Guest Blogger

From Frustrated to Delighted: Analog and STEM programming

old fashioned postcards scattered across the image. A postcard of the Empire State Building and a postcard of the Statue of Liberty are included. Used for STEM programming.

In 2015, I was working as a Children’s Librarian at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania). I had to produce and present a summer reading program with iPads for school age kids. This was part of a pilot program that summer to introduce children, especially inner city children, to iPads as a way to decrease the digital divide. STEM programming on an iPad? I had no idea what to do. I didn’t even own a smart phone!

To get some ideas, I went to our local recycled items store, the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse. (Retail therapy always works, right?) There, I found that you could purchase blank and used postcards. I bought a stack, thinking, hey, this could be a program. Back at the library, I looked at what else I had: some Disney sticker passports. Hmmm. There was an app on the iPads we were using for children’s programming that had pictures of children all over the world. Hmmm.

Suddenly, in a lightbulb moment, my program was born: I would talk to children about postcards! And passports! Then I would give each child a sticker passport and a postcard. While they played with the sticker passports, I would go around to each table with the iPad (here is the STEM programming part) and ask them where their postcards were from. We would look up that place in the app and see pictures of children from that place. This would give the kids hands on time with the iPad. 

old fashioned postcards depicting the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and other points of interest are scattered across the image.

Photo by Becky Phan on Unsplash 

Finally it was the day of the program! I set up the tables with books about other countries, including books from the “Children Just Like Me” series. At the start of the program, I told the children about my childhood overseas (my father worked for the United States Foreign Service) and asked them why they might need a passport, and asked them to name some countries. They called out “Mississippi” and “South Carolina.” I told the children that you didn’t need a passport to travel between states.  

Eventually we went to the tables. Many of these kids had never seen a postcard! This was ultimately a fun program and I was able to do it a few more times with other children. I don’t think the app I used exists anymore, as I was not able to find it with a cursory Google search.  

In writing this blog post, I found a fun post from 2011 by a former colleague, Kelley Beeson, called “iPad and Smart Phone Apps for Kids.” It’s a great post, (and fun–Kelley is a fun person, which is so evident in her writing). Reading it now shows us all that technology is always changing.

Which brings this post full circle–the analog is not going away. And that even you, if you can’t imagine doing a technology program, you can do it!!

Today’s guest blogger is Suzi Wackerbarth. Suzi is a children’s librarian for DC Public Libraries. She is also a former Bechtel Scholar (an ALSC sponsored fellowship) and has been a librarian since 2002.  

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

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: III. Programming Skills and IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials. 

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