Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries

Information Literacy in STEAM Programming

Incorporating information literacy in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) programming in a fun and engaging manner is an essential part of encouraging responsible digital citizenship and inspiring children to think about thinking. Here are some tips and program examples to get things rolling.

Tip 1: Trust but verify. Build explaining and verifying resources into your programming curriculum.

Tip 2: See, think, wonder. Increase critical thinking with this thinking routine from Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero. Ask children: What do you see? What do you think about that? What does it make you wonder?

Tip 3: Reach out for help! Look at colleges, universities, cultural institutions for experts on your topic for support resources and guests for your program. Make sure to check and announce their bonafides, so that kids will learn to associate background experience, education, and professionalism with trusted resources.

Tip 4: Be intentional. Select culturally and developmentally appropriate activities that extend the learning experience.

Tip 5: Be safe. Build in time to explain online privacy and safety issues to kids. For more info, see ALSC Blog’s post: Virtual Programming and Patron Privacy

Sample Programs
Pick and choose the parts that work for you! The programs below can be adapted for virtual programming.

Theme:  Unplugged Coding – My Robotic Friends

Rationale: Computational thinking helps develop pattern recognition and abstraction, skills that assist in organizing and analyzing information. Learning to code complements online safety and digital citizenship instruction and provides youth a platform to practice experimentation and analysis, as well as new opportunities to express what they learn through programming.

Introduce theTopic: Explore computational thinking and programming without using computers.

Activity: Kids become cup-stacking robots! Adapt Thinkersmith’s Unplugged activity “My Robotic Friends” for your audience. If you are adapting this for virtual use, provide a link to the lesson in advance, and suggest alternatives that families could use for cups, such as blocks or cans of the same size.

Read: How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk for an introduction to basic coding concepts. Book cover: How to Code a Sandcastle

Books for Older Children: Booktalk fiction series where characters explore coding: Secret Coders by Gene Leun Yang and Girls Who Code. Suggest How to Be a Coder by Kiki Prottsman for a deeper dive into coding with lots of unplugged activities.

Books for Display: DKfindout! Coding by DK, Instructions Not Included: How a Team of Women Coded the Future by Tami Lewis Brown and Debbie Loren Dunn, Kids Get Coding (series) by Heather Lyons, et al.

Extension Activity: Kids can explore coding online with tons of resources from Hour of Code.

Theme: Exploring Art

Rationale: Art appreciation helps young children learn to think critically, express ideas, and examine implicit bias in cultural understanding of artistic merit. In addition, incorporating art education into programming helps children learn to analyze, criticize, utilize and assess visual information. Learn more about art appreciation and literacy from PBS’s article “The Importance of Art in Child Development” and EdSource’s “Art Appreciation Helps Young Children Learn to Think and Express Ideas”.

Introduce the topic: Prompt children to consider which elements of an artwork are essential for artistic intrinsic value and what affect substitutions would have on viewers’ experience of the piece.

Read: Master-pieces: Flip and Flop 10 Great Works of Art by William Lach. Look at classic portraits in a new way by mixing and matching pieces of the world’s greatest artworks to create new pieces.

image of woman imitating a painting of a woman
The Getty Challenge

Activity: View digitized and downloadable artworks from Getty’s online collection. Take the Getty challenge and recreate artwork with commonly found objects.

Read: Art Detective: Spot the Difference by Doris Kutschbach. Play detective and examine great works of art to see if they are the real thing or forgeries.

Book for Older Children: Booktalk The Art Book by Caroline Bugler. Explore the ideas behind one hundred iconic works of art while examining their historical context.

Books for Display: Behind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of Museums by Lee Bennett Hopkins; Imagine by Raúl Colón; Can You Hear It? The Metropolitan Museum of Art by William Lach

Extension Activity: Explore museums around the world from your local library or the comfort of your couch with virtual tours: Boston Children’s Museum, Children’s Museum of the Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, The Louvre, National Gallery of Art, Van Gogh Museum.

Our guest bloggers today are Brooke Sheets and Meagan Albright, members of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee. Brooke is the Senior Librarian for the Children’s Literature Department of the Los Angeles Public Library. Meagan is a Youth Services Librarian III at the NSU Alvin Sherman Library in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competency: Programming Skills



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