I Went to a STEAMFest and This is What I Learned
Monday night our local school district – where I live, not where I work – hosted a district wide STEAMFest and I took my family, but I also went to scope things out – as one does. Overall, this was a well crafted event that I would love to host (on a slightly smaller scale) at my local library.
This event was set at the local high school so they had way more space then many public libraries would traditionally have, depending on the size of your library. They had hallways, cafeterias, band rooms and outside quads and they made really good use of this space. All in all they had more than 20 stations set up and sometimes what appeared to be one station was multiple stations in one station. For example, the band room was set up as a MakerSpace so there were several stations within this one room. Similarly in the gym, they had life size chess, cardboard city, and some exhibitors. So scale will definitely depending on the size of your library. But if you have the means, I highly recommend it.
Outside they had a petting zoo, water balloon slingshot, band performances and food trucks. The addition of the food trucks was a really great idea as people stayed longer and were engaged. They also had concession sales inside. My family was there for the entire 5 hours (though they ran out of supplies at some stations before we got to them).
There were a large variety of events that appealed to multiple age groups. The organizers definitely made sure to address all of the community needs. Here is a brief listing of the many stations they had:
- Water balloon slingshots
- Petting zoo
- Slime making
- Learning about germs
- Stained glass art
- Fingerprint art
- MakerSpace Fun including Ozobots, Kinetic Sand, Snap Circuits, and a couple of other building toys
- Nanotechnology with the Ross Perot Museum
- Face painting
- Robot mazes
- Lego building
- Building bridges challenge
- Giant Tetris
- A giant green screen and overhead projector
- Life size chess
- Cardboard City
- Escape the Bus
Organizing the Event
The district obviously spent some time in planning this event as it was well organized. They had great signage and clearly labelled maps telling you where each station was. Every volunteer had a coordinated t-shirt so they could clearly be identified. Volunteers had clearly outlined shifts to help cover throughout the event, which lasted from 4 to 9 PM. Various student groups rotated in and out as greeters.
Funding the Event
I had the opportunity to talk with the school superintendent and asked if they had a grant, which I was surprised to learn they did not. They had many local business sponsors, who had tables set up throughout the event. For example, the Slime Time table had signage that said they were sponsored by a local insurance agent and then across from that station the agent had a table set up with information about their business. I’m not sure of the overall cost of the event, though I do know that the Escape the Bus web page says the bus is $3,500 for one day. Many of the other materials they already had in the various schools. There would have been money spent on things like signage, the t-shirts and more, but with the local business sponsors they probably didn’t spend as much money as you would guess an event of this magnitude would cost.
As I mentioned, I did have an opportunity to talk with the superintendent and she emphasized that the reason they were hosting this event was to engage the community and raise awareness of and interest in science and the arts. We are a sport heavy community without a lot of local science and arts resources so our community really needed this event. I love the mission and feel that they really succeeded.
I took pictures throughout the day (until my phone died) and immediately went to my assistant director proclaiming that we could – and should – do a scaled down version of this event for our local community. I say scaled down because we are a much smaller facility with a much smaller budget. But with our Teen MakerSpace already in place, we have a lot of the tools we could use already in place. The staffing and space would actually be our biggest stumbling block.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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