Texas Girls Collaborative Project

Texas Girls Collaborative Project

I am so excited to be able to say that I am one of the newest members of the Leadership Team of the Texas Girls Collaborative Project, the local arm of the National Girls Collaborative Project. Both organizations are committed to working with nonprofits, schools, companies, and other organizations (libraries!!) to motivate girls to pursue STEM careers.

To be clear, the Leadership Team is a volunteer, advisory board position. I will continue my work with Connecting Texas Libraries Statewide as their Youth Services Specialist. While TxGCP also has a board, from what I can tell so far the Leadership Team acts more like a “sounding board” guiding the organization with input from a wide variety of advocates. I hope to provide a unique voice as there are no other librarians on their team.

I am a huge advocate for libraries to be utilized as informal learning spaces for all children, no matter what subject or gender. But as a woman with a daughter, I am particularly interested in making sure that young girls are given opportunities to pursue whatever career their heart desires and are given exposure to and encouragement in those areas where women are underrepresented.

I certainly don’t feel worthy to be sitting on a team with such amazing women and men. But I hope that I can provide a unique perspective and encourage STEM advocates to look to libraries as ideal spaces for reaching underprivileged, underrepresented children. I cannot wait to get started with them.


#PictureBook Review: Water Is Water by Miranda Paul

#PictureBook Review: Water Is Water by Miranda Paul

Water Is Water: A Book About the Water CycleWater Is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle by Miranda Paul

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher: Roaring Book Press

nonfiction, picture book, storytime

“Drip. Sip. Pour me a cup. Water is water unless… it heats up.”

I LOVE THIS BOOK! With beautifully simple rhyme, Paul takes readers through all of the different phases of water from ice to steam to snow melting in the spring. Chin’s illustrations are gorgeous taking us through the seasons with fog in the autumn, a frozen pond in the winter, and (my favorite two-page spread) looking for shapes in the clouds at sunset.

The last four pages give further information about water giving examples from the book. They show us that water is everything giving percentages of how much of something is made up of water. For instance, earthworms are 80% water and an oak tree is about 75% water. They show that water is everywhere covering 71% of the Earth’s surface. Finally they show that water is important so we should conserve it as much as possible as we can only drink less than 1% of the water on Earth.

This would be a great storytime book with lots of opportunity for call-and-response from preschool age kids. As you are about to turn the page saying unless, ask them to give some ideas as to what will happen to the water next. And then you could easily demonstrate different phases of water after reading for some STEM activity, too.

Such a wonderful introduction to this concept. I cannot recommend this book enough!

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#PictureBook Review: Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins

#PictureBook Review: Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins

Toys Meet Snow: Being the Wintertime Adventures of a Curious Stuffed Buffalo, a Sensitive Plush Stingray, and a Book-loving Rubber BallToys Meet Snow: Being the Wintertime Adventures of a Curious Stuffed Buffalo, a Sensitive Plush Stingray, and a Book-loving Rubber Ball by Emily Jenkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books

picture book, winter, mock-caldecott 2016

Lumphy, the stuffed buffalo, StingRay, the plush stingray, and Plastic, the rubber ball, are sitting on the windowsill watching the first snow of the year. They try to understand what they are seeing. StingRay is poetic comparing the snow to a blanket of peace and the snowflake to a ballerina dancing through the air. Plastic is the intellectual explaining that snow is rain that freezes when it gets cold enough.

They venture out into the snow to examine it more closely. They build a snowman and make snow angels. They find icicles and frozen puddles before watching the sun set. Their day of adventure comes to an end in their warm and dry house.

“Outside, the tiny ballerinas have made a blanket of peace over the world. The strawberry-syrup sun has gone down. And yes, the world is sweet.”

My Thoughts
I really loved this book. I am unfamiliar with the other books in the Toys series and can’t wait to check them out!

Jenkins and Zelinsky truly capture the curiosity and awe of a child seeing their first snow. I really appreciate the balance of StingRay’s flourid descriptions of the beauty of the snow and Plastic’s more concrete information. At the end of the day, we see that the ground can be covered with frozen water AND a blanket of peace. There is something magical about watching it snow!

I can see sharing this at storytime with another winter theme book and then having some STEM related activities on the science of snow. Here are a couple of ideas:

How Animals Stay Warm With Blubber

Leak-proof Plastic Bag:

Bottom Line
This is a great book to share as we come closer to winter!

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Bots & Books: West Texas Training

Bots & Books: West Texas Training

This week we conducted our second training for year 2 of Bots & Books in San Angelo, Texas at the Tom Green County Library System.

2015-10-19 14.27.52-1 2015-10-19 14.27.11 2015-10-19 09.54.06 2015-10-19 09.54.00 2015-10-19 09.53.10I brought these Lego candies for an afternoon pick-me-up. They actually click together! They taste a little like Smarties.

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Another day packed to the brim with information, but our librarians were real troopers and made it through with a smile. This stuff can be intimidating and difficult for those who aren’t comfortable with technology or who haven’t played with Legos in a few decades.

Here are some of the cool builds we worked on!

Next week I will be speaking to another pocket of libraries in north east Texas about our fantastic Bots & Books grant! Only one more training to go!

#PictureBook Review: Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi

#PictureBook Review: Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi

Some BugsSome Bugs by Angela Diterlizzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stinging, biting, stinking, fighting,
hopping, gliding, swimming, hiding,
building, making, hunting, taking…
bugs are oh-so-fascinating!
So kneel down close, look very hard, and find SOME BUGS in your backyard!

Oh my goodness, I adored this book! After reading it to my kids three times in a row, I was going to email someone on the Texas 2×2 committee to say it had to be included. Then I realized that it was already on last year’s list! At least it validated what I thought! 🙂

Lovely words by Angela DiTerlizzi and beautiful bugs by Brendan Wenzel, this book would make a fantastic storytime book with some great STEM activity potential. It could be accompanied by an appropriate craft or a close-up look at some bugs.

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Showing off our Bots & Books Robots at the Temple Public Library

Showing off our Bots & Books Robots at the Temple Public Library

On Friday, September 25th I spent the day at the Temple Public Library in Temple, TX for the Connecting Texas Libraries Statewide Membership Meeting. Our afternoon workshop was a Technology Petting Zoo where we showcased some of the latest gadgets being used in libraries. I was asked to bring in some of our Bots & Books equipment and there was a lot of interest! Many libraries are asking to be included in year 3 of the grant and we only just started the 2nd! We are working on a way to create a Bots & Books workshop as a professional development workshop.

Such a wonderful problem to have!

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I showcased the WeDo Construction Set and created a book display to go along with the build.

#PictureBook Review: Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

#PictureBook Review: Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

Rosie Revere, EngineerRosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers

picture book

“Life might have its failures, but this was NOT it. The only true failyre came come if you quit.”

I get weepy every single time I read this book. So what does that tell you?

Our little heroine, Rosie, used to dream up and build all kinds of contraptions. She built a special hat with cheddar cheese spray to keep snakes off of her Zookeeper uncle’s head. But when she gave it to him, he just laughed at it. She decided she wouldn’t be sharing her ideas with anyone any more. Until one day, her great-great-aunt Rose (inspired by Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit. She tells Rose about building airplanes a long time ago and all kinds of interesting tales. But she says that she always wished she had been able to fly herself.

That night Rosie lay in bed trying to think up a gizmo she could build to help her Aunt Rose fly.

“She looked at the cheese hat and said, “No, not I.” But questions are tricky, and some hold on tight, and this one kept Rosie awake through the night. So when dawn approached and red streaks lit the sky, young Rosie knew just how to make her aunt fly.”

The next day she builds it, it lifts off the ground for a moment, but comes crashing down. Aunt Rose laughs and Rosie gets discouraged. BUT…

” “Yes!” said her great aunt. “It crashed. That is true. But first it did just what it needed to do. Before it crashed, Rosie… before that… it flew! Your brilliant first flop was a raging success! Come, let’s get busy and on to the next.”

Aunt Rose gives her a note book, ties her red scarf around Rosie’s head, and they work on it for the rest of the day.

I have never used so much of the text of a book in a review, but Beaty’s text speaks for themselves. Along with these beautiful words, Roberts provides intricate illustrations that capture the tinkering spirit.

This is a beautiful story about trying, failing, and trying again. It can be difficult to see the good in failing. But in the right environment, a failure should be a beginning, not an end. I am reminded of one of my very favorite quotes from Isaac Asimov:

“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…’ “

This title also provides a great reminder to all of the adults: children take what we say to them to heart. If they have help and encouragement, they are capable of anything.

This is a good title for showing the Search Institute’s Developmental Assets framework in action. I would purchase this for a public library collection… and everyone I know. LOVE it!

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Public Librarians as STEM Educators?

Public Librarians as STEM Educators?

The Space Science Institution is a nonprofit organization that does R&D and education to make science accessible. They created an education branch called the National Center for Interactive Learning. One of the NCIL’s projects is called the STAR (Science-Technology Activities and Resources) Library Education Network. Also known as Star_Net, they have an online community where librarians can collaborate, they offer training, and give information about grants for libraries to produce STEM programming.

I am reading a report paper called The Accidental STEM Librarian: An Exploratory Interview with Eight Librarians from John Baek from Star_Net. As the title states, it is presented as a case study after an interview process with eight librarians on the state of STEM activities in libraries. Baek seems to be asking whether public librarians should be acting as STEM educators. He points to the fact that STEM topics are not part of our extended education and that many librarians admit to having STEM anxiety. He notes that librarians interviewed stated that they didn’t feel qualified to be “teaching” science since they are not scientists. And, most importantly, these hesitations can come across to our patrons. If we aren’t enjoying it, they won’t be either. These are all barriers to providing quality STEM programming in the public library setting.

Having worked with librarians to get them started on a robotics program in their public library, I can say that I have seen all of these issues. I am always suggesting that public libraries should find a hole in their community and figure out a way to fill it. Parents are wanting to find ways to get kids, especially girls, more interested in STEM activities and it is crucial that the future workforce have an understanding and interest in these areas. So this is an obvious hole at the moment! We can fill it… and many actively are! But should we be? I have asked myself this many times.

My initial reaction is… yes. We are not presenting ourselves as experts and we are merely trying to spark an interest. As we so often say, “We don’t know the answers but we know how to find them!” But it can be difficult to say, “Come see me talk about and demonstrate robotics!” when you have little to no training or experience on the subject… hence Baek’s use of the term “accidental STEM librarian”. Many STEM librarians I know suggest that when you run into something you don’t know the answer to admit to it and work with the patron to figure it out. This is a great example to children of curiosity and critical thinking which is exactly the point of providing STEM programming. But that can only get you so far… does it get us far enough?

Getting past the anxieties mentioned above takes a real interest in the topic. Someone who doesn’t have an interest or curiosity should not be dictated to run a STEM program. That means that if a public library is going to offer STEM programming, it will end up being driven by someone who has experience or an interest. If no one on staff has that interest, will the library simply not offer this to their community? It is pretty standard for public libraries to offer a storytime. It isn’t really an optional part of being a youth services librarian. At what point will STEM programming be as standard as storytime? And how will our education change to drive that?

There are many gaps in LIS education. You aren’t taught how to do a storytime even though, if you are a youth services librarian, it is a big and very public part of your job. If we were to try to educate ourselves on all of the possible topics that we have programs on, we would NEVER finish with our formal education. At what point does this need to be talked about in LIS programs?

Baek concludes that we can use typical librarian skills such as the reference interview to boost our confidence to provide this kind of inquiry-based programming.

In one sense STEM is no different than what the library has always done, which is provide learning opportunities that help them fuel new interests, support career development, and engage in lifelong learning. When seen from this broad mission of the public library, providing STEM is just business as usual.

‘Bots & Books: Using Robots to Talk About Books in Public Libraries

‘Bots & Books: Using Robots to Talk About Books in Public Libraries

Bots and Books Logo

In September of last year I look over administering a grant called ‘Bots and Books which provides equipment and training for libraries to begin robotics programming. We purchased LEGO Robotics WeDo kits and laptops for the libraries. Four trainings were held in different areas of the state where we distributed the equipment and provided training on using and maintaining the LEGO kits. We also provided a book-based curriculum that creates challenges from popular children’s titles such as James and the Giant Peach and the Avengers to be solved using the robotics kits.

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I have been so proud to work on this grant. Robotics is growing so much in popularity and is a great way to increase access to STEM activities. Schools have been using these for a while but public libraries are really just beginning to realize how we can fill the STEM gap for our communities, too.

We are currently in the application process for year two and I am very hopeful! I also started writing up a proposal while sitting in a session at the TLA Annual Conference for a whole session on robotics for the 2016 conference. I hope we can bring together those libraries that already have robust robotics programs to educate others.