It’s Savannah, again, from the Macon County Public Library. On a serious note, our lives, our history, and our future are determined by Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math…for the most part. Basically, anything the “developed” world (I apologize for the term and realize that it not the most appropriate) develops, discovers, builds, etc. influences others and our environment. Understanding and adjusting our relationship with STEM will affect our daily lives and our future.
Growing up in the 90’s/00’s, I can’t remember a time, at least during my teen years, that science and math were not primary topics in school (of course they were). Technology and engineering, on the other hand, were not topics readily covered, ubiquitous as they are, and with an area that does not have a lot of industry, as a young human, it was hard to discuss and engage with topics that did not seem like viable future opportunities for us place-bound Appalachians. Things have since changed.
Macon County Schools, Jackson County Schools, and Swain County Schools now have STEM Clubs, STEM Initiatives, and STEM Camps and there is no better time for tactile learners. One of the hardest things about being in a classroom is the inability to spend the appropriate amount of time on a given topic…it’s just not feasible to keep something interesting for everyone, all at once. I am thrilled to see the emergence of STEM clubs in our public schools. By the way, your local library also has you covered.
I emphasize library here because we (libraries) have many different perspectives on learning. As one of the few remaining places where a person can go and not be pressured to purchase anything, your local library wants to ensure that the resources you need to succeed are readily available. In fact, it’s part of both of our Mission Statement to “Enrich Lives and Inspire the Future” and Long Range Plan. Every purchase, every grant, every thought that we have as a system is bought, written, and brought into fruition for our community members.
Take the MakerTool Arduinos for example (which were made possible by funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources). The Arduinos were purchased to give some hands-on experience with electrical engineering and computer science to interested patrons. Specifically, patrons can pick up an Arduino in a low-stress environment, build it/make mistakes, and learn on their own time. Instead of reading or watching a video about this particular technology, patrons can actually see the effects of their computer code on the hardware (wires, circuit board, pins, etc.) instantly. The Arduino is perfect for the patron who wants to understand how code works with hardware. Our libraries also have Raspberry Pis for the curious coder. Raspberry Pis are developed for coding specifically.
The Fontana Regional Library System is also currently a recipient of a NASA@ My Library grant which has allowed us to provide telescopes for check out and programming for all ages (the NASA@ My Library project is led by the National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute. Partners include the American Library Association (ALA), Public Programs Office, Pacific Science Center, Cornerstones of Science, and Education Development Center. NASA@ My Library is made possible through the support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate as part of its STEM Activation program). Not to mention our STEM programming which already readily occurs at all of our libraries.
Our Summer Learning Program will be focusing on “Space” this year with the tag line “A Universe of Stories”. The Summer Learning Program includes programming focusing on Space and STEM topics for all ages. If “Space” isn’t your thing, well, there are plenty of other STEM specific programs topics to look forward to including gardening, theatre, cooking, science, and coding. The Macon County Public Library currently has a children’s garden and with the help of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, now has a plot in the Community Garden for adult programming.
As a local, I am thrilled to be a part of our libraries because we are offering more and more STEM related programming. As a history/humanities person, I understand that every invention, every discovery, every new technology made readily available has a profound effect on our society and our future. As a local Appalachian, I am pleased that our libraries are promoting STEM because it give me a sense of hope for our children’s futures and the future of my region. I am proud to be part of a learning system (libraries) that understands this aspect and makes STEM learning available to everyone, on their own time.