This summer, 40 elementary-age girls in Fayetteville, N.Y., will be the envy of all their friends as they attend the third installment of Geek Girl Camp at the Fayetteville Free Library.
For five days in July, the library will be full of girls participating in STEAM projects under the supervision of library staff and 10 middle-school-age counselors-in-training. Planned events for this summer’s program include a field trip to the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Syracuse University and a day of learning about space, with a special Skype chat with a scientist from NASA.
Hands-on activities from last year’s weeklong event included Peeps chemistry, building circuits, creating marble runs, 3D printing, and launching rockets. The week also brought guest speakers from nearby colleges to talk about biology, chemistry, computer programming, psychology and law, and technology.
In February, the library held a one-day version of Geek Girl Camp with a Harry Potter House Cup theme. The girls were split into houses named after rad ladies in STEAM fields and they earned points for their houses by performing real life experiments based on Potions class, Quidditch, and the Hogwarts Express.
The camp is partially supported by resources already housed at the Fayetteville Free Library’s Fab Lab and by donated materials including a trebuchet. Funding for other resources and costs comes from the camp fee, which this year is $35 per camper. The library offers four scholarship opportunities for campers who cannot afford the fee.
Geek Girl Camp was created for the 2014 summer reading program at the Fayetteville Free Library to fill a need for STEAM opportunities for elementary-age girls in the area. The FFL’s established STEAM programming, including a Creation Club for middle schoolers and a Little Makers program for 5-8-year-olds, was attended primarily by boys. Since the inception of Geek Girl Camp, more girls have participated in these monthly programs, and the library’s Coding Club is almost evenly split.
“We asked girls on the first day of camp what they wanted to be when they grew up. The answers were a variety of ‘teacher, actress, singer,’ but on Friday we asked the same question and the answers changed to ‘working at Google, pilot, physicist, computer scientist,’ and more. One girl actually said when she grows up she wants to be ‘a computer programmer and an actress on the side,’” said Meredith Levine, Director of Family Engagement at the Fayetteville Free Library.
The camp has encouraged the library to introduce new programming as well, including a two-day Superhero Camp and one-day Self Defense camp this summer, along with other day-long STEAM programming on the local schools’ days off. The counselor-in-training program for this summer’s Geek Girl Camp is also new, providing girls in grades 6-12 an opportunity to gain leadership experience and enjoy the STEAM subjects.
For librarians interested in trying something similar, Levine recommends that they “relentlessly innovate, be brave, and take lots of risks.” The FFL found its resources and experts in the local community and organizations, utilizing services like LinkedIn and Meetup to find people interested in sharing their STEAM knowledge with elementary schoolers. The library also got its first counselors from library staff and teen volunteers who expressed interest in the program.
“It was amazing to watch FFL staff as a whole participate as the library turned into something wonderful for that week,” Levine said.
Geek Girl Camp. Accessed May 6, 2015. http://fflib.org/just-for/kids/geek-girl-camp.
Levine, Meredith. “Fayetteville Free Library’s Geek Girl Camp: Creating a Community of Future STEM Leaders.” School Library Journal. Accessed May 6, 2015. http://www.slj.com/2015/01/programs/fayetteville-free-librarys-geek-girl-camp-creating-a-community-of-future-stem-leaders/.
Levine, Meredith. E-mail interview by author. May 11, 2015.