By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager
S.T.E.M. education is opening doors for young people by offering them different ways to learn about science, technology, engineering and math, and by seeing how those disciplines are incorporated into our every day lives, from our homes, our world, and beyond. The library is the perfect place to explore S.T.E.M. ideas, no matter your age.
Here are some titles that could be starting points for introducing S.T.E.M. concepts through stories of real people. As ideas spark, children can wonder off through the subject “neighborhoods” in the Children’s Room and take home a pile of books to peruse later.
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark follows Lovelace from her childhood, estranged from her father Lord Byron and encouraged by her mother to learn mathematics, through her friendship with inventor Charles Babbage when Ada created the first computer program. Gorgeous illustrations by April Chu will keep young readers hooked, and they can continue reading about famous females in Women Who Launched the Computer Age by Laurie Calkhoven or Trailblazers: 33 Women in Science Who Changed the World by Rachel Swaby.
In Elizabeth Rusch’s Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World, kids learn how Tesla first came up with his idea for alternating currents, and how his invention was chosen above Thomas Edison’s for lighting the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Remember learning about the Fibonacci code? Joseph D’Agnese’s Blockhead is an intriguing picture book about Leonardo Fibonacci’s challenging life and his special discovery of number sequences in nature. Similarly, Paul Erdos’s unusual life is recounted in Deborah Heiligman’s The Boy Who Loved Math. “Uncle Paul” Erdos was strange and socially inept, yet he was beloved by many, and he furthered the study of mathematics in numerous areas.
More topics can be explored by identifying a child’s interests or passions, and using that as a springboard to learn more. This summer, we added four books from the Science of the Summer Olympics series. Check out titles like The Science Behind Swimming, Diving and Other Water Sports if you had a great time watching the Olympics as a family.
Kids who are into popular mainstream shows will appreciate the Batman Science series which explores the “real-world science and engineering” of Batman’s suits, vehicles and utility belt. The Max Axiom, Super Scientist graphic novel series presents S.T.E.M. topics through comic book adventures.
Hands-on kids will enjoy the many books with instructions and ideas for projects they can create themselves. 3-D Engineering: Design and Build Your Own Prototypes with 25 Projects provides enough instruction for kids to test strategies for building anything from bridges to alarms. Lego has produced a whole slew of big, exciting books full of ideas for new things to build, such as the Lego Adventure books. The books foster imaginative creations and experimenting with structures.
No one is too young to experience S.T.E.M. Babies and toddlers have a natural curiosity that leads them to taste, touch, explore and experiment with everything around them. While this can make childcare a little hectic, parents can easily encourage children by asking and answering questions, describing things to increase vocabulary, and allowing children to play safely with a variety of household items. A new board book series called “Baby Loves” by Ruth Spiro captures the enthusiasm for S.T.E.M. In Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering, simple sentences and colorful, bright illustrations present questions and answers about things that fly – birds, airplanes, and a rocket. Andrea Beatty’s picture books — Ada Twist, Scientist, Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect – are also good introductions for younger listeners.
Experience S.T.E.M. at library programs, too! Every Tuesday, Chess Club for all ages and abilities meets on the first floor of the library, starting at 5:30. It is run by the K-State Chess Club, and beginners are welcome. S.T.E.M. Club for K-3rd graders meets on the second Thursday of the month from 4:00-5:00 in the Children’s Room. This week, kids will find out if they really know the story of The Three Little Pigs. Activities include exploring various building materials, learning about their properties, and even building little houses to test against the big bad wolf. Later in the year, library staff will be incorporating Sphero robots into some programs for different ages. The library is a great resource for getting your kids excited about S.T.E.M.