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Arts Fuel Tech Creativity in Children

Library STEAMs Ahead With Creative Program
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For years, American students have been encouraged to study STEM, short for science, technology, engineering and math. STEAM adds arts to the mix. A public library in suburban Washington offers STEAMtivity, a program that encourages youngsters' creativity and critical thinking skills.

Library Program Uses Arts to Fuel Creativity in Children
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An American library is giving children a new way to learn important life skills by combining art projects with traditional school subjects, like mathematics and science.

The program is called STEAMtivity. It is offered at a public library in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C.

Diana Price is the head of youth services at the library.

“STEAMtivity is a program that combines STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts, and math – and creativity. They involve different technologies, such as LEGO Mindstorms robots. And some more kind of low-tech arts-focused programs, such as ‘make your own musical instrument.’ "

Diana Price added that most of her library’s non-traditional programs are open-ended. This means the children can create any kind of product they want and take the path to creating that product any way they want.

This model makes failure impossible, she said. It also makes children feel sure of their abilities, so they feel better about science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

The library received money for the program from the American Library Association and the Walt Disney Company.

On a recent day, a group of children, ages 8-12, gathered in a room at the Alexandria library. The boys and girls used small straws to build structures. The straws connect to each other to form designs.

Michael Guysinger is a fourth grade student. He likes the exercises.

“I like them because they’re very creative. There’s no instructions. You can do it really your own way. You don’t have to do this or that. You just do it your own way.”

At first, Michael wanted to build a house with his straws. But he later decided to create a spaceship instead.

Michael’s mother says he and her other children are taught at home, not at school. She says that, at the library, they enjoy learning things with materials not found at home.

“And it gives them the opportunity to use their creativity and their imagination to come up with different ideas and things to do.”

Another student, second grader Munira Khalif, said she also created something different than first planned.

“I first made the flower, and then I thought I should make the sun because I like how the sun goes on top of the flower.”

The program is part of the Alexandria library’s effort to serve immigrants and poor families in the community.

Somali immigrant Mohamed Khalif said his two daughters could not wait to come back to the library for more activities.

“It opens their eyes and make them think out of the box, and do something that they normally don’t do at home or a playground.”

Price says the program lets children work independently and as a team, helping them learn skills they will be able to use for the rest of their lives.

I’m Kathleen Struck.

June Soh reported this story for Bryan Lynn adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

library – n. a place where a person can borrow books, magazines and other materials

straw n. a thin tube used for drinking liquid

impossibleadj. not possible to be done or happen

strawn. a thin tube used for drinking liquid

instructionn. the action or process of teaching

opportunityn. a chance for advancing or progressing

think out of the box - idiom. thoughts that are creative, unusual and not limited by tradition