Inquiry-based Experiences for Children
VELI-STEM is a three year grant from IMLS and in partnership with the Vermont Center for the Book and Vermont Department of Libraries that focuses on Physical Science through inquiry. Year one examined Force and Motion; Year Two examines Building and Engineering and Year Three examines Air and Water. The primary goal of Physical Science experiences for children is to allow them to explore objects, materials and events in new and different ways. The more learning experiences children have, the more they can ask new questions and construct new theories about what is happening and how things work. Children will ask questions about how and why. Some questions, such as, “What will happen to the ball when it rolls down this ramp?”, lead to new investigations. Other questions may lead to simple experiences, such as, “Which ball rolls the farthest after going down a ramp?”. Librarians can encourage this investigation through the use of fiction and non-fiction picture books and rich discussion and activities.
In order for librarians to develop their own skills and knowledge, they need time and opportunities for collaboration. Our project sequence allows for three years of progressive development for librarians to understand what it means to engage children in inquiry-based experiences, the nature of facilitation and guidance that adults can offer in order to challenge, and engage children and to strengthen content knowledge. By mixing face-to-face and online work, VELI-STEM allows for the development of a collaborative and networked learning community that is built through interaction. Innovation in what libraries offer to their communities lies in the transformation of librarian practice, and in this case, including STEM offerings wherever possible.
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