Brent does STEM
Sarah Smith tells Libraries Week all about STEM activity in Brent Libraries.
We were keen to launch STEM clubs in Brent Libraries after hearing about the good practice in City of London libraries at one of the termly ASCEL (Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians) meetings two years ago. The City of London mentioned how supportive the STEM Learning organisation was in securing STEM Ambassadors to deliver after school workshops. This was very reassuring as our lead Children and Young People’s Officers were not skilled in this area and were very arts focused.
The opportunity to deliver STEM clubs meant we could target a number of different audiences including:
- children who were reluctant readers
- parents keen to support their children’s learning
- children excluded from schools or waiting for school places.
We also sort to engage boys from Caribbean backgrounds, a group identified as under-achieving (according to the Council’s KPIs) and encourage girls to engage in science and help improve take up numbers by embracing science careers. Finally we sought to get parents to move away from purely traditional ideas of suitable careers for both boys and girls. It also offered the opportunity for our own staff – officers and frontline staff -to become more knowledgeable, skilled, interested, enthusiastic and confident in STEM workshop delivery.
STEM Learning has been very supportive with the delivery of our STEM activity; organising twilight learning sessions for public libraries staff London wide, long term loan of STEM resources, joined up partnership presentations at conferences and brain-storming meetings. We have enjoyed guest workshops from the Natural History Museum’s Principal Curator, Dr Miranda Lowe as well as building strong ties with the biological STEM organisation, The Linnean Society. In addition to STEM clubs we also have Code clubs and some of the Code Club volunteers are STEM Ambassadors, so it is a win win for Brent Libraries.
Delivery is not without its challenges regarding teaching capacity from volunteers and fluctuating attendance numbers but we are pleased to offer fun learning for children and young people that goes beyond traditional arts and crafts delivery in libraries, supports investment in STEM careers importantly for girls and boys, helps skill library staff, and supports both the Council’s Digital Strategy and the national drive for digital literacy for all.