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Full STEAM Ahead: Igniting a Passion for Learning in a Gillett, WI, Library 

Libraries play a vital role in fostering educational opportunities and promoting lifelong learning. One such library is the Gillett Public Library, nestled in the small, rural community of Gillett, WI. With a new Full STEAM Ahead program, the library is bringing in technology to introduce to its young patrons. We spoke to Shannon Stoner, the director at the library, about getting the program started.

A Botley robot sits behind a tower of blue and orange obstacle building pieces.

Gillett, located north of Green Bay in Oconto County, Wisconsin, is a close-knit community of 1,300 people. Gillett Public Library serves as a hub for learning, discovery, and community engagement. Driven by a passion for expanding educational opportunities for younger patrons, Shannon embarked on creating the Full STEAM Ahead program.

“STEAM is so important in our society now and it’s going to be crucial to the success of our children that they learn these concepts early so they can go into the world and be successful. This generation will continue to make advancements which will lay the foundation for future generations.” – Shannon

A botley 2.0 robot rolls into the gif and up closer to the camera, demonstrates its glow-in-the-dark features, and rolls back out of the square.

Recognizing the importance of STEAM opportunities in today’s world, Shannon aimed to provide engaging and educational programming for children. Each month, the library plans an activity that introduces a STEAM concept. By incorporating STEAM activities into their offerings, they seek to equip children with the skills and knowledge necessary for their future success. 

To promote the Full STEAM Ahead program, the library employs various advertising methods. They utilize social media platforms, distribute program information in their quarterly newsletter, and advertise in-house through posters and flyers. Additionally, the library collaborates with local elementary schools by sending program information through students’ Wednesday folders, fostering a connection between the library and the schools.

One remarkable aspect of the Full STEAM Ahead program is the availability of robot loans to children through the library. The library’s Botleys, popular robots among the young patrons, never stay at the library for long.

“We can’t keep them on our shelves for long. They are always being borrowed by our patrons and patrons through Interlibrary Loan. We’ve had so many kids smile brightly and get so excited that we have Botleys. We have had kids play with them in the library and take them home. They have just been the stars of our show.”

Three Botley activity cards are shown, demonstrating different things the robot can do with obstacles.

Reflecting on her experiences, Shannon offers valuable advice to other libraries looking to incorporate STEAM initiatives. She highlighted the effectiveness of utilizing popular robots like the Botleys. She also emphasized the importance of tailoring activities to different age groups, ensuring that each session provides an engaging and age-appropriate learning experience. 

The exterior of the Gillet Public Library building.

The Full STEAM Ahead program at the Gillett Public Library has become a beacon of inspiration and learning within the rural community. Through engaging activities and the availability of robots like the Botleys, the library is igniting a passion for STEAM concepts in young minds. As libraries continue to evolve and adapt to the needs of their communities, the Full STEAM Ahead program serves as a testament to the transformative power of education, innovation, and the invaluable resources libraries provide.