STEAM Table/Discovery Stations

Throughout the summer of 2015, families visiting locations in the Muskingum County Library System were introduced to Discovery Stations, also known as STEAM Tables. The Stations were designed to promote STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) and will continue to be implemented throughout the remainder of 2015 and into 2016.

For some of you, implementing activities like this is not a brand-new concept. Our programming has always contained elements of creation and discovery; these Discovery Stations are by no means the first time we have offered this to our patrons.

But for others, it's difficult to design and implement such an open-ended activity. Discovery Station activities should try to incorporate what research has proven to be most effective in teaching children scientific concepts and life skills. This guide aims to help you in this process, but it can also be used to share ideas with other branch librarians. Feel free to use the activities and materials posted here, and if there is a project that you would like to share, send an email to cory@muskingumlibrary.org and it will soon be added to this page.

Guidance for Selecting and Implementing Discovery Stations

The activity should require as little instruction as possible. This is what sets these activities apart from traditional science experiments. Ideally, children should be able to walk right up to a Discovery Station and feel as if there is no right or wrong way to proceed. 

For example: Consider the wildly popular activity from Summer 2015, where children were given plastic cups to build with. There weren't any instructions aside from "build something!" and that is why many people were able to sit there for almost an hour without realizing it.

Use your best judgment about having instructions available for visitors to your Discovery Station. If you think that children will have no idea how to proceed with the materials you've provided them, use questions to prompt and encourage them to begin.

For example: In August we set up ramps (rain gutters) and provided children with a variety of materials to experiment with. There were no instructions - instead, a simple sign encouraged children to use the materials to answer some of the following questions, such as: "Which rolled fastest down the ramp - the plastic egg or the foam dice?" or "Do the balls roll faster down the tall ramp or the short ramp?" Additionally, you might encourage them to do something that will lead to other actions, such as: "Use the foam dice to roll the number 3" or "With a partner, roll both dice to see who has the highest/lowest number."

Don't worry if your activity doesn't result in a product that children can take home with them; while a "make-and-take" is great, the takeaway of a great idea or new knowledge is the goal of a Discovery Station. If implemented correctly, your activity might encourage children to make something after they leave the library and return home!

And don't let the S.T.E.A.M. acronym narrow your thinking or limit the kinds of activities you do because you aren't sure if it matches that month's letter. Science, technology, and engineering are so closely related that it's almost impossible to separate them, and math is necessary for almost any scientific pursuit.

Online Resources

Summer Reading 2015 Projects

Week 1: Drops on a Penny Explanation/Instructions - Exit Tickets
Week 2: "Book-lyn Bridge" - Explanation/Instructions - Exit Tickets
Week 3: Plastic Cup Creations - Explanation/Instructions - Exit Tickets
Week 4: Circle Mosaic Explanation/Instructions - Name Sheet
Week 5: Measurement Explanation/Instructions - Exit Tickets
Week 6: Mirror Messages - Explanation/Instructions - Exit Tickets