Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead
The Danville School Library got a new database this fall, ABDO’s S.T.E.A.M. offering for grades K-2. I am going to admit I was rather utilitarian about it. I needed to freshen up the electronic offerings for the small-fry--something besides BookFlix and the tidbits I am forever inserting on the elementary library web page. The ABDO offering came through the mail on a snazzy card, offering a free trial and all of that. I tried it, it was fine, that was nice. Never terribly invested in science and math myself, but knowing that the K-1 teachers built a dedicated S.T.E.A.M. workshop into their days just last year, I ordered the product thinking I’d just push the timely topic out for folks to use. I figured the database had the subject under control, so it wasn’t like I needed to become an expert, right?
Well, it turns out this S.T.E.A.M. stuff is so much fun I am becoming one, despite those awful science and math grades in high school! All of sudden, some component of the subject is everywhere, and it has become the driving force behind all my recent elementary programming. Who knew? And my background in the liberal arts is coming in handy, too, which is just making things that much sweeter. (More on that later.) Of course, I am the first person to crow about a Matisse cut-out or a Calder mobile, but to have beautiful picture books do the crowing and S.T.E.A.M.ing for me? Perfection! Then, whip up a few tidbits on the website to go with and everyone is happy and curious inside and outside the library! Seriously, it is delightful.
This week’s feature is Jacques Cousteau, the penultimate S.T.E.A.M.er--and showing kids a clip from that awesome 70s TV show, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, is more than icing on the cake. Besides taking me back to cozying up on the shag carpet in the den on a Sunday night forty years ago to be amazed by what was going on aboard The Calypso, watching the delight and amazement brew among the kids is a certain brand of perfection.
But back to my comment about the liberal arts. There is a fairly robust conversation going on in higher education these days about whether they are all that pertinent in the technologically advancing 21st century. I see where that argument comes from, that folks are afraid the “fluffy stuff” might actually get in the way of the next generation figuring out how to make surviving on this planet a doable thing. But then when I see how my background knowledge of history, art, and literature open the door for me to be zealously leading a S.T.E.A.M. effort at school, especially when I had no plans for getting this darn excited, I realize that the liberal arts are my way into understanding S.T.E.A.M. And why it is such an important, necessary topic in today’s world.
Now, I am fully aware that plenty of people with more of an affinity to science and math might not need the liberal arts key to gain access, but I am going to argue that they will be able to get more out of their study if they have some knowledge of the more human side of it all. Who began the train of thought that led to any technological improvement we see now? What was going on historically that makes this person’s vision all the more meaningful and extraordinary? What kind of meaning might this have for people when daydreaming about inventing that thing or solving that problem?
It’s the yin and yang of all the disciplines, it seems, that keep humanity evolving. And therein lies the beauty of our favorite spot, correct? The Library. The keeper of all disciplines, the landlord of literature. The way that so many bits of information and so many stories can be put together to foster curiosity, understanding, and knowledge is astounding. As for me, my first epiphany of the school year began with a little glossy postcard from ABDO Publishers. I honestly had no idea...wish me luck as I host Danville school’s first-ever Makerspace club!
Kristen Eckhardt, LMS