Funding will broaden STEM tools

The county public libraries are putting some steam into expanding STEM education.

A grant recently awarded to the Gulf County Libraries will allow for the purchase of host of hands-on learning tools as part of the libraries “Makers of all Ages” initiative.

The $3,500 Innovative Project grant comes from the Panhandle Library Access Network through the Northwest Florida Regional Library System.

It was one of five Innovative Project grants awarded during the 2017 cycle; Nancy Brockman, manager of the Gulf County Libraries, wrote the grant application.

“The ‘Makers Revolution’ is a term used in conjunction with people getting together and creating things, solving problems,” Brockman said, adding the libraries hope to create a “Makers Day” program.

The Innovative Project program focuses on projects pertaining to STEAM subjects, an acronym which injects art into the more common STEM slate of science, technology, engineering and math.

“The grant will allow us to purchase more materials for our STEAM table,” Brockman said of the children’s Creativity Corners at both the Corrine Costin Gibson and Charles Whitehead Memorial libraries.

“These materials will be on our cart for both libraries.”

Those tools include LEGOS, microscopes and robots

There will also be building tools, a light panel and tiles as well as a series of hands-on items to be used with computer programming and to promote computer coding in young minds.

Jumbo for-kids tools will include tweezers, eyedroppers and magnifiers as well as paper punchers.

A variety of magnetic tools, from a create-a-path center to turn-and-learn gears and a stand-up design board.

The major item is a Cricut die-cut machine, which allows children to program a computer to cut shapes of all variety; essentially a 3D printer for children.

The grant will also allow the purchase of a laptop computer to connect to the new SmartTV purchased by the Friends of the Gulf County Libraries to foster more striking visual presentations at the library.

The PLAN grant is a valuable supplement to the libraries’ funding, bolstering the ability to expand services and programs to younger generations.

The Panhandle Library Access Network is one of five Multitype Library Cooperatives (MLC) in Florida, serving a 16-county region comprised of the Panhandle.

Members include public, school, academic and specialized libraries, the network’s goal to deliver services, programs and training to communities acrossteh region.

Members share information, resources and expertise with a goal of in-region accees to needed information and resources.

“The nice thing about the grant is that you can get up to $5,000 and not need a match,” Brockman said. “We need these kind of grants because otherwise this would not be in our budget.”

In addition, PLAN does not toss the money at programs and walk away.

Brockman will be scheduled to present the “Makers of all Ages” project, including the impacts from the grant funding, at a future PLAN board meeting.