By Kristin DeJohn
Though it has kept its historic façade and its antique book section, the Bolton Public Library, like other libraries around the country, is embracing the latest learning tools. In addition to aisles of books and DVDs, there are online magazines, downloadable ebooks, audiobooks, and mobile language training systems. The library is also boosting its focus on science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) by bringing in additional specialists to lead the library’s MakerDay events.
“Our goal is to offer one staff-led craft program and one professionally-led program each month,” said childrens’ librarian Cailin Chenelle. “These professionals will be teaching complicated crafts like glass mosaics or science/tech activities like coding or robotics. We’re a very crafty bunch, but recognize the benefit of seeking out additional skill sets that open a new kind of ‘maker’ world to our patrons.”
The Saturday “MakerDay” workshops, which are free, have been popular with kids and parents alike. “We started these a few years ago and they’ve grown tremendously,” said library director Kelly Collins, who views libraries as evolving entities that have a mission to keep up with the educational landscape. “Knowledge through reading is our traditional focus, but in the last 40 years we’ve seen a new kind of literacy emerge through the rise of technology. Tinkering and creating are parts of every school curriculum, and now they’re part of the library’s offerings as well.”
“The movie is about a bird coming into the world and flying off into who knows where,” said 12-year-old MakerDay attendee Poppy, a seventh-grader at Florence Sawyer School (FSS). “It’s the first time I’ve done stop-motion. It was easier than we expected but still tricky.”
Poppy’s 10-year-old sister Charlotte, a fifth-grader at FSS, described the duo’s challenge of creating a stop-motion animation video using clay and fishing line. “Making the bird fly was the hardest part,” she noted as the two assessed their final product. “I thought it was cute,” smiled Charlotte.
“They had a ton of fun at that workshop and their video was just adorable,” said parent Hayley Overmyer about the project, which required the kids to frame and photograph sequences of movements to create the full animation. “I thought it turned out wonderfully,” added Overmyer. “It’s very impressive that they could be taught all that and then do that video in that space of time.”
See the video here:
To teach the workshop, held over the summer, the library brought in specialists from Empow Studios based in Lexington. “They offer a ton of programs,” said teen librarian Karen Reed, who expects to have the group return. “The children had a blast creating their own, often humorous, stories,” she noted. “It was interesting to see the variety of mediums they chose—from LEGO mini-figures to paper and clay.”
“I created a fun stop-motion video using different toy animals and clay figures,” said 9-year-old Emily. “It came out really well!”
See Emily’s video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Bolton parent Matthew Beyranevand, who is the K-12 Mathematics Department coordinator for the Chelmsford Public Schools, believes these types of fun tech workshops help motivate kids to learn more complex concepts. “Technology plays an integral role in most children’s lives,” says Beyranevand. “Providing elementary age students with a basic understanding of computer skills will increase the likelihood of investigation into computer programming.”
Beyranevand, EdD, is an ambassador for the Global Math Project (www.globalmathproject.org), a member of the Massachusetts STEM Advisory Council, and the creator of the “Math with Matthew” video series (www.mathwithmatthew.com). He believes hooking kids with engaging platforms like videos and computer programs and using these tools to teach complex ideas is a win-win scenario because students look forward to learning and better embrace the concepts.
Seeking All ‘Makers’
The library staff is busy planning MakerDays into 2018. They expect to run a Kodu Game Lab in the winter, along with the popular 3D Printing Workshop with Arthur Evans, which will return in 2018. They are also emphasizing the arts. “We’ll have outside organizations coming to teach ‘Theatre Tech’ in November (costume and set design), and ‘Stained-Glass Mosaic Suncatchers’ in December,” said Chenelle, who emphasized that the library is always interested in feedback from the community. “If patrons feel like there’s a skill they’d like to learn or that their children may be interested in, we encourage the input!”
“In addition, if there are members of the community with a talent that they would like to share with the community through a MakerDay we would be happy to discuss ideas,” said Reed.
In many ways, it’s the “makers” of all ages who create a vibrant library community. Currently, a community mural, which combines 245 separate drawings, is on display in the library’s front entrance.
Elsewhere in the library, a variety of artwork is on display, since the program room was opened to local artists a few years ago. “The response has been tremendous!” said Collins about support for the exhibits. “Artists take a lot of pride in showing their works, and people attending events in the space enjoy seeing the changing displays. Our goal is just to keep it going.”
Collins is also working to bring in more authors, and invites residents to check the library calendar (www.boltonpubliclibrary.org) and to join the library’s weekly email newsletter (www.wowbrary.org). “It features staff recommendations, new books and movies, and reminders about the coming week’s events,” she said.