April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

26 Science Kits Available for Checkout at Texas Libraries

SciKitLibraries2Students, parents, and teachers can now borrow science experiments along with other materials from the Denton (TX) Public Library and run their own chemical and mechanical observations in class and at home.

The science kits, geared toward kids ages four to 10, include materials such as alligator clips, flashlight bulbs, and  zinc nails—not the usual materials students come home with from the library.

The boxed experiments come courtesy of high schools students at the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science program at the University of North Texas, who wanted to see if they could stoke the love of science in their younger peers. All the library had to do was provide bar codes and labeling so the kits could be put into circulation.

“The students really wanted to do this project,” says Dana Tucker, the public services librarian at Denton Public Library’s North Branch, where the boxes were first made available to the public. “They wanted to create something that could be checked out of the library.”

EH-SciKitLibraries220pixAt each of the three library branches in Denton, students will be able to select one of 26 kits—each with a different experiment inside. The plastic cases housing the kits are loaded with laminated cards that walk students through the instructions—from bringing a dead battery to life to building a light out of a potato. The boxes indicate both the grade levels and the science theories explored, says Tucker. QR codes and links to additional online resources are also included.

Tucker says most kits can be run with food products or objects easily found around the home, from sugar to crayons. But many include supplies, and the library branches stock replacements.

From the experiments’ circulation so far, those extras will come in handy. Within days of the kits appearing on the shelves, parents were calling to ask how they could reserve them. Almost all of the boxes had been checked out, says Tucker. The South Branch Library will make the kits available for circulation shortly, with the Emily Fowler branch following at the end of the month.

“I know some of them are already on hold,” she says of the kits. “People are making special trips just to come and borrow one.”

The kits may be better suited for middle school rather than elementary students, says Tucker. She notes that when high school students came in to launch the program, some of the experiments SciKitLibraries1“were a little but over the head of the younger kids.”

Even so, Tucker believes the boxes and the student-led programs will boost younger patrons’ science knowledge—and rev up the branch’s future science initiatives. “Parents have expressed interest so we’re looking to see if they can do more programs,” she says. “I hope the excitement keeps up.”

Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.

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  1. Dawn Adams says:

    I love this idea! I wonder if the printed materials could be shared so other libraries, public as well as school, could follow suit!

  2. Patty Cejda says:

    Would love to do this in my elementary school library! Any materials you are willing to share would be greatly appreciated!!

  3. Annabel Wang says:

    Hello all!

    My name is Annabel Wang and I am one of the two TAMS students who founded the original Experiment Boxes at the Denton Public Libraries. My partner and I are looking to become a nonprofit organization so that we can bring these boxes to libraries across the nation. We’re currently still in the developing stages but we’d love to connect with you early on. We hope, in the future, to bring these boxes to elementary school libraries and public libraries. Send me an email! (annabel.wang12@gmail.com) or reply here if you’re interested, have any comments/suggestions for us.

    Thanks :)
    I look forward to hearing from you!
    Annabel Wang