Hands-On STEM, Delivered on Foot

Walking Books Library loves STEM materials from First Book; the library dog does not.

This post is written by a guest blogger – First Book community member Kelly Stearns, Director of Walking Books Library in Maine.

Walking Books Library, based in rural Maine, was created to engage people not regularly using library, literacy, or literary programs. Time constraints, transportation, health, economic, and housing issues (or simply being uncomfortable or unfamiliar with how the typical process works) are genuine barriers. We also service households needing materials unavailable nearby like LGBT books, the New York Times, etc. Best of all, Walking Books Library is a movable, new book ownership and lending program run by the same people it serves.

Books are walked to trailers, tents, farmhouses, cabins, cars, elder housing, and section 8 as well as other dwellings or more traditional libraries. By simply taking a daily constitutional, Walking Books Library strives to eliminate a few barriers, and along the way, meet many wise and wonderful people.

This past summer, we ran a “summer of science” program due to a Mainer, Jessica Meir, being one of the astronauts chosen to go up to the space station in the fall. We added Smartphone Microscopes, a Minerals Rock! Assorted Mineral Specimen set, and rock guidebooks from First Book to our offerings.

The books are charming, pocket-sized, and inspired spontaneous donations due to their usefulness. The microscopes are checked out and used at home by families. The home schoolers (an audience I would like to grow) signed up early for them. Also, a few of the kids genuinely like science and the others want it because it’s strange and they might just learn something by accident. Not everyone has a smartphone, but I still felt it was a good investment. 

The microscopes, from C & A Scientific, are easily clipped onto the back of any cell phone. They are used to explore rocks, water, leaves, hair (human and animal) and skin as well as the slides that come in the package. I was even told they were useful finding leaks and not bad when working under the hood of a pick-up! They also helped us execute a mini-grant from Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots to explore local waterways.

While the humans among us in our community love the microscopes and rock guidebooks received through First Book, Princess, the library dog, does not. When Princess (not her real name…we protect the guilty and the innocent alike) got into the container for STEM materials, you may be glad to know that although she rated other science-y stones favorably enough to gnaw them to bits, she left the vast majority of First Book’s alone (Princess did give a good review to the plastic packaging of one microscope but let’s not focus on that).

Lucky for the deadline on this blog post, Princess, the locavore, preferred small town stones that had simply been named, cataloged, and wrapped in plastic wrap. (Perhaps she thought they were little, wrapped cheese sandwiches?) We will never know as while Princess has a steel digestion, her language abilities are a little under par. She left (mostly) the First Book STEM products un-gnawed which while a poor review from a pup, did leave me able to blog about them positively.

If Walking Books Library has nothing else to teach you (and it may not) it’s that buying prepackaged STEM materials from First Book with a dog around is a highly underrated necessity for any educational office.

Kelly Sterns has been called the Director of Walking Books Library but only by nice people on tv who clearly had no clue no one else would accept the position. Walking Books Library, based in rural Maine, is a project of Appalachia North- a local volunteer group that takes on teeny tiny projects that teach, transform or tickle you pink.

Are you an educator or program leader serving children in need? Find STEM resources for your community on the First Book Marketplace.

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