Putting the “A” in STEM: Creativity and Making at the Free Library of Philadelphia

By K-Fai S. RSS Wed, November 20, 2013

The Maker Movement has been in full swing at the Free Library! Since September we have been offering afterschool maker programming, with an emphasis on introducing youth in North Philadelphia to electronics and computing through a low-barrier entrypoint: appealing to their creativity. STEM education focuses on science, technology, engineering and math; four fields of study that are closely linked to 21st century global competitiveness. In our maker programming, we seek to put an “A” in STEM, for art: STEAM programming. We believe that innovation happens most often when people are allowed to take apart, tinker, and reinvent new ways of understanding and living with technology.


At the Lillian Marrero Library, the Kensington Library, the Widener Library, the Cecil B. Moore Library, and the Parkway Central Library, we are investigating how STEAM programming can be used as a conduit to learning more complex ideas, such as circuitry and electronics.


At the Kensington Library, youth are being mentored in creating paper circuits using copper tape to connect an LED to a coin cell battery. They are experimenting with how to mix paper craft with switches. By being able to decorate their switch with markers, they are taking ownership over their creation and shaping the circuit with their own identity.


At Cecil B. Moore, Widener, the Kensington Library, and the IDAAY Hot Spot, youth are engaging in media production using a camera, a green screen, and video editing software. Youth have recorded podcasts about their favorite sports teams, created their own beats, and used a green screen to make their own wrestling character promotions. They have also learned how to use computer software to add CGI animations to these creations, from supernatural encounters to dinosaur chase scenes.


E-textiles (wearable computing) are the main event at the Lillian Marrero Library. On Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays, youth are learning about circuits through sewing microcontrollers to LEDs using conductive thread, honing both their electronics knowledge and their fashion sense!

Interested in finding out what exactly the Free Library is doing with STEAM programming? Bring your family to the lobby of the Parkway Central Library on Saturday, December 14th from 11:00am to 3:00pm to see many of our programs and projects in action! Learn how you can turn everyday objects like bananas and play doh into game controllers, and participate in a green screen music video! To find more information, please RSVP here.

Have a question for Free Library staff? Please submit it to our Ask a Librarian page and receive a response within two business days.

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