Researchers at Loyola University of Chicago and Northwestern University will partner with the Evanston Public Library (EPL) and the Chicago Children’s Museum to conduct design-based research on the impact of conversation and storytelling on STEM learning  (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in children. Researchers hope to discover how conversations can be improved to encourage, support, and reinforce learning. The project is funded by a $717,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to Loyola University Chicago. A portion of the grant funding will be directed to sub-grantees EPL and Chicago Children’s Museum to support implementation.

The first event is the Index Card Tower Engineering Challenge to be held on Sunday, Feb. 26, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Fleetwood Jourdain Community Center. Families with children ages 6-10 are invited to participate in this fun STEM session with an engineering expert and library staff. Space is limited and registration is required by calling the Library at 847-448-8610. A second program will be held on Saturday, March 25 at Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center, from 10:00-11:30 am, with future programs now in the planning phase. There will be a total of 24 programs planned through 2018.

As part of the research project, EPL staff and engineering experts will design and offer inquiry-based programs to be held at EPL and other locations. These programs will engage children, ages 6-10, and their parents in open-ended activities that involve designing and creating. Through the projects, children will learn to form theories, test them, learn from them and try again. Engineering experts will be on hand to support families as they work together on activities and challenges. Students from Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, and members of the local tinkering and maker movement will participate.

According to Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons, “the library staff is excited to learn from the experts along with our families. We have been expanding our Maker and STEM programming for children for the past few years. The design thinking involved builds problem-solving skills and strengthens critical thinking. These skills support lifelong learning and support children in future success in life, formal education and future careers.”