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A new first-Friday event caters to home-schoolers and local elementary students alike with STEAM activities and challenges.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Steve Sethi and his daughter Anna learn about how electricity conducts during a Makerspace event at the Tualatin Library.Tualatin's mobile Makerspace trailer, made possible by the America's Best Communities competition, has yet to be delivered. But that's not stopping the Tualatin Public Library from introducing kids to its complement of technological wizardry.

The library hosted its first in what will be a monthly series of drop-in Makerspace activities geared toward second- through fifth-graders and their families on Friday. Stations with circuitry, magnets and 3D printing were set up around the hearth area and in one of the library's study rooms.

The event was scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m., meaning roughly half of it took place before school let out for the day. Library staff said that was by design.

“We start it at 1 p.m. so that home-schoolers can participate,” said Jerianne Thompson, library manager.

This fall, Lauren Simon and other community outreach staff from the library have been going out to schools in the Tualatin area to share the curriculum and equipment from the Makerspace.

“We wanted to give access for a lot of materials to home-school students, and then also have it extend until 5 o'clock so that kids could come after school,” Simon explained of the drop-in event Friday.

Leah Findtner, a parent at Bridgeport Elementary School, brought her children to the library after class was dismissed. Several more second-grade girls from her daughter's Brownie Scout troop came along as well.

“I think it's beneficial for them to be exposed to STEM or STEAM,” Findtner said, referring to the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

She added, “I think it's just beneficial to have any supplemental education, wherever we can get it. … You know, in school, they only have so much time to do this sort of thing. And they are bringing it into the school more, but there's budget constraints and time constraints, so they need to focus on the core curriculum, and this, sometimes, doesn't always fall into that.”

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Adeline Lund makes a LED bulb light up at a Makerspace event at the Tualatin Library.

Kids were able to keep some of their creations from Friday's event, including magnetic LED “throwies” and simple 3D-printed designs, which one third-grader said she might use as ornaments for her Christmas tree.

“These are all laptops that they're using to make these files to send to that 3D printer over there,” said library volunteer Andrew Evans, indicating a row of computers set up in a study room — all of them in use. He added, “They can take all these things they make home.”

This month's drop-in Makerspace was heavy on electronics. But Simon said there will be new activities and challenges for kids next month, when the event will likely move to the community room — which was occupied Friday by a used book sale.

But beyond the knowledge they get from the activities themselves, like learning about how to connect a simple circuit or make a light come on, kids are also learning another important lesson, Simon noted.

“One of the most interesting things to me is that there's a lot of frustration that comes from doing this, so they have to kind of work through that emotional challenge to be able to figure it out,” she said. “But they either will ask a friend for help, or they'll take a break and come back to it, but they're demonstrating a lot of persistence, which is really neat to see.”

A team of community partners in Tualatin, including the city of Tualatin and the Tigard-Tualatin School District, entered the America's Best Communities nationwide competition in 2014. The competition is ongoing, and Tualatin's bid has reached the finals. The community was awarded a $100,000 grant prize toward creating a mobile Makerspace in a converted trailer this year.

Once it is delivered, the mobile Makerspace is expected to be sent out to special events around the community, bringing the activities that kids enjoyed at the library Friday and more to local schools and neighborhoods.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Children use a 3D printer during a Makerspace event at the Tualatin Library.


By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor
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