her thoughts because it will help me make better decisions moving forward.
Do you ever find yourself favouring one letter of STEM over another? How do make sure you are presenting a balanced view of STEM learning in your library spaces and programs? And for my own selfish purposes, tell me about the best STEM toys, gadgets, or programs you’ve run!