Guest post by Claudia Haines, Youth Services Librarian at Homer Public Library, a Libraries Ready to Code grant recipient. She’s at the helm of Homer Public Library’s year-long initiative called Makers2Mentors, which is embedding computational thinking and computer science in the culture of the library.
In December, days can be cold and dark in Homer, Alaska. This morning, rain and snow pelted the Homer Public Library’s large ocean-facing windows. Around town, the trees, bare of leaves for the winter, lean away from the gusty wind. So close to the Winter Solstice, daylight lasts for what seems like a fleeting moment. As a result, the pace around this small town slows in this time of year and life for some can be isolating. The local fishing fleet is mostly shut down until Spring; resting after a hectic season. The throngs of visitors that frequent our small community in Summer are elsewhere. The type of outdoor work and play shifts to the kind that requires long johns and snow pants or is procrastinated altogether. We don’t have long to wait before the days start to get longer and warmer again, but until then, the library has a plan to help ward off the darkness.
On Saturday, as part of our Computer Science Education Week (CS Ed Week) activities, we are hosting an hour-long holiday card workshop that combines paper circuits and paper crafts to help families learn about electricity, sensors, switches and algorithms. It also brings the community together. Kids and their families will use conductive copper tape, coin size batteries and small LED lights to make pop-up paper cards illuminate. The Let it Glow! Workshop is part of a year-long initiative at the library called Makers2Mentors which is embedding computational thinking and computer science in the culture of the library. Funded by Google, Makers2Mentors is part of ALA’s Libraries Ready to Code project and includes digital and unplugged programs and opportunities for ages 3-18 and their families to learn more in fun, creative ways.
Like the amount of daylight in Alaska, Makers2Mentors will evolve throughout the year, but each piece will grow young makers, and teen mentors, by introducing important concepts and fun projects that connect kids, even in Homer, Alaska, with the skills they will need in the workforce. From fishermen to app developers, computational thinking and computer science are essential. Along with the card-making workshop, teens at the Homer Public Library will explore coding and app design at the three-month-long program. They will also meet Alaskan developers, entrepreneurs and scientists using computer science in their day-to-day work in the state and across the country. Younger kids will use computational thinking at the after school Maker Club on days that 8-12-year-olds are released early from school and at the LEGO Club, both of which provide access to digital and analog tools that support learning. Later in the year, Makers2Mentors will offer a Family Game Night, more coding programs with two specifically for girls (underrepresented in the tech industry) and circulating robot kits to extend learning at home.
Makers2Mentors, like all of the Ready to Code projects, capitalize on local interests and community resources to create relevant programs and address gaps in innovative ways. In Homer, kids have very cool opportunities, but access to computer science is not one of them. No computer science is taught in area schools so what they get in a school robotics club or at the library is it. Already, just one month into the project, the Homer community is talking about the importance of access to computer science for kids and we look forward to contributing to the conversation and ultimately being part of the solution.