George Public Library adds STEM literacy backpacks

Jason Hommes | Staff Writer

If you’re a parent looking for a fun, educational opportunity for your kids this summer, you might want to check out the new STEM literacy backpacks at the George Public Library. The STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) backpacks were created by Iowa State University students with the goal of encouraging hands-on learning and literacy in each of the four STEM areas.

Library director Kayla Gerloff said the library received the backpacks at the beginning of the month and said they’ve already proven to be a huge hit in the community. “We’ve only had them for a few weeks but they’ve been checked out a lot already. As soon as they come back in they end up going right back out again. They’ve been a really good addition to our library and they’ve proven to be very popular.”

The George Library is one of a handful of libraries across northwest Iowa to receive STEM backpacks through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. The library received four different STEM backpack kits, including a super slinky kit, a bee bot kit, a fabulous five senses kit, and a curious coding kit. 

“We partnered with them (ISU Extension and Outreach) last year to offer STEM camps and we saw that the kids enjoyed the STEM concepts, and so we wanted to do something more with STEM. We’d looked into doing something like this on our own but financially we just can’t fit something like this into our budget,” explained Gerloff.

When Gerloff and other library staff members learned they’d be able to acquire the backpacks from ISU Extension and Outreach, they were quite excited. “These kits are definitely something that we’re really excited about having,” she added.

Every kit contains two children’s books — one fiction and one nonfiction — as well as an activity outline for children and their parents to follow. Families will also find the materials required for each STEM activity in the kit. 

“Some of this stuff is probably stuff the kids have probably learned a little about in school already,” continued Gerloff. “For example, we have a bee bot kit here and that’s one thing the school does use, and the kids really love it. I think to have the opportunity, especially in the summer, to kind of keep that learning going is a really good thing.”

Checking out the backpacks is simple. “If they’re in, anyone can come up to the counter and check one out. It’s as easy as that,” explained Gerloff. “It’s a two-week checkout. Most people have been bringing them back earlier just because they know they’re so new, but if you have your library card and come up to the counter, we’ll check it out to you and you can take it home with you that day.”

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