Guest Blogger

Full Steam Ahead!

On the shoulders of librarians such as Amy Koester, we decided to take on STEAM programming here at Deerfield Public Library.  The initial “experiment” was a huge success, so two more programs are coming soon.  Following the scientific model, here are the details:

Ask a question:  Will Deerfield young people attend science programs at the library?

Construct a hypothesis:  A catchy name, topics of interest, intriguing activities, devoted staff and enthusiastic teen volunteers will create successful programming.

Experiment:  Offer KiDLS (pronounced “Kiddles” for Kids in Deerfield Love Science).   First theme:  “On Your Marks, Get Set, Go!”  (physics/motion).  Second theme:  “Color Your World” (chromatics).  Third theme:  “Blowin’ in the Wind” (nature/wind).

Data:  My colleague, Noreen Trotsky, and I brainstormed a set of three stations for our first KiDLS program.  We began as a group, children ages 5-9 and their parents, in our Youth Program Room to watch a Prezi about the different stations:  Ramp-a-riffic, Take Flight, and Balloon Hovercraft Make and Take.  The energy was palpable as we split into three smaller groups.  At each station, either we or our teen volunteers helped guide participation, and posters suggested questions to ask before and after the activity.

At “Ramp-a-riffic,” we had built an adjustable ramp and offered a variety of items (toy cars, paper towel tubes, balls, blocks, etc.) with which to experiment.  Paper on the floor was marked with six-inch increments so children could measure and record the distance each item traveled (or didn’t!).  Our “Take Flight” station offered a variety of pre-folded paper airplanes, a starting line, and distance markers.  Blank paper was available to the participants for creating their own airplanes.  A large easel chart allowed for data collection, and our teen volunteer would pause to ask why certain models flew farther than others.  The Make and Take station allowed participants to make a balloon CD hovercraft and test it on various surfaces (rug, floor, chair, tabletop), then theorize about using it on the sidewalk or driveway at home.   After 20 minutes at each station, a train whistle sounded, and it was time to chug ahead to the next activity.  At the end, we came together to discuss the stations, share appropriate book titles, hand out materials and directions for a cereal box marble run, and encourage the children to “Never stop asking, ‘Why?’”  And…of course….a reminder to parents to sign up for the next KiDLS!

Analyze your data: Beginning with our group watching the Prezi was a great way to set an enthusiastic tone as well as expectations.  Three stations was one too few, and 20 minutes at each was five minutes too long!  In the future, we’ll have four or five stations and 10-15 minutes at each.  We’ll add an “A” to STEM for a STEAM program, especially since our next theme is “Color Your World.”  (Activities will include making a kaleidoscope, fizzing colors and rainbow in milk experiments, voting at a favorite color bar graph, and creating a color-hunt journal and placemat to extend the science fun at home.)  Our teen volunteers were instrumental to our success:  they helped us manage the stations but also exhibited enthusiasm and curiosity that was inspiring to the kids, parents and us!

Conclusion:  Deerfield young people will attend science programs at the library, and we are ready to be inquisitive and scientific right along with them!  We are enthusiastically going full STEAM ahead!


Our guest blogger today is Kary Henry.  Kary loves working as Youth Services Associate and Preschool Outreach Liaison at Deerfield (IL) Public Library.  Leading the 4-5 year old early literacy storytime is one of the highlights of her week, but every day is an adventure!  Kary can be reached at and @MissKaryReads on Twitter.  

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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