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Want Free STEM activities? Check with your local Library

Libraries are great for getting your kids excited about books and reading but they also offer a variety of STEM programs. If you haven’t looked into what resources, your local library has to offer you may be pleasantly surprised. Most offer free STEM activities for children.

I talked to library’s in the Dallas/ Ft. Worth area about why they offer so many STEM programs for kids and what they have to offer. I talked to the Frisco, Plano and Benbrook Library systems and asked them the same three questions. Their answers are very similar, and their STEM programs are offered in a variety of formats.

Jennifer Cummings is the Youth Services Manager at the Frisco Public Library.

Samantha Davies: What type of STEM programs are available at the Frisco library?

Cummings: A variety of STEM programs are offered by Frisco Public Library, including weekly programs available on Facebook and YouTube. Two such programs are Knowledge Quest and Science Showdown. Knowledge Quest highlights at home STEM activities like making your own slime, snow, or even butter. Science Showdown introduces STEM concepts such as forensics, engineering, and outer space adventures in an engaging game show format.

The Frisco Public Library also offers live Zoom programs. Be sure to visit our website for upcoming dates for programs like Coding with Microsoft or learning about the Mars Perseverance Lander with NASA Solar System Ambassadors.

Samantha Davies: Why do you have a variety of STEM programs for children?

Cummings: Frisco Public Library offers a variety of STEM programs to help educate and inspire a whole new generation of innovators. Our STEM programming helps make STEM accessible to our community and shows our young guests that STEM can be fun and creative.

Samantha Davies: How can people find out about your free programs?

Cummings: Guests can find out about our free programs by visiting www.FriscoLibrary.com and going to the events tab. All Zoom events require registration. Our pre-recorded programs are available 24/7 on the Frisco Library Facebook page and YouTube channel with new elementary programs posted each Saturday!

James Whitehead is the STEM Coordinator/Instructional Designer at the Benbrook Public Library

Samantha Davies: What type of STEM programs are available at the Benbrook library?

Whitehead: We offer a wide variety of STEM-related programs and equipment for all ages.
• For our younger audience, ages 5-10, we enjoy putting together experiments and STEM reading recommendations. The library provides free kits with our experiments that include instructions and alternative experiment ideas, and the step-by-step demonstrations can be found on the library's social media accounts. Some of our favorites, as you know, are about weather, but we cover a range of topics, including physics, engineering, and mathematics.
• We offer a Makerspace that includes a Laser Engraver and three 3D printers for use by library visitors 13 and over. Training on safety is required, and visitors are encouraged to become familiar with CAD software to ensure their projects are a success. Younger users can learn about the equipment and try it out if accompanied by a parent. Appointments for the Makerspace are available to book on our website.
• STEM programs such as Maker Mondays encompass all age groups and are held once a month. Maker Monday's information and theme can be found through our social media.
• We also provide Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) STEM Kits. These are perfect for students in 3rd-6th grade.
• One of the things I am most excited about: our clubs! We have a First Lego League Robotics Club for ages 9-16 and the new Prenda Code Club for ages 8-18. Currently, these club meetings are being held primarily virtually, but we do offer the equipment for checkout and use at home. Students in Robotics have an opportunity to compete against other clubs in the area.

Samantha Davies: Why do you have a variety of STEM programs for children?

Whitehead: The hope is to instill a lifelong love of learning in STEM fields at an early age and give older students a place to really develop more advanced skills, so these programs help to begin that work. There are so many opportunities for a future in STEM, and the variety of programs we offer are intended to introduce all children to a wide range of possibilities for additional study and careers.

Samantha Davies: How can people find out about your free programs?

Whitehead directs people to their website: https://www.benbrooklibrary.org.

The Benbrook Public Library also post information on their Facebook, Instagram and twitter pages.

Nina Martin is the Library Manager at the Parr Library in Plano.

Samantha Davies: What type of STEM programs are available at Plano Public Library?

Martin: At Plano Public Library we add Art to STEM to get STEAM, and have a variety of programs and resources available. We are currently offering virtual programs, and have a playlist on YouTube featuring STEAM programs. We also offer monthly “Take It and Make It” STEAM activities that families can do at home. Ready-made kits are available for pick up at all of our libraries, on a first come first served basis, with instructions and videos on our blog. We also offer STEAM Kits for check out that support learning and experimentation with books, DVDs and hands on activities. There are currently more than 90 topics geared for different ages from preschoolers to adults.

Samantha Davies: Why do you have a variety of STEM programs for children?

Martin: Plano Public Library’s STEAM programs introduce essential skills for today’s digital age, including robotics, coding and circuitry. Our classes offer the opportunity for families to engage and discover through hands-on learning and experiments. We provide these programs to fulfill our mission of engaging the community, enriching lives and educating minds. Our STEAM programs are well-received, very popular, and support academic achievement and lifelong learning important to our community.

Samantha Davies: How can people find out about your free programs?

Martin: Our programs are listed on our website: www.planolibrary.org. Scroll down to view the programming calendar. You can also check out our Facebook and YouTube for more virtual program opportunities.

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