STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.
This a new area of knowledge being explored by educators everywhere, including at Fairfax County Public Library. The addition of art to STEM education has allowed for the development of a new element: creativity and an appreciation for innovation. People who participate in all aspects of STEAM sometimes call themselves “makers,” using their knowledge to create and innovate. The introduction of STEAM into education requires the addition of various equipment, such as 3-D printers, sewing machines, computers, and instruments, among others. Libraries throughout Virginia are beginning to build “makerspace” to house this technology. Counties such as Fairfax, Loudoun, Virginia Beach, Lynchburg and more are embracing STEAM education and implementing maker equipment. In addition, classes which teach people a variety of skills, from programming to needlepoint, take place to facilitate the maker lifestyle.
The STEAM Vision
The vision of STEAM is very inspiring and shows a future full of creativity; however, garnering attention and participation can sometimes be an issue. Many programs targets teens for extended class sessions, believing this age group to be the most interested in participating. This is not always the case! Most often, hobbyists of all ages attend open classes and sessions. Skill level is no issue; most of the skills offered can come from those at all learning levels. In addition, open access to 3-D printers and sound technology are utilized by hobbyists, entrepreneurs, and musicians who lack this essential equipment. The diversity of community members with access to technology will allow new innovation on all fronts, bolstering education and creativity.
The STEAM Challenge
While most people believe that the addition of technology into the library is beneficial, they do not understand the strain that it puts on the limited library budget and resources. The equipment required is expensive and staff must be qualified and present throughout the entire process. If a library were to invest as much time and money necessary for their STEAM program to prosper, there would be little to nothing left for other programs at the library, such as language programs, children’s activities, or even books! For the community to truly implement STEAM into the library would necessitate additional funding and fundraising for the library.
The library is more than a storage facility for books. It’s a center for community, knowledge, and innovation. In order for this to occur, however, greater efforts in the community must be taken. Lobby your local government for more library funding, make a contribution to the Library Foundation, get involved with Friends of the Library Groups, and engage with the programs the library has to offer. By showing your support for the library, the library will be one step closer to the bright future full of creativity, knowledge, and innovation, by enabling the next generation of “makers.”