On Thursday afternoons at the Pikes Peak Library District, when Programming Librarian Antonia Krupicka-Smith sets up her experiment, a crowd starts to gather. It’s time for Science Stop! The younger patrons come close to the table with excitement on their faces. They put forth hypotheses and you hear their reactions when the experiment plays out. The adults hang back a little at first, but you see them lean in as the science happens.
Science is an important part of education. It provides a basis for understanding the world around us. In a report to the president, his advisors on science and technology wrote one of the ways we need to address challenges to STEM education was through inspiration, working to generate curiosity and experiences that create interest in the topic. In public libraries, we are uniquely positioned to do just that and we are taking up the call. Programs are occurring across the nation to promote these important learning facets.
In August 2016, Krupicka-Smith, started a program, called “Science Stop.” This weekly program takes place in an open, highly-trafficked part of the library, and features a quick experiment run by Krupicka-Smith with a brief explanation of the science behind it. The whole thing usually takes less than ten minutes.
The inspiration for this style of program came from needing to overcome some common roadblocks: staffing, time, space, and money. Krupicka-Smith estimates that each month she spends around two hours with planning and conducting and usually less than twenty dollars for the weekly experiments. With more than one hundred patrons reached so far, Science Stop has had a great return on investment.
The most popular experiments have been the ones that provide a bit more of a visual reaction, like Elephant Toothpaste. While preparing, Krupicka-Smith has been able to find great information and activities from the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering website and Pinterest boards. If you’re interested in starting a similar program, Krupicka-Smith recommends not getting too complex as many science concepts can be shown simply. It’s also helpful to plan ahead and pick experiments that might use some of the same ingredients around the same time period so you can save money on supplies. Have a cheat sheet handy for doing the experiment and explaining some of the science. Most importantly, show your own enthusiasm for the subject. It’s contagious!
Looking around the country, you can find all kinds of science programs. Chicago Public Library has several science events listed for kids and families, like Science on the Spot and Science after School. The Queens Library has a variety of science related programs throughout the year, just search through their calendar. Orange County Library System has programs like, Science Smart and Science Tuesdays.
The possibilities are endless. Maybe it’s time to experiment a little with science!
Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for America’s Future,” (Washington, D.C.), September 2010. (accessed September 15, 2016).
 Antonia Krupicka-Smith, Pikes Peak Library District programming librarian, in an e-mail message to the author,
September 15, 2016.