By Sarrah Peters/News Editor
At the Gadsden Public Library’s Children’s Department, librarian Jillian Reeves has been offering STEM programs and traveling to local schools to do STEM outreach for years. A member of the Civil Air Patrol, Reeves describes STEM as something she is passionate about. A few years ago, she had the idea to start a STEM kit lending library for local schools, but it took her several years to research the idea, obtain community support and write and receive the grant to fund the program. Now the idea has finally come to fruition, and it is the first STEM kit lending library of its kind in the state.
Reeves said that technology programs are more popular with middle and high schools, but that there is a lot available to get younger children started with STEM and programming. However, with budget constraints, it can be difficult for elementary schools to fund science and technology programs, especially since technology changes at such a fast pace.
The kits offer the building blocks for programming. Some use screens and others allow students to learn how to input commands without screens. The kits come with a wide variety of curriculum ideas and worksheets for teachers to easily incorporate the kits into their lesson plans. The kits are only available to elementary schools and homeschooling coalitions (not individual homeschooled families) because of the high cost. The schools can rent kits for weeks at a time, so schools can allow several teachers to utilize the kits in multiple lessons. There are nine different types of kits, with 11 kits total.
One of these is the Code and Go Mouse Mania kit. Students press directional buttons that move the programmable mouse through one square at a time. The goal is to navigate the mouse through obstacles to reach a block of cheese. The kit comes with Math Packs, which allow teachers to incorporate math lessons.
Another kit is the Ozobot kit. Ozobots identify colors, allowing students to control the robots through marker lines and patterns which do different things. For example, a bot will speed up after encountering three specific colors in a specific order.
“There’s something for everyone,” said Reeves.
For more information, contact Jillian Reeves at Gadsden Public Library’s Children’s Department.