OXFORD >> When kids stop by the Oxford Free Library, they have a chance to come out with more than a book.
STEM kits, items and equipment that encourage the learning of science, technology, engineering and math are ready for lending out in the children’s library wing. Overseeing the project is Children’s Librarian Faith Dopirak, who has been running the program since the end of February.
“They present things in a fun way. It’s not so much learning but trying things out,” she said.
Thanks to a grant from the Dansko Company, the library was able to purchase 14 kits suited for varying age levels.
They are stacked up on a shelf at one end of the room and packaged in attractive and colorful boxes. They are available to taking out for periods of two weeks.
STEM programs are being embraced by the schools and encourage hands-on activities.
Dopirak likes it. “It’s thinking and touching, trial and error. As you get to adulthood it translates to your job. It’s doing your job well and knowing that things don’t work out every time,” she said.
One of the skills that grows with STEM is coding. At the very beginning level is a one program called Bumble Bee Robot. Children as young as 3 work out the codes for making the robot move.
Another one for the younger children is a Float the Raft. The children construct a small raft out of little plastic logs and place little toy people on it. They take them off one-by-one to determine by experimentation how many must come off for the raft to float on water.
For older kids there are telescopes and microscopes.
The rule at the Oxford Library is that the sets can be checked out for two weeks and they must be returned directly to the Oxford Library, even though Oxford is part of the county system.
The STEM sets are often accompanied by books related to them.
Dopirak said the children who are checking out the STEM kits run the range of ages from very young to middle school age. Usually, she said, the parents come in to help check them out. Often, families play with the STEM sets together.
How are they being received?
Dopirak said the families have been very careful with them, and there has been no breakage.
“I have had only positive responses. It’s engaging for a family,” she said.