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Library incorporates science into summer program

As part of the "Blast off into science" summer series at Friday Memorial Library, kids in grades four through six worked on a pinwheel project on Thursday, Aug. 8.

This summer, Friday Memorial Library in New Richmond is injecting a little science into its programming for young people.

Over three days last week, the local public library offered "Blast Off Into Science" for students in fourth through sixth grade.

Tuesday's was called "Colorful Chemistry. " Wednesday's two-hour session was titled "Renewable Energy," and Thursday's session was "Bubble Extravaganza."

The St. Croix County 4-H program supplied Alyssa Ren, a VISTA worker, to teach the classes. She just completed her undergraduate work and is starting pharmacy school in a couple of weeks at the University of Minnesota.

According to Georgia Jones, youth services librarian, the program that focuses on science fits in with Friday Memorial Library's efforts to incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) into its programming.

The hope, Jones said, is that young people show a growing interest in those topics of study.

"Students in the U.S. score lower in STEM skill areas than students in other countries," she said. "Some children have opportunities in preschool settings but often parents feel unqualified to explore these areas at home. We are hoping to create some fun and interesting activities at the library that parents can replicate at home."

The effort to incorporate STEM concepts will go beyond last week's three-day series, Jones said. This fall, during the library's popular storytimes, science, technology, engineering and math concepts will be up front as well.

"We will provide opportunities to play -- and sneakily, learn -- in a no pressure environment," she said.

Library workers will use "App time", parachute play, block play, and vocabulary through books to help young people grasp these important areas of study.

The library is also introducing a "Whiz Bang Friday" program for ages 3-5 that is focused on STEM activities.

In addition, Jones said, the library will incorporate more art in their programming as well, known as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math in some eductor circles).

This year Early Out programs will involve fun with marbles, marshmallows, and magnets.

Even the teen events will have STEM elements woven into them.

"My hope is that through STEM/STEAM programs, the public library will be at the forefront of language and literacy development," Jones said. "In this digital world, we need to remind everyone of the learning that takes place outside of books. The learning that takes place in libraries, through these programs, keeps us relevant in an increasing digital world."

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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