Library district launches new STEM kits

Astronomy STEM kit from the Alachua County Library District
Astronomy STEM kit from the Alachua County Library District
Photo courtesy ACLD

New science-related kits geared to preschoolers and elementary school-age students became available for checkout this week at the Alachua County Library District (ACLD), and they are already proving to be a popular item.

Of the 30 STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—kits the library made available for checkout this week, all but three of them were checked out by Friday afternoon. Several of them already have a wait list of interested young patrons.

“They are checking out ‘like hotcakes,’” said Gail Carr, the youth services librarian supervisor for ACLD.

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Each of the kits includes an interactive toy, a DVD and a book. The interactive toys for the kits were purchased with the help of a $1,500 grant from the Rotary Club of Gainesville, while the DVDs and books were already part of the ACLD’s collection, Carr said.

The different kits are focused on a particular STEM topic like astronomy, electricity, health, physics and sound. The interactive science toys that are part of the kits range from items like binoculars and microscopes to an earthquake lab and K’nex building toys.

The Youth Services team put together the kits by first identifying the interactive science toys and pairing them with the materials from the library’s collection.

For example, the dueling stomp rockets that are part of the Rockets kit have been paired with a book on rockets and a Disney Imagineering film on the laws of motion.

The kits help children have hands-on STEM learning experiences, something that is especially important to homeschooled students or children engaged in virtual learning.

“Supporting virtual learning has been even more important during the pandemic,” Carr said in an email interview. “In the past, the Library District has supported hands-on learning with the Sensory Toys for check out. The STEM Kits are a natural progression of that service for older children.”

The Rotary Club of Gainesville expressed interest in supporting a library initiative, and the ACLD proposed they help fund the STEM kits, Rachel Cook, the public relations and marketing manager for the ACLD, said in an email interview.

David Gracy, president of the Rotary Club of Gainesville, said that education is one of Rotary International’s seven areas of focus and that supporting educational initiatives has been an important area of emphasis for the Gainesville club.

“Education is a big deal to our local members,” Gracy said. “I would just say on behalf of my club, we are truly thankful we are able to help, because that’s what being a Rotarian is all about.”

Descriptions of all the kits, including age recommendations, can be found on the library’s website. The kits are available for a 14-day checkout period to parents with library cards.

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