Add STEM to summer fun, see kids’ love of learning grow

By Shelley Harris, Children’s Librarian

Everyone is a scientist this summer at the Oak Park Public Library! We’re going to be experimenting, exploring, and discovering in our 2014 summer reading program, Fizz Boom Read, for kids birth through grade 6.

To add to your free family fun, here are tips to add more science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) play into your family’s life.

S is for science. Pick a topic your child loves and build on that innate curiosity. You’ll find that any interest they have relates to a science area! Spend an entire week focusing on that topic - many kids enjoy trains, so you could look for age-appropriate nonfiction books (they exist for all ages), watch documentaries, do train art projects, make a train book, build a track and experiment with speed and derailment and more. Kids entering kindergarten through grade 5 can register to investigate the role of butterflies in our environment and build their own habitat on June 11 at the Maze Branch.

T is for technology. Apps and video games get a rap for being passive entertainment, but they can be full of active learning. Scratch is a free, easy to use computer program where kids learn how to code their own animations, for example. Get a geocaching account and follow online clues to find real life hidden treasures. Gather the family and start a video game tournament, keeping track of the statistics as you go. Kids going into grades 4 through 7 can register to explore and create their own electronics with CodePlayLearn and their littleBits sets on July 21 at the Main Library.

E is for engineering. Building with blocks helps kids gain important math skills like counting, shapes, weight, volume, spatial skills, grouping and sorting as well as well as improve hand-eye coordination and problem solving skills. Building also lets kids practice their storytelling and narrative skills, which are important for early literacy. Using discrete blocks rather than Lego blocks allows for cause and effect learning - only solidly built structures will stand. Kids 5 years and older can build catapults in a live action Angry Birds program July 11 at the Main Library.

M is for math. This summer, why not try baking together? Or, make no-bake desserts, as weather dictates. Let the kids measure ingredients, practice doubling recipes, and discuss fractions as you serve. Talk about the shapes of signs, buildings, flowers and more with younger kids. Practice saving by estimating how much money is needed for, say, a new book, keeping track of how much is saved and how much is left to be saved on the way. Kids 8 years and older can register to create a recipe of baking soda and vinegar to launch rockets on June 24 at the Dole Branch.

Science is all about curiosity - figuring out what needs to be figured out and how to get started. Approach everything as a mystery to be solved and let your kids take the lead. To find more STEM experiences at the library for all ages this summer, visit oppl.org/kids

Of course, as always, we also want to share our love of reading with you and encourage lifelong learning throughout our community. In addition to being a fun way to engage the entire family, research shows that students who read over the summer keep their reading skills sharp, and are better prepared for school in the fall. Combine science and reading for out of this world results and never forget that summer reading = better grades.

Fizz Boom Read kicks off at all library locations Monday, June 9 and continues through Friday, Aug. 1. Learn more, and join us!

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