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The Lowdown on STEM: A Formula for Luring Teens toward Science and Math

Article excerpt

Ed. note: This is the first in a series of guest columns on an aspect of youth services.

Every week I have at least one conversation about how schools and libraries are working to support STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teaching and learning. I've discovered that some librarians are struggling to figure out what their role should be in the STEM universe. What follows are a few pointers.

In the mid-2000s, STEM gained prominence when Congress made it a focal point of education initiatives that U.S. schools seek to improve science, technology, engineering, and math teaching and learning. In 2011, the America Competes Act was reauthorized and promoted by the White House as ensuring "we are training the next generation of innovative thinkers and doers,"

One outcome of this federal focus is the availability of funding for projects that support science, technology, engineering, and math education. This includes funding from organizations such as the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and businesses such as Intel. Information on many of the grant projects is available at granting institutions' websites or at stemgrants.com. With the great variety of funding available, youth librarians have a good shot at finding a funding source just right for a teen project in development or on their library's wish list. The secret is to spend a bit of time researching what's possible and thinking about your own initiatives.

Once teen librarians are aware of what STEM is all about, it's possible to join conversations among educational institutions in your community and articulate the role the library can play. Sometimes that role will be through materials, sometimes through curated resources and classes, and sometimes through out-of-school programs. For example:

* Classroom connections: Analyze your collection for the resources and programs which can support STEM, and remember it doesn't have to be just the math or science curriculum that you want to support. …