Bookworm Biology, Central Islip Public Library, Long Island
Our lab runs a free program offered once a month at Central Islip Public Library that combines hands-on creative activities with STEM topics for children aged 5-11. Monthly programs range from nest building, to social networks, to “Meet Your Microbiome”, to primate evolution. In all programs, we strive to convey key concepts by having kids work interactively, both with hands on materials, and with each other. For example, during the nest building week, the kids learned about the importance and difficulty of building a birds nest by constructing one from materials found outdoors (leaves, twigs, dried out vines, without glue!), and by testing the structural integrity of the nest in a naturalistic setting (with an egg inside and placed on a tree branch). As another example, we teach kids about primate evolution and unique primate characteristics by having them engage in activities that simulate the loss of important primate features, such as an opposable thumb or stereoscopic vision.
Not only is this outreach program beneficial to public libraries, who often do not have the funding to bring in high quality science programs, but also to our lab because it forces us to develop creative ways to make science accessible and interesting for 5-11 year olds.