Library Programs · STEM Programs · Technology

Family STEM Fun

Last winter, coworkers and I did a very successful Technology Open House for kids and teens in grades 4+. It went so well that Katie and I planned a STEM drop-in program this summer, for kids in grades 1-5 with their families. There were 7 stations for families to visit at their own pace, and we had volunteers plus a teen employee running some of the stations that needed an explanation. We ended up with a very respectable crowd of 55 people, many of whom stayed the entire 1.5 hours. They seemed to have a great time and I would definitely do this again!

The stations:

  1. Marshmallow towers: kids were challenged to build the tallest structure they could, using toothpicks and a pre-packaged bag of mini-marshmallows. We put out pictures of famous buildings (Willis Tower in Chicago, CN Tower in Toronto, etc.) for engineering inspiration, and provided paper and pencils in case they wanted to sketch their idea first.
    Marshmallow Towers
  2. Drops on a penny: kids used droppers to test how many drops of water would fit on the surface of a penny. This activity covers surface tension, cohesion, and math all at one station(!). Full details are here, at the Steve Spangler Science website.
    Drops on a Penny
  3. Elephant toothpaste: our teen employee demoed the chemical reaction that happens when you mix yeast and hydrogen peroxide. It’s pretty awesome, although we used 3% hydrogen peroxide (the kind you can get at a drugstore) but should have used 6% (available at beauty supply stores) for an even better demo. We used directions from Science Bob, plus there’s a video at that website so you can see it in action. (In case you’re wondering, it’s called elephant toothpaste because it looks like a giant tube of toothpaste when the mixture erupts from the bottle.)
  4. MaKey MaKeys: I ran this station, explaining them to each family and getting them started. If you don’t know what these are, click here for a blog post I did a while back on MaKey Makeys.
  5. Fossils: a patron recently donated a collection of fossils found about an hour away from our library. (Awesome!) We put these out with magnifying glasses and information about them.
    Fossils and Skeletons
  6. iPads: we featured 4 iPad apps for kids to play: Cat Physics, Tynker, Operation Math and Grandma’s Kitchen. It was great to see parents engaging with their kids over the apps. I had I had a really good time playing with Cat Physics and Tynker (which were new-to-me apps that I downloaded for this program) and had to tear myself away.
  7. Photo Booth: we have Mac laptops with the Photo Booth software, so we decided on a whim to set it up for families to play with. We hung up a backdrop and put out props we dug up from storage (sunglasses, bead necklaces), and Katie even made some awesome props (mustaches, glasses, etc. printed out and attached to dowels, like masquerade masks). The laughter coming from this corner of the room was hilarious. Families definitely had a good time with this.
  8. Balloon Rockets: ok, this wasn’t actually a station, but an activity we gave to kids as they left so they could continue the fun at home. We took this idea in its entirety from Abby Johnson (aka Abby the Librarian), who posted about balloon rocket activity packs the very day we were looking for something like that.
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