Scenario: To develop a STEM collection for a K-5 school library media center.
This special collection has the following goals:
- To support the STEM lab and curriculum that is being established at the elementary school;
- To support the school’s commitment to improve math and science achievement across grade levels;
- To meet the students’ personal reading and learning interests as well as to foster a love of STEM in students, particularly girls;
- To provide print and non-print resources that will appeal to a variety of learners and accommodate different teaching styles.
The collection also aims to align with Common Core and AASL 21st-Century Learning Standards. For example, many resources in the collection draw connections between math/science concepts students learn in the classroom and real-life problems and problem-solving strategies. That is, students might read about someone (e.g. in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind) who noticed a problem in his community and used math/science to find a solution (1.2.1, 2.1.1, 2.1.3, 2.1.5). Students learn about persistence and emotional resilience (1.2.6, 1.2.7) when reading about characters who persevered in their inquiries or searches for solutions. Students also get to practice these dispositions when they conduct their own scientific investigations, solve math riddles, play games, collaborate with others, design and create contraptions, build virtual worlds, etc., since they will inevitably encounter challenges or even failure in the process. Last but not least, these resources will hopefully inspire students to explore the world of STEM even beyond the classroom and school setting. Hopefully, students will make connections between classroom learning and real-life issues, and feel empowered to be problem-solvers and innovators in their own communities (2.3.1, 3.1.5, 4.1.2, 4.2.1).
I used a variety of selection aids, such as Titlewave, ALSC Notable Children’s Books, the National Science Teachers Association and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics web sites, the CLCD, Goodreads, and Amazon.com. The selected resources must meet the goals stated above; they also have to have received professional reviews (e.g. Kirkus, SLJ), awards/honors, or appeared on best lists. I used Titlewave and CLCD for reading level information and reviews, though some selections – especially the specialty kits and games – are based on my personal experiences with the items, as well as reviews from teachers and librarians I have spoken with, or what I have seen being used in the classrooms and school library settings. I purchased items from both Titlewave and Amazon.com, depending on price and availability.
I faced a couple of challenges during the collection development process:
- Keeping the collection COHESIVE and FOCUSED – There were so many GREAT STEM resources out there in so many specific topics that I had to keep going back to the goals I set out to meet – mainly, to CONNECT classroom learning to the real world, and to EMPOWER and to INSPIRE future mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. Items I could not include for this collection were filed away for future consideration.
- Non-Print Resources – The collection leans heavily on non-print resources, which can add up to be a costly investment, especially when one is on a tight budget. However, from research and seeing them implemented successfully in classrooms and libraries, I believe these resources do have value:
- We want to build a community of lifelong learners, and Minecraft is a perfect example of a game that does just that. It is made for collaboration and gives a common language that can unite a group of otherwise awkward elementary/middle school students.
- These games’ hands-on nature also enriches learning and appeals to different learning/teaching styles (e.g. visual, tactile).
- They build on critical thinking, problem solving skills, spatial and construction skills, and reinforce math and science concepts learned in the classroom.
- Because of the open-ended nature of some of these games, they have wide applications – one can use it in the media center, in after school clubs, and in the classroom – including not only math and science classes but in social studies, language, language arts, health, history, and art as well. There are numerous lesson plans and learning communities/discussion forums created by educators that use games like Legos and Minecraft to illustrate, complement, and enrich the curriculum.
- The games are entertaining and fun, so kids are motivated to learn.
Math Resources: 13 print resources totaling $109
Science & Technology Resources: 21 print resources totaling $237
Non-Print Resources: various kits, software licenses, and games totaling $654
Combined Money Spent: $1000
% Print = 35%
% Non-Print = 65%
Resources/Selection Aids Used
- CLCD (Search terms – “mathematics”, “science”, etc. for ages 5-11; Criteria – award winners and/or good professional reviews)
- ALSC Notable Children’s Books
- NSTA – Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
- com and Amazon.com (for prices and product reviews)
- Lego Education web site http://education.lego.com/en-us?noredir=true
- Lego learning activities at Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/debchitwood/kids-lego-learning-activities/ and Scholastic http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/top-teaching/2013/12/using-lego-build-math-concepts
- More Lego lesson plans at Living Montessori blog http://livingmontessorinow.com/2013/06/20/free-lego-printables-and-70-plus-lego-learning-activities/
- Snap Circuits lesson plan ideas http://www.stem.neu.edu/programs/k-12-school-field-trips/snap-circuits/
- MinecraftEdu videos by MinecraftTeachr (http://www.youtube.com/user/MinecraftTeachr) and others
- Minecraft Teachers Google Group https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/minecraft-teachers/categories
- “The Minecraft Cell: Biology Meets Game-Based Learning” http://www.edutopia.org/blog/minecraft-cell-biology-meets-gbl-dan-bloom?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=blog-minecraft-cell-biology-microsoft-trending-link