VILLA PARK – Villa Park Public Library’s younger patrons will be able to bring the fun of science experiments home, thanks to a grant that will provide circulating science kits.
The library received a grant March 18 from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. The $2,000 grant will allow the library to purchase nine science kits, said Nancy Gergets, youth services librarian and school liaison at the library.
Gergets said the library will purchase kits based on three topics: electricity, structures and simple machines. She said they will offer one kit for preschoolers, one kit for elementary students, and a third kit for middle-schoolers for each of the three topics. Each kit will contain both nonfiction and fiction books, as well as a DVD and other manipulatives, like Legos. Patrons can check them out for three weeks at a time.
Gergets said the kits fulfill a need in the community for more exposure to the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields.
“There are a lot of projects kids like that are expensive for many families,” she said. “Having these things available for checkout helps even the playing field. We picked a wide variety [of items for the kits].”
Gergets said there’s been an increase in the “STEM movement” in many schools, and she believes having these kits available to students will enhance the schools' science curriculum, although she said she did not receive input from the teachers when deciding what to purchase for the kits.
“Teachers have said they’re very excited and interested in the kits, and are willing to promote them,” she said. “Everyone sees lots of jobs in the future in STEM fields. There’s a push in many school systems to develop more programs in math, science and engineering.”
This isn’t the library’s first foray into the science field. They’ve been offering “Creative Science” classes for children for many years, Gergets said.
“We cover a variety of topics, and they’re all hand-on experiments,” she said. “It’s always something different. This summer we’ll do a program about sound and another one will be all experiments with candy.”
Mona Polanek, youth services assistant, leads several of the classes. She said the classes are important because kids don’t often do science every day, and believes the library’s program is a good supplement.
“The kids love it, the get very excited because they love to make things,” Polanek said. “Recently we made ice cream, which was a big hit. We’ve also made terrariums where we talked about botany, and we did a unit on germs.”
Polanek said that the grant money will help the library continue to offer quality science classes.
“We do as much as we can but we don’t have a lot of money to do it,” she said. “Most of the programs are done on a dime, spending only about $10 to $20 a class.”
Norm Phoenix, manager of grant distribution at the IEEP Chicago section, presented the library with the check at one of its Creative Science classes. He said he was very impressed with library’s ability to “work with simple, low-cost materials for the experiments.”
“As they told me, to be given a grant of $2,000 – compared to what they’ve been working with – is like winning the lottery for them. Now they can get more experiments to circulate as well as more materials to use in the science program,” he said.
Phoenix said the committee was looking for libraries that would have kits that could be circulated, that have a consistent theme, and were of interest to the patrons. He said the Villa Park library had one of the better applications.
Gergets said she applied for the grant last fall, and the library was notified that they won in January.
“We picked a wide variety of topics and showed how we’re tying it to the schools’ curriculum and that showed we thought this through. We wanted to appeal to a wide age range because it’s so important to get the younger kids involved in science,” she said.
For more information on Villa Park Public Library’s Creative Science classes, visit the library's website at vppl.info.