The Recorder

Amsterdam library gets creative with first STEAM Fair

By JOHN PURCELL

Recorder News Staff

Kids will be able to participate in a variety of interactive presentations during the Amsterdam Free Library’s inaugural STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) Fair, which aims to connect concepts from classrooms to a hands on learning experience.

The STEAM Fair will be held Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., with five sessions featured throughout the day. Some of the session include space technology, food science, maple sugaring, electrical circuit experimentation and video game development. Earlier sessions are geared toward younger children while later sessions are geared toward older children.

There will also be standalone activities including the Schoharie River Center using microscopes to show macro-invertebrates present in area water and t-shirt tie-dying. All activities are free and Carmel’s Diner, a local nonprofit, will be providing complimentary bagged lunches.

Library Director Nicole Hemsley said the event is “hitting pretty much every aspect of STEAM ” the library can in one day.

“It’s an unveiling and a step towards more programming for all age groups using the STEAM model,” Hemsley said. “I hope we have a great turnout so people can see the transition from books and a quiet library into a creation library that encompasses all of these aspects.”

The day long event will showcase the Amsterdam Free Library’s “makerspace,” which was recently established after a large portion of the basement was converted, library Assistant Director Dave DeFazio said.

DeFazio said library programming typically only attracts people locally, but the STEAM Fair is aimed to attract from across the Mohawk Valley and Capital Region. He said the idea of having a makerspace in the library is also unique for the region.

The makerspace is a different kind of model for the library, which allows for more of “user driven model where kids can pursue the subject matter they are most interested in and do so at their own pace,” DeFazio said. Programming offered at the library is aimed to complement what is taught in public schools.

A new addition to the makerspace will be unveiled during the event, which is a 3D printer the library purchased using grant funding. Hemsley said the 3D printer was received around a month ago and staff members have been learning how to use the new equipment.

DeFazio said staff members are learning some basic programming to design their own pieces to be printed.

“It’s one thing to be able to print from a template that’s just coming off the Internet,” DeFazio said. “It’s another thing to actually be designing your own 3D sculptures.”

Hemsley believed the 3D printer would be used only for presentations during the event, but there is programming planned for the public to try it out next year. She said these programs would be announced shortly after the New Year.

DeFazio said the library is also planning to purchase a screen printing machine early next year, so kids will be able to print their own designs on clothing. Audio and video equipment is another grant funded purchase in the pipeline.

With the additional activities in the makerspace program, the goal is to draw some older kids back into the library, too.

“We have really good attendance here with preschool programming and even our elementary school programming,” DeFazio said, “but we see a marked decline of coming into the library when kids reach high school age.”

He said experiencing a decline with kids coming to the library when they’re older is a common issue many libraries face.

Hemsley said the library is actively working to integrate STEAM into regular programming offered.

“We take our role very seriously in the community in enhancing science, technology, engineering, art and math,” Hemsley said. “Even our preschool programming during the week we have one day, Thursdays, is STEAM based, so we’re starting them as young as preschool with the educational component of STEAM.”

The library has also been hosting technology classes for older adults at 6 p.m. Thursdays, which focus more on basic computer skills and learning different software. DeFazio said these classes tend to be informal and involve a small group of individuals.

DeFazio said the programming in the makerspace for youths will also tend to be smaller groups with a lot of hands experimentation and learning.

For a breakdown of activities offered during the STEAM Fair, visit the library’s website at www.amsterdamlibrary.com.