What can STEM from the school library

| Author: Maxine Ramsay

The profile of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) has increased significantly in recent years with the promotion of STEM education projects. How can the school library contribute to this significant aspect of students’ learning?

This is the first in a series of posts examining the different ways school libraries can contribute to STEM education. First of all, let’s consider the cross curricular nature of school library spaces where all learning converges. Not only can all subject areas be supported by the library, but in addition, it is a place for all students, across all levels, supporting creativity, innovation, critical thinking, information literacy, and engaging readers. This context lends itself to a place where STEM education can flourish.

The notion of library spaces brings to mind Modern Library Learning Environments (MLLE). Part of developing an MLLE involves considering how to support STEM learning within the school library space. This is where library Makerspaces come into play. These are active, creative areas that encourage students to wonder, think, and innovate to produce projects that are imaginative, practical, and just plain fun. A Makerspace may take the shape of a tinkering table or exploration area that supports collaborative learning and students’ interests. Makerspaces can be created within your existing library space and can be as small or as large as your area allows. For further ideas about how to get started take a look at Lesley Preddy’s “Creating a school library Makerspace”. Makerspaces also encourage the involvement of members of your wider school community who have some STEM expertise to share with students.

Taking STEM in library spaces to the ultimate level is REALM charter school in Berkley, California whose 8th Grade students have designed their own library shelving for their new school library X-space and even raised funding through Kickstarter.

All of this points to the school library as a space and incubator for the development of STEM, providing further opportunities to collaborate with teaching colleagues in these subject areas. There will also be students in your school who will champion a library Makerspace recognising the value of the library as a place to learn, explore, and extend their interests.

How about hosting a STEM meeting in the library to discuss the development of a Makerspace? This will encourage lots of ideas about the space itself, tools, materials and projects that the library can coordinate and support.

Next time we will look more closely at how your library collection can support STEM education.

Further reading

Reconceptualising the school library as collaborative makerspace

Makerspace Playbook school edition. This downloadable guide provides comprehensive coverage of all aspects to consider when developing a school based makerspace.

Image: Baltimore County Public Library Innovate @ Your Library - BCPL, on Flickr