By Caroleine James
Wrangell Sentinel 

Library builds up offerings with construction kit for kids


September 7, 2022 | View PDF

Caroleine James/Wrangell Sentinel

Margaret Villarma, library director, displays the dissectible plastic model from the library's anatomy kit. After removing the model's organs, kids can learn about their own organs using the kit's stethoscope and encyclopedia.

Ever wanted to bend light? Build a wall-climbing gecko robot with air-suction toes? Control a bipedal, ultrasonic droid using your smartphone? These activities may sound like the work of a mad scientist, but thanks to the Irene Ingle Public Library, Wrangell youth don't need a subterranean lair and an army of minions to explore the wonderful world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, also known as STEM.

Starting in early 2020, the library began offering STEM kits for kids and families to check out and experiment with. Last week, it added a new construction kit to the mix, which will allow children to hone their engineering skills by building model cars, model rockets and more with the kit's Lego-esque pieces.

The library has 11 kits total, covering topics from robotics to circuitry to magnetism to anatomy.

Each one has a different suggested age range - 4-year-olds might prefer a money math game, while 14-year-olds might gravitate toward a programmable, build-it-yourself robot.

Library director Margaret Villarma hopes that more kids will take advantage of the program. "We've had a lot of homeschooled people who have used it," she said, but added that the library "would like to see them get checked out more."

Villarma and assistant librarian Sarah Scambler were inspired to start the STEM kit program after hearing about a similar initiative at the Anchorage public library. At first, the kits were part of the library's effort to engage with the community during the pandemic, but Villarma and Scambler plan to keep them around as case levels drop. "Lots of libraries have these now," said Villarma. "It's a fun way for kids to see what sparks their interest."

Lists of the kits' contents, along with the option to reserve a kit, are available on the library's website. Kits circulate for two weeks and can be renewed, depending on demand. The checkout process is just like checking out a book, except kits must be returned to the front desk, not slipped into a book return.

STEM kits were paid for by the Friends of the Library association, a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting the Wrangell public library to the borough as a "cultural, educational, and recreational asset."


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