Library to Launch Young Gloucester Scientist’s Club for Elementary and Middle School Students
It’s full STEM ahead for Sawyer Free Library‘s young patrons with the launch of Young Gloucester Scientist’s Club, a new innovative after-school program made possible through a federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC).
The grant of $9,800 will expand Gloucester’s public library’s programming to promote interest in science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM) learning. The Young Gloucester Scientist’s Club supports the digital, scientific and technological goals of 4th through 8th graders aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. It will introduce young scientists to Gloucester community members with careers across a variety of STEM fields and connect them with Gloucester’s natural environment.
The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) awarded Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) direct grants to public libraries at its July 7, 2022, board meeting. Federal LSTA grants are funded through the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
“Each community in Massachusetts is unique and has its own local needs,” said Robert Favini, Head of Library Advisory and Development at the MBLC. “These grants allow libraries to address those local needs directly, whether it’s programming for children and teens, helping residents find a path to citizenship, or protecting the town’s historic documents and artifacts.”
“We’re thrilled to be a recipient of this generous MBLC grant to fund the Sawyer Free Library’s newest program, the Young Gloucester Scientists Club,” said Library Director Jenny Benedict. “Sawyer Free Library plays a vital role in supporting young people to discover their interests and direct their own learning.” Benedict added, “The future of our local environment is dependent on young people today developing a strong sense of place and community and engaging in meaningful learning together to solve our most pressing environmental concerns.”
Children’s Librarian Marisa Hall, who developed the Young Gloucester Scientists Club and applied for the grant, said, “These funds give the Sawyer Free Library an incredible opportunity to expand our current STEM programs and encourage students to further explore their interests in the sciences. This project connects them to a sense of “place” by using our own community’s physical resources and social connections to introduce them to new and innovative STEM concepts and topics.”
The Young Gloucester Scientist’s Club features three components: in-person programs, circulating STEM kits and online video interviews. The in-person family programming will introduce young people to Gloucester community members with careers across various STEM fields, providing mentors from various backgrounds. Programs will feature local sea, land and sky topics and will highlight our rich Maritime history and culture as Gloucester celebrates its 400th anniversary.
The Club will take a hands-on approach to learning, build community connections and encourage youth to actively think like scientists by observing, questioning, and experimenting with the world around them. Kicking off in 2023, the library will host Afterschool Young Gloucester Scientist’s Club monthly meetings January through May. In the summer, it will feature a three-day Astronomy “Crash Course” and a series of four Young Gloucester Summer Scientist’s Club Field Trips. All in-person programs will be held in the Library’s transitional space located on Main Street in downtown Gloucester as well as locations throughout the community.
The “Young Scientist” STEM kits will provide participants with fun and engaging learning at-home activities. The hands-on kits will be available to check out and include accompanying guides with FAQs, discovery tips, parent conversation starters, and more. There will be seven types: Mini Drone, Microscope and Color Camera, Reflector Telescope, Space Rover Inventor, Coding, and Marine Biology Explorer Kits. Materials will be available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and, if needed, other languages to be inclusive and accessible to all interested participants.
The “Let’s Meet an Expert” online videos will feature interviews with Gloucester’s STEM experts and scientists conducted by young scientists. The videos will create connections to those working to explore, discover and protect Gloucester’s natural environment. Topics will include Ocean Conservation and Sea Turtle Rehabilitation (NOAA), SnotBots, Drones and Observing Whales (Ocean Alliance), Whale Protection (The Whalemobile), Astronomy (Gloucester Astronomy Club), Using our Natural Environment to Design Solutions for our Future (Biomimicry New England) and more.
The schedule and specifics of the new after-school program will be forthcoming. For more information, visit SawyerFreeLibrary.org.
Twenty-one libraries received Federal LSTA grants for a total amount of $220,085 awarded. Grants are open to libraries of all types that meet the eligibility requirements. In addition to the direct library grant program, the MBLC uses LSTA funds to support statewide programs and services, including summer reading programs, research databases, the statewide eBook program, the Commonwealth Catalog and mass.gov/libraries which has information and resources for residents. LSTA is administered on the federal level by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in the Commonwealth by the MBLC. More information about LSTA can be found at www.mass.gov/mblc.