Pairing STEAM with Stories: 46 Hands-On Activities for Children

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  • Description
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  • About the authors
  • Reviews

Laying the groundwork for building children’s curiosity, openness to learning, ability to persist in the face of failure, and interest in connecting learning from one subject to the other are important objectives for today’s libraries. Partnering with cultural institutions, such as the Chicago Public Library (CPL) does with Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry (MSI), libraries can forge powerful connections between literacy and science. This resource shares the fruits of that partnership, offering ready-to-go, library-tested activities that meld cutting-edge STEAM education principles with some of the best books available for youth today. It’s a model that can be used in a variety of library or museum settings and can also be adapted for outreach. Inside, readers will find

  • 46 book-based, customizable STEAM activities, each complete with program length, materials list, and step-by-step instructions;
  • real-life tips, advice, and thoughts from practicing CPL librarians sprinkled throughout the book;
  • pointers on incorporating STEAM into existing programs;
  • pedagogical strategies behind effective STEAM experiences, ensuring successful implementation of these skills; and
  • helpful supporting materials such as a program planning rubric and a vendor list.

The activities in this book will make STEAM education fun while planting the seeds for lifelong learning. 

Foreword by Aaron Dworkin
Introduction: Are We Reaching Everyone?

1.    Float Your Boat
2.    Slime Time
3.    Flying Gyroscope
4.    See Cool Patterns with a Kaleidoscope
5.    Wacky Wobbler
6.    Balance Birds
7.    Circle Spinners
8.    Toothpick Tops
9.    Straw Pipes
10.    Sound Sandwich
11.    Marker Tie Dye
12.    Freaky Foam
13.    Rainsticks
14.    Far, Far Away
15.    Water Filter
16.    Weather Station – Anemometer
17.    Weather Station – Barometer
18.    Weather Station - Rain Gauge
19.    Weather Station – Wind Vane
20.    Blown Over
21.    Helping Hands
22.    On Your Mark, Get Set, Blow!
23.    Mind Reader Card Trick
24.    DIY Cloud
25.    Amped Up Energy
26.    Egg-stronaut
27.    Original Reaction
28.    Up, Up and Away
29.    Forget to Water your Plants
30.    Two Scoops of Science
31.    Insulation Engineering Challenge
32.    Newspaper Fortress
33.    Seas the Day
34.    Look Out Below
35.    pH Rainbow
36.    Topsy Turvy World
37.    Recycled Seed Paper
38.    Summer Slopes
39.    Reach for the Skyscrapers
40.    Solar Snacks
41.    Stomp Rockets
42.    Bridging the Gap
43.    Bubble Blow-out
44.    Signal the Superhero
45.    Cool Under Pressure
46.    Outta this World


  • A.    Vendor and Store List
  • B.    Program Planning Rubric

About the Authors

Elizabeth M. McChesney

Recipient of ALSC’s 2021 Distinguished Service Award, Elizabeth M. McChesney has more than three decades of experience in children’s librarianship. In 2012, as the Director of Children’s Services for the Chicago Public Library she led her team through the transformation of the summer reading program to the nationally-recognized Summer Learning Challenge. This achievement earned her a Library Journal Movers & Shakers Award, the Founder’s Award for Excellence from the National Summer Learning Association and the John Cotton Dana Award. Liz believes in the role of STEAM-based library learning and finds great joy in watching children play, read, and learn in libraries and throughout the community in library-led learning. Liz writes and speaks extensively about library service to children, building successful partnerships, and the role of the 21st Century Library. She passionately believes in the public library as a place of learning and education, joy and wonder for America’s kids and is now serves as a consultant in helping empower librarians across the country to do the same.

Brett Nicholas

Brett Nicholas is a former classroom teacher turned museum educator. He is a veteran developer of informal STEAM education programs for educators, students, families and the public. For 15 years, he worked at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago in various capacities working to bring science to life for guests in the museum and youth and educators in community settings. He’s lectured and trained nationally and ardently believes in the role of STEAM in the library. In his current role as the Chief of Play and Learning at the DuPage Children's Museum he helps the youngest explorers focus the power of play to develop a life long love of learning. He is dedicated to helping all children see how much fun they can have doing science and strives to open opportunities for science to have a meaningful role in their future.

"While the book was written with summer programs in mind, it can be used year-round and most of the projects can be done in an outdoor space. Many could also be adapted, given library closures—librarians could stream read-alouds and offer 'make and take' projects for families to complete the activities on their own ... Providing book-based, library-centric STEAM projects, this is a worthwhile purchase."
— School Library Journal