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Palo Alto County Libraries to Offer STEM Backpacks

By Staff | Oct 29, 2020

STEM BACKPACKS -- Lisa Riesenberg, West Bend Public Library Director; Kay Rose, Ruthven Public Library Director; Kristen Wallskog, Mallard Public Library Director are pictured above (left to right) at Wild Rose Casino with STEM Backpacks to take back to their communities. ISU Extension, Palo Alto County, is coordinating the program with Palo Alto County Libraries.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Palo Alto County is collaborating with the Emmetsburg, Graettinger, Mallard, Ruthven, and West Bend public libraries to deliver STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) experiences for K-3 children and their families throughout Palo Alto County.

The Palo Alto County Extension and Outreach office and the five county libraries are now each equipped with seven Checkout STEM backpack kits. Topics include Bee and Me, Curious Coding, Fabulous Five Senses, Super Slinky, Building Bridges, Humpty Dumpty, and Magic Eye.

What’s in each backpack? Designed for engagement – colorful and age-appropriate activities: two books, materials for STEM play, and a lesson plan that revolves around a theme, such as coding. The lesson plans included in each kit utilize the Experiential Learning Model to assist in the development of STEM process skills. This model encourages children to first DO an activity, REFLECT on the activity and then APPLY knowledge learned to other life experiences. Each lesson plan first encourages the reading of a fiction book to help focus the experience around a problem or theme. This is then followed by a variety of hands-on STEM experiences or STEM play (DO). Then children and their families are encouraged to discuss the experience and learn more about the topic by reading a nonfiction text (REFLECT/APPLY).

“Increasing equitable access to STEM activities encourages youth and families to engage in exploring new topics of interest,” said Jamie Neff, program coordinator for Palo Alto County Extension. “These kits are entertaining, educational, and experimental; something for the whole family to enjoy together! It was a pleasure assembling these backpacks, knowing the impact will reach beyond the home setting as kiddos continue to learn and grow.”

Many thanks go out to the Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation, as their grant funding directly supported this opportunity.

We encourage you to check with your local library to learn more, as checkout processes may look different from library to library.

• Emmetsburg Public Library: 712-852-4009

• Graettinger Public Library: 712-859-3592

• Mallard Public Library: 712-425-3330

• Ruthven Public Library: 712-837-4820

• West Bend Public Library: 515-887-6411

For general questions or comments, please email Jamie Neff at jblaser@iastate.edu.