Earlier this week, First Lady Michelle Obama presented the 2015 National Medal for Museum and Library Service to ten museums and libraries that are extraordinary agents of change in their communities. The medal, an award of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, recognizes the many ways these community institutions enhance civic engagement, promote economic vitality, and connect visitors to 21st-century teaching and learning. The Institute of Museum and Library Services, a Federal agency, is the primary source of Federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums.
Libraries and museums have long been centers for self-directed and participatory lifelong teaching and learning. Today, this often includes providing visitors with tools, technologies, and spaces to make and innovate, and to explore the diverse applications of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Several of the winners of the 2015 National Medal for Museum and Library Service demonstrate how libraries and museums around the country are providing resources and educational programming designed to help people meet the challenges and take advantage of opportunities of 21st-century working and living:
Craig Public Library (Craig, AK): The award for Craig Public Library, located on remote Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska, was accepted by library director Amy K. Marshall and eleven-year-old Colin Rice. Fascinated with computer coding and technology, Colin was determined to get a 3D printer on the island. When the school system couldn’t purchase one, the library said it would help. Colin helped build the machine and demonstrate its operation during a community-wide Pi-Einstein day. Craig Public Library also brings STEM learning and opportunities to its small community through youth programs such as weekly science camps, robotics with LEGOs, and maker events.
A 3D printer in action at the Craig Public Library.
The Tech Museum of Innovation (San Jose, CA): The Tech Museum of Innovation (The Tech) aims to inspire the innovator in everyone. Its signature program, the Tech Challenge, is one of the oldest engineering design competitions in California, challenging teams of students to solve real-world problems with creativity, critical-thinking and iterative designing, prototyping, and testing. The Tech is making STEM learning more accessible by supporting museum visits for more than 70,000 students from low-income schools and providing involved STEM experiences for about 21,500 underserved area students through hands-on technology labs. In Fall 2015, a new DIY genetics exhibit at The Tech will include a biology makerspace where visitors will be able to engage in bio-tinkering: they’ll be able to play with, design, and engineer synthesized DNA.
A young innovator participating in the Tech Challenge. (Photo credit: Don Feria)
New York Hall of Science (Queens, NY): The award for the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) was accepted by CEO Dr. Margaret Honey and Maria Cortes Ruiz. Soon after she moved to the U.S. from Bogota, Colombia, Maria began working in the Science Career Ladder program at the NYSCI. The program allowed her to hone her English language skills while conducting science demonstrations for visitors and leading special maker activities. Says Maria, “Science is amazing because it explains everything… everything that you see that is beautiful in life.” Maria’s experience at the museum fostered her love for science and gave her the confidence to pursue a career in science. She is now working toward a chemical engineering degree at City College of New York. The New York Hall of Science is also home to World Maker Faire, which draws more than 130,000 people, including tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists and students.
Young scientists getting muddy as they learn about the environment at NYSCI. (Photo credit: Andrew Kelly)
Los Angeles Public Library (Los Angeles, CA): The Los Angeles Public Library teams up with LA Makerspace to offer multigenerational literacy programs with a science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) twist in many of the library system’s 73 locations. The library’s “Full STEAM Ahead” program presents STEAM programs for preschoolers and school-aged children to help compensate for the scarcity of free and low-cost afterschool programs in those subjects in the LA Community. The library also organizes fun, hands-on learning opportunities in community workshops that incorporate robotics, coding circuitry, stop-motion animation, citizen science and 3D printing.
On the LA Public Library website, families can find workshops hosted by LA Makerspace.
These institutions and many other libraries and museums around the country are answering the President’s call at last year’s White House Maker Faire for “every company, every college, every community, every citizen to lift up makers and builders and doers across the country.” This year, the White House is hosting a Week of Making, June 12-18, that is aimed at engaging communities and organizations around the country in creating more opportunities for making that inspire students’ interest in STEM, arts and design, support maker entrepreneurs and encourage local manufacturing and workforce training.
We invite you to join us in congratulating all of the winners of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, and in getting excited for the upcoming Week of Making. In the meantime, tell us how you or your local library or museum are getting involved in our #NationOfMakers by tweeting @WhiteHouseOSTP or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nancy E. Weiss is Senior Advisor to the Chief Technology Officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Stephanie Santoso is Senior Advisor for Making at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.