Leap into Science: Statewide initiative for hundreds of STEM learning opportunities

Spokane STEM Network Partner, Spokane County Library District received a National Science Foundation Grant to further STEM engagement in our community.  Gwendolyn Haley speaks to the collaborative partnership that exists for opportunities like these  

By Gwendolyn Haley

Spokane County Library District joins Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, Schools’ Out Washington, and Washington State Library as part of a statewide leadership team for Leap into Science. Washington state’s team was one of six states (out of 24 applicants) selected in a competitive grant process for the first cohort of the grant project. Oregon, Arizona, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Tennessee round out the rest of the cohort.

Leap into Science is a nationwide program that integrates open-ended science activities with children’s books, designed for children ages 3–10 and their families. The program empowers educators to offer programs in community settings such as libraries, museums, and out-of-school-time programs to engage underserved audiences in accessible and familiar settings.

Washington will offer three workshops on the theme of “Balance” this year and provide training for librarians, educators, and out-of-school-time providers to conduct workshops for preschoolers, school-aged children, and families.

Educators receive training to lead a workshop in that year’s science theme, a curriculum kit, and the opportunity to participate in a community with other informal educators and access to additional curriculum over time. In turn, the educators commit to leading at minimum of three workshops in their community. Our goal is to train a minimum of 45 informal educators each year over the next 3 years across the state in rural and urban areas, who will in turn lead three workshops—for a total of 135 STEM learning opportunities each year.

The first workshop was held on Friday, May 11, 2018, in Spokane at Spokane County Library District, with two to follow in September 2018 in Everett and Tacoma. Over the next 2 years, training sites will move to other parts of the state for better statewide coverage.

Leap into Science began in 2007 as a partnership between The Franklin Institute and the Free Library of Philadelphia, and then expanded to select pilot sites nationally from 2011-2017, with the support of grants from the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. These partners worked together to develop, test, and refine curriculum and training resources to empower informal educators to engage underserved children and caregivers in urban settings.

 

Leap into Science is based upon work supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation under Grants DRL-0714658, DRL-1223730, DRL-1712878. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the National Science Foundation. This project is also made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.