Blount County’s First STEAM Festival
A Thank You from Jennifer Spirko, Blount County Library Youth Services Manager
Our first STEAM Festival on Oct. 14 was a great success, thanks to the many staff members who worked together – through some chaos – to bring it to life but mostly due to the Friends of the Library, who made the whole event possible.
Throughout the day, we had approximately 215 people at six different events, including a Professor Greybeard’s science show, an embroidery “craft jam,” Scribfolio art workshop, video and board gaming and coding workshops. Presenters included Professor Greybeard (of “Mr. Bond and the Science Guys,” our favorite mad scientists who usually visit during summer as well); Cindy McDannel and Fine Arts Blount; Thomas Proffen and Yvonne Dalschen of Oak Ridge Computer Science Girls (a nonprofit educational organization); Mary Cooper of Heritage High School and four of her students; the Blount County Nerds; and the Twisted Sisters, Margaret and Sassy, of the quilt shop of the same name on Court Street.
Youth Services collaborated with Information Services to combine our Gaming @ Your Library program with The Big Read, the month-long event centering around the novel Station Eleven. With the help of Kathleen Christy and A.J. Rowe (and of course the Friends!) we included the hit board game Pandemic and Pandemic: The Cure, and it was so much fun that we might make it a regular event.
There were a few special stories I want to share:
One of my Girl Scout families was here, and the mom told me a few days later that she hadn’t remembered the event was happening. “We meant to just stop by the library for a few minutes,” she laughed, “and we were there for HOURS!” Both girls loved the science show and the embroidery (the younger one was one of the kids featured in the Daily Times), and the older girl also loved the coding and Scribfolio workshops.
Heritage High School teacher Mary Cooper was here at my invitation, because I thought her high school students might want to get some good experience helping coach the younger kids in the coding workshops. She told me she was thrilled to come with them, because “we never get invited” to such events; people don’t always realize the great STEM programs they have at Heritage H.S.
Not only was it good experience (and we are looking forward to connecting her students and Ari Baker for some future opportunities), it was also an invaluable connection with the computer science gurus from Oak Ridge Computer Science Girls, Thomas and Yvonne, who are planning to mentor the high schoolers and have them help at their other various events and workshops (mostly in Knox and Anderson counties). Thomas also shared some software licenses and some concrete ideas with Mary, and in general it was such a valuable connection that, as she recounted them and shared her gratitude, we both literally had chill bumps on our arms! At the end of the conversation, she said, “Look, I’m not a hugger, but I’m going to hug you!” I was overwhelmed.
You made this happen, Friends of the Library. You made all that fun and learning happen, and all those valuable connections which are even more important than the day’s program itself. Our library’s slogan says we create connections and inspire imagination, and STEAM Festival was a great example of how that slogan can come to life.
Jennifer W. Spirko
Youth Services Manager