Educators often struggle to help students relate to and develop a love of science. But thanks to IEEE Region 4’s fun, innovative and informative “Science Kits for Public Libraries” (SKPL) initiative, kids have never been so excited about science, and libraries have access to a unique new offering that will both attract and inspire the next generation of STEM leaders.
First launched in 2010, the science kits – which can be enjoyed at the library or checked out and taken home as easily as checking out a book — teach kids from preschool age through their teen years about everything from dinosaurs and electronic circuitry to robotics, coding, insects, simple machines, electricity, and much more using fun, hands-on, age-appropriate activities.
Libraries in IEEE Region 4 (which covers North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana) that are interested in establishing a new circulating collection of science kits (or expanding an existing collection) can apply for a $2,000 grant from the IEEE by visiting https://r4.ieee.org/skpl/.
AN INVALUABLE OFFERING
Among the more than 150 libraries throughout the Midwest that have been awarded SKPL grants and enjoyed their many benefits is the Lester Public Library in Vesper, Wisconsin, US, a small community of roughly 500 residents.
Following the recent closure of that town’s elementary school, “we were concerned about what [the closing] would mean for our library,” shared a library staffer, “but the science kits that we can now provide.…[are] a huge benefit to us and to our patrons! Instead of a decrease in children visiting the library, we’ve seen an increase,” she said of their range of kits, which target kids ages 5-10. Popular kits in the Lester Public Library include “Dash Dot Robot,” which encourages kids to work collaboratively to code the Dash bot to move around the library, as well as “Code & Go Mouse,” “Lazer Maze” and “Robot Turtles.”
According to library staffers, the science kits they were able to purchase with their grant have been invaluable to both their young patrons and community members alike. “Children who would normally not have the opportunity [to access] kits such as these have them readily available now to explore,” they confirmed, “and their faces light up when they find out they can bring the kits home with them to use.”
SUPPORTING THEIR MISSION
IEEE’s science kits have similarly transformed Columbus Junction, Iowa, a town of roughly 4,000 residents who are served by the Columbus Junction Public Library. According to Library Director Maggie Grimm, a kit on “3D Printing” is one of the most popular in their library’s collection. “Due to such positive feedback and everyone wanting a chance to experiment, we’ve added a second 3D pen to the kit to allow more people to experiment rather than having to take turns so much,” she said of the overwhelming response to that kit.
With many families in the community opting to homeschool their children, a kit on “Coding for Kids” has also been a big hit, as have kits on “Anatomy” and “Outdoor Exploration,” the latter of which Grimm said will tie in nicely with the library’s summer reading program. According to Grimm, she and her staff couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to offer the science kits to their constituents and plan to apply for another SKPL grant in order to continue to expand their offering. “It would certainly help us to maintain the supplies needed for all experiments while providing more options for our patrons,” she explained, adding that the kits help to support her institution’s mission. “Libraries are for life-long learning,” Grimm confirmed, “and we appreciate this grant so much because it’s allowed us to provide a number of things that we may not have been able to otherwise.”
For more information on IEEE Region 4’s SKPL program or to apply for a grant to launch a new library program or to make a donation, visit IEEE’s SKPL website.