Paris Ridge Elementary students walked into an art room that had been transformed into a mini-maker space. Before them were kits with activities in engineering, physics, electrical, architecture and making slime, all for them to explore at their choosing.
“We want to see what you can create,” said Alison Larowe, youth librarian at the Caledonia Township Branch of Kent District Library. “You can build whatever you want. Dream it. Make it.”
Students at the kindergarten through fifth-grade school got busy building, tinkering and designing. It was the first on-site school visit for the Caledonia Branch KDL Lab Experience, which promotes creativity, problem-solving skills and unstructured time to explore. The Lab Experience is an outreach effort to increase proficiency in science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM, disciplines.
“The library is much, much more than books these days. We are a community center,” Larowe said.
KDL representatives brought kits to school at the request of Principal Kris Vydareny, and to the delight of fifth-grader Aidan Bozyn, who immediately began building structures with wooden KEVA Planks.
“It’s amazing, really fun,” Aidan said. “Out of these you can create basically anything. I can express my creativity.”
Paris Ridge staff members seek opportunities for students to explore without parameters, Vydareny said, “to have a goal in mind and try to create, innovate and problem solve to find a solution.”
“This type of activity asks kids to ‘think differently’ — in a safe environment in which a ‘wrong answer’ just means ‘I have to try again,'” he said. “They are allowed to struggle — but I think it is productive struggle… they rely on each other for advice and they can just explore.”