Bug Out! Science education workshops offered in all city libraries

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think,” Margaret Mead.

Bringing STEAM to San Diego libraries

All it takes is one furry spider in a room full of fourth grade students to show how excited kids can get for science.

On March 2, 2017, the San Diego Public Library announced a new education initiative that offers children in every community of San Diego the opportunity to learn about science and the ecosystem in a series of programs focused on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) subjects. Classes and workshops will be offered during March, April and May at all 36 branch libraries across the city.

During the kick-off event, more than 100 students from Chollas-Meade Elementary School got a sneak peek at what is to come. They jumped, screamed and laughed when one of the program educators pulled a large tarantula from its glass tank.

“It’s an opportunity to make it fun, get some hands-on learning with bugs, solar energy, 3D printing,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “It’s all about making making math, engineering, arts fun for kids.”

Workshops offer hands-on learning

As part of a city-wide effort to train young people for high-paying careers, “Spring Into STEAM” programs are intended for children ages 9 to 12. This year’s theme is “Bug Out!” and six courses will be offered on topics including entomology, beekeeping, solar energy, computer coding, geometry and circuitry. Participants are encouraged to attend all six courses and the awards ceremony on May 13, 2017.

“In keeping with our vision of being ‘the place for opportunity, discovery and inspiration’ we wanted to offer science education to all kids in San Diego so they can learn more about their environment and explore the world around them,” said Library Director Misty Jones.

“Spring Into STEAM” is designed to be an annual program, part of the San Diego Public Library’s initiative to make STEAM subjects accessible for youth. All of the library programs are free to participants.

Librarians will teach some of the courses along with several community partners who will provide expertise to support “Spring Into STEAM” programs. They include:

  • Entomologist Bill Burkhardt, known as “Bill the Bug Guy,” a docent and educator at the Elfin Forest Interpretive Center;
  • Local beekeeper and educator Hilary Kearney, owner of Girl Next Door Honey;
  • ThoughtSTEM, a local computer science education company;
  • All Girls STEM Society, a local non-profit started by two high school students; and
  • The League of Extraordinary Scientists & Engineers, which connects local schools with professionals in science fields and classroom resources.

Getting the community involved

“More than just a subject in school, science has become a tool for teaching kids how to learn,” said Jeane Wong, Founder and CEO of The League of Extraordinary Scientists & Engineers. “It is clear to me that when we teach kids to think, that is when the magic happens. When they know how to think rather than just memorize facts, that is when they learn to be innovative and invent, create and build. We want to give them tools to build their future.”

In addition to “Spring Into STEAM” courses, the program includes a citizen science project called Catalog of Life, an effort to collect and identify new species in our region. San Diego Public Library is working with the International Barcode of Life project, which aims to identify all life on the planet. Scientists use this information to study the diversity of species, monitor the health of our environment and the impacts of climate change.

All libraries will be offering free LifeScanner bug collection kits starting on March 2. Genetic sequencing on the kits will be done by the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics in Canada. As part of the Catalog of Life project, a series of bio-literacy talks and workshops will be held at multiple San Diego Public Library locations.

Some of the “Spring into STEAM” programs require advance registration. For a complete course schedule and more information, visit: www.sandiego.gov/steam.

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