Monthly Archives: November 2015

Guest Blog Post: Learning from PAA to Build our Capacity

Librarians from the Cuyahoga County Library system worked with PAA to learn how to use tools to fabricate Rube Goldberg machines.

Librarians from the Cuyahoga County Library system worked with PAA to learn how to use tools to fabricate Rube Goldberg machines.

By: Heidi Andres,  Teen Services Librarian
Cuyahoga County Public Library,  Middleburg Heights Branch

As a librarian with over 15 years of experience working with teens in a suburban library setting, I know the types of programs parents want for their children, as well as the kinds of programs teens will most likely be interested in attending. My library system, Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL), is fortunate to have Progressive Arts Alliance (PAA) in our community to assist us in providing young library customers with innovative and engaging programs. From Scratch animation and wearable technology workshops to a variety of multi-day camps (music production, stop-motion animation, and kinetic sculpture building, to name just a few), PAA’s artist-educators have helped local youth develop an array of skills and techniques necessary to succeed in an ever-changing academic environment and job market. PAA’s programs are built on the concept of project-based learning (fostering young people’s learning processes through problem-solving and creation) as well as the importance of the arts in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) programming – all concepts which dovetail perfectly with Cuyahoga County Public Library’s youth programming philosophy.

This past September, several Progressive Arts Alliance artist-educators presented two professional workshops for CCPL’s youth services staff. The topic of the first workshop was exploring circuits through creativity. Much like the sessions PAA conducts for youth, the artist-educators asked library staff to share what we already knew about the topic (conductivity), provided us with some circuitry basics, and then gave us a challenge: create a circuit which would illuminate a small LED bulb. With limited assistance from our instructors, library staff worked in pairs to incorporate what we’d learned into (usually) working circuits. Being students, as opposed to our customary roles of program facilitators, allowed library staff to experience first-hand how teens in our programs approach challenges and use problem solving skills and teamwork to create a finished project. Click below to see a video from the workshop that includes the work we completed using Chibitronics circuit stickers:

Building and designing kinetic sculptures (i.e. Rube Goldberg contraptions) was the focus of the second day’s workshop. The artist-educators provided an overview of kinetic sculptures, followed by instruction on safe ways to use tools in programs (should library staff opt to do so). CCPL staff then worked in teams to plan, draft, and build our own miniature kinetic machines – working teeter-totters. Just like the teens in library programs, final results varied, but library staff left with a better understanding of the benefits of and requirements needed to lead such a program.

Although there are more exceptions than not, library staff can sometimes seem hesitant to plan or lead STEAM programs, often due to a perceived lack of confidence in their science, engineering, and/or math abilities – there’s a reason most of us became librarians and not rocket scientists! Throughout the two workshops, PAA’s artist-educators readily shared their best practices on how library staff can conduct hands-on STEAM-related programs which allow teens to develop their presentation skills, critical thinking abilities, and self-confidence. The knowledge and guidance provided by Progressive Arts Alliance’s artist-educators during the two workshops helped library staff become more comfortable with our own abilities to continue providing these vital and necessary programs for the young people we serve.

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