Blogger School-Age Programs and Service Committee

Facilitating STEAM Programming Through Exploratory Play

Circuit Maze is a challenging game that gives players the opportunity to learn about electrical circuits. The game has a set of cards, with challenges from beginner to expert, that guide users in lighting up a small LED bulb by connecting circuits. A determined young patron at one of our after-school programs was committed to defeating a beginner challenge on her own after looking at the solution to learn how the game worked. Pretty soon, she was showing me how she figured out the intermediate, advanced, and expert challenges!  

We bring STEAM to the kids after school and throughout the summer with our STEAM Hours. We load up a wagon with tech toys, and we take them to partnering elementary schools. Besides Circuit Maze, our toys range from Pix Brix, 3Doodlers, Code and Go Robot Mice, and Osmo games on the iPads. We also bring lower tech options like Magna Tiles, a marble run, chess, and a craft. 

Photo courtesy of Trisha Parsons

STEAM programming can feel like an expert and expensive challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Our library is lucky to have these toys and iPads available, but more affordable, low-tech options work just as well because a core component of these outreach STEAM programs is play. Anyone can be the conduit for exploratory play by simply modeling what that looks like. I often sit down and play with these toys myself, or work on a craft, to encourage kids to come try it out for themselves.

photo courtesy of Trisha Parsons

Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child states1 that one crucial benefit to play is strengthening core life skills like planning, problem solving, following rules, and adapting. Our outreach programs embrace the power of STEAM programming to cultivate these life skills, but also a lifelong love for exploratory play. 

1“Play in Early Childhood: The Role of Play in Any Setting,” Center on the Developing Child, accessed June 2, 2023, https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/play-in-early-childhood-the-role-of-play-in-any-setting/

Trisha Parsons is the Children and Family Services Librarian at the Clearview Library District. In addition to outreach STEAM programs, she facilitates a family book club and a homeschool group.

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