At the Fayetteville Free Library, we believe that making is an essential part of our library’s mission; makerspaces are tied to our commitment to providing free and open access to ideas and information. They support 21st century literacy skills, including digital literacy and STEAM skills, as well as the Common Core Learning Standards.
For these reasons and many more, we have worked to create a special Little Makers space, designed for our young patrons. We repurposed a little used corner of our children’s room and furnished it with toys, tools, and supplies that encourage children ages 5-8 to imagine, create, and build. The space includes an “invention box” with craft supplies and community donations that children can take and use for their own creations. It also features a DIY gallery wall where our Little Makers are encouraged to display their inventions and share them with the community.
As librarians and educators we understand the importance of STEM skills and play in childhood development. So, in addition to the free play activities inherent in the space, we have created a series of Little Makers programs. These programs utilize the children’s natural curiosity and the power of their imaginations to explore various STEM concepts. I believe it is this emphasis on exploration and free play that makes these programs so rewarding.
American psychologist Abrahm Maslow said that “Almost all creativity involves purposeful play” and this is certainly illustrated in Little Makers. Each program is dedicated to a different maker activity that explores a related STEM concept through play. For example, one month we made galaxy playdough and used the experience to learn about stars, galaxies, and outerspace. Another month we explored electricity and circuits using Snap Circuits Jr. We begin each program by reading a picture book that introduces the month’s STEM concept in a story format. Then we read a non-fiction book and ask/answer questions that help us discover more facts about our topic. We sometimes include an experiment or a challenge that helps illustrate one of the scientific principals, and we culminate with at least 20 minutes (often a half hour) of free play and discovery through making.
I can honestly say that these programs have become some of my favorite ones to facilitate. We have a growing core group of children who come every month and watching their faces light up in wonder at a particular discovery is always the highlight of my day. Particular favorites include anything messy, like our quest to make snow–we made two types of fake snow: one from harvesting the sodium polyacrylate crystals in disposable diapers, the second from a mixture of shaving cream and cornstarch–and anything that makes noise! You can find full descriptions of all of FFL Little Maker programs here.
Do you offer maker programs for children? What kinds of activities are you doing?
(All photos courtesy of guest blogger)
Our guest blogger today is Stephanie Prato. Stephanie is the Play to Learn Services Specialist at the Fayetteville Free Library. Stephanie is passionate about literacy and STEAM learning in libraries. She is interested in helping patrons of all ages discover maker culture and inspiring them to imagine, build, create, and share their knowledge with the community. For more information about the Fayetteville Free Library’s makerspaces, visit www.fflib.org/make. You can follow Stephanie and the FFL on Twitter @scprato and @fayettevillelib.
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