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STEAM minigrants to help stretch children’s creativity

GPLS News, October 2016

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Building on the success of last year’s STEAM minigrant program, GPLS announced in August that this competitive grant opportunity for Georgia’s public libraries would return for 2016. As in 2015, the art component was added, turning STEM funding into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) minigrants.

Fifty-one library systems applied for and will receive this year’s grants, the funding for which comes from the Grants to States program of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

“As IMLS continues to focus on the expanding role of public libraries for lifelong learning and improving access to science, technology, engineering and math resources, this grant opportunity will help Georgia’s public libraries become an even more integral part of the growing movement to include the arts in STEM/STEAM learning,” explained Jessica Everingham, assistant state librarian for library development and support.

“Libraries will use these minigrants to build resources for art education, as well as to continue their development of resources in science, technology, engineering and math,” she said. “Art education teaches creativity and helps kids develop the kind of risk-taking and problem-solving skills that they’ll need to solve complex challenges in the future. STEAM programming can be successful for all age groups, including adults.”

Many of Georgia’s public libraries are taking this opportunity to update and add to their existing STEAM resources by purchasing STEAM-related books and DVDs as well as equipment such as LEGO sets, 3D printers, Makey Makey kits, Raspberry Pi computers, Sphero robotic ball gaming devices, art supplies, sewing machines and telescopes.

“Some libraries that did not yet have makerspaces are creating them, including new mobile makerspace units at the Conyers-Rockdale Public Library System and Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Library,” Everingham said.

The Worth County Library and Ocmulgee Regional Library System (ORLS) will be using their grant funds to build tech loaner kits to be loaned to schools in their respective service areas.

“Our plans are to purchase additional 3D printers and supplies so that we can allow each middle school media center in our region to check out a kit,” said Anne Bowen, director of Eastman-based ORLS. “These kits will include a 3D printer, 3D pens, filament, several of the tiny Raspberry Pi computers and a laptop. A portion of this year’s minigrant funds and additional local funds will also allow us to purchase DVDs that support the STEAM curriculum.”

Sara Paulk, director of the Houston County Public Library System, said that her system will use its funds to address the need for bilingual, predominantly Spanish language, STEAM books.

“Through a multipartner project here, the barriers of language and transportation to library services in Houston County are falling,” Paulk said. “Tian Foss, the executive director of Houston County Family Connections, received a Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning/Bright from the Start grant in July to provide a bilingual storyteller and free bus passes to get to the libraries in Houston County.

“When the announcement came in August that additional federal funds were available for STEAM minigrants, we thought that a natural expansion of this partnership was for the library system to purchase bilingual and Spanish language materials for the target audience of younger children. The storyteller worked with us on the selection of items, and she will feature STEAM learning as a focus of her coming programs.”