Explore Hands-On Science, History, Art and More at Local Libraries

By: Martianne Stanger

Where you can explore magnetism…

magnet class

step back in time to boycott a bus like Rosa Parks,

play boycott

build a simple machine,

pulleys and gears

join in a drum circle,

drum circle

learn drawing from high school art club students,

drawing class

or get hands on with props and puppets from a production of Jack and the Beanstalk?

If you live in our area, you can do all this and more, usually for FREE, at local libraries!

Since 2014 began, my children and I have.

And, in coming weeks, we look forward to learning about seismography, building with Legos and creating inventions with Little Bits.

For years now, we have been enjoying everything from story hours, to performances, to game nights, to Lego nights, to special events at area libraries. And, this year, it seems my children are at a prime age for hands-on workshops.  It’s awesome!

We appreciate the many science, math, art, technology and literacy-based programs we’ve discovered at libraries all within about a half-hour radius of our home.  All of them offer worthwhile opportunities for my children to explore new areas of interest or dive deeper into tried-and-true ones. And, often, I find the free library programming equal – if not better – in quality to paid programs elsewhere.

lego motor

Take Lego Motors for example?  I have seen Lego Engineering classes for kids offered as a private paid program, often for over $100.  My children have thoroughly enjoyed designing Lego Motor creations for free, with the mentorship of an awesome and knowledgeable librarian, at no cost to me except gas.

play poster

And drama?  How about a 3-day, 6+ hour workshop where your kids can experience the basics of a putting on a live show from start to finish, including creating PR posters, with little stress and lots of fun – for free! Where else can you get that but at a local library?

Honestly, the diversity of experiences our family continues to enjoy thanks to public libraries is wonderful!

How Do You Find All These Fantastic FREE Programs?

Family and friends often ask me how do you find access to all this great stuff?  Well, at the libraries we frequent, I ask if there is a monthly mailing list or newsletter and sign up for it. Also, every month or two, I search the calendars on the websites of other libraries within a 30 minute radius from our home. Then, noting which programs, performances and workshops my family might enjoy, I cross-check our calendar to see if we will have time to get to them. If we will, I check to see whether the programs require pre-registration or if they are just show-and-go.  After that, it’s just a matter of getting in the car and going to enjoy!

How Do You Extend the Experiences?

Before, and sometimes after, library programs, I typically borrow a small collection of children’s books, videos and audios that connect to the topic of the program.  If we happen to own related play props or learning materials, I have those at the ready, too. Then, if a workshop, performance or program ignites my children’s enthusiasm, we simply dive into further explorations at home using these resources.

What performance, programs and workshops do you most enjoy through public libraries?  Are there other places you enjoy free learning and cultural experiences?

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