March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Collaboration Leads to Top-notch STEM Programming at the Library

Electrocuting pickles at the library?! This was one of the many demonstrations on light brought to the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library in Broomfield, CO, through collaboration with the library’s own Science Task Force (STF) and the University of Colorado-Boulder. Once a month, the teen department and a dedicated group of volunteers, the STF, hosts a STEM-based program for young people ages 9–14. These events focus on hands-on activities that investigate topics in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Chemistry Creations with Sandoz Pharmeceuticals, October 2014

Chemistry Creations with Sandoz Pharmeceuticals, October 2014

Science programs are coordinated by me, the teen services librarian, and our Science Task Force, a community-based group of citizens with backgrounds in teaching and/or research in various fields of science. This group of volunteers was established in 2004 with an objective to design activities and demonstrations that build inquiry and reasoning skills on topics of science discovery, research, and technology. For example, the first program was called “Life Matters.” STF volunteers used hominid skulls, microscopes, and measurement tools for activities that focused on cloning, organ transplants, animal super senses, and genetic engineering.This program was offered to tweens and teens ages 9–14 and had an attendance of 12 participants.

In December 2014, with 30 kids and teens in attendance, we celebrated our 10th anniversary with a “Celebrate Science” program. STF volunteers brought back their all-time favorite experiments which included observation using various microscopes, chemical creations, paper airplane challenges, and robotic construction.

Endangered! With the Denver Zoo, September 2013

Endangered! With the Denver Zoo, September 2013

When our Science Task Force is posed with an unfamiliar topic, I assist by reaching out to surrounding communities and businesses to find partnership opportunities. One such collaboration resulted in the aforementioned electrocuting pickle, an activity developed by University of Colorado CU Science Discovery, a science education outreach program of the university’s Division of Continuing Education.  We have also outsourced programs with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Zoo, and Sandoz Pharmaceuticals. Through these partnerships, we have been able to offer a forensics lab, live animal presentations, and an annual chemistry event.

You can do it too

Do not be afraid of contacting local businesses and organizations.I have found that many of these institutions welcome the idea of leading a program, and quite often have an organizational goal that focuses on outreach in the community.

Forensics with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, December 2013

Forensics with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, December 2013

Additionally, it is our experience that the library staff needs to reach out to the local schools and government buildings to market the programs.We send out packets with our quarterly newsletter and program flyers to 15 local schools, as well as to recreation centers, the Health and Human Services building, and the Community Assistance Center of Broomfield, CO.Upcoming programs are also announced on the library Teen Zone Events webpage, monthly e-newsletters, and the local newspaper. These methods of marketing are one of the reasons why each of our programs fills up a month in advance with an average audience of about 30 teens and tweens.

The continued success of our collaborative science programs has spurred biweekly makerspace sessions with activities that dovetail off of the monthly programs.These programs are often attended by the same patrons who participate in our monthly programs. As we move into 2015 with the Science Task Force, we are excited and curious to see what the next 10 years of partnerships will bring.

Paula Noomnam is a teen services librarian at the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library in Broomfield, CO.

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