YA Clicks June 2012

STEM Fun

Rebecca Purdy and the Web Surfers from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library

June 2012

The acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is everywhere.  Schools are focusing on it, more grant applications are requiring it and public libraries are incorporating it into their regular programs and/or creating new ones around it.  Howard County (MD) Public Library system partners with local schools and sponsors a Rube Goldberg Challenge for area fourth and fifth graders.  Students are given a problem to solve and then “charged with making the solution as complicated and convoluted as possible.” Our system recently created a STEM sub-committee, a small group of youth services staff asked to create STEM related activities for local farmers markets and our annual summer self-directed programs.

This focused initiative began with Congress’  the America Competes Act, aptly named because when it comes to these subject areas, our students are not prepared to do the STEM related jobs we will need filled.  There are many articles that provide more information;  two I recommend are  Why Stem Education is Important? by Francis Eberle and The Lowdown on STEM by Linda W. Braun.

You can also promote STEM by adding to your library’s web page some fun, Web Surfer approved sites.

Through YA Eyes

Carbon Footprint Calculator

Global Footprint Network

4I 3R 5U

J S

This web site uses an interactive quiz to determine your carbon footprint.  It takes into account factors such as diet, use of electricity, and amount of trash produced.  As the quiz progresses, you see your character’s life being constructed around it based on your answers.  At the end of the quiz, the web site provides immediate results, describing how many planets Earth’s humans would need if we all lived like you, the breakdown of your carbon footprint, and the number and type of acres of land you are using each year to survive.  Overall, this website is easy to navigate, very informative on our consumption of resources, and fun to play around with.  Definitely worth looking at!–Katherine Chase

Hubblesite

Space Telescope Science Institute

5I 3R 4U

M J S

Whatever your age, if you’re into astronomy then this is all you would want to know about the Hubble, a telescope that orbits earth and far surpasses any other.  It covers all the basics and more! When you first arrive, you’re met with beautiful images on the main page which come straight from the Hubble and there’s a large gallery of additional remarkable photos of stars, constellations, galaxies–anything you could imagine up there in space. The site is produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Hubble itself is a mission of NASA, providing real and accurate information. There are even comprehensive articles where you can learn more about recent projects and the beginnings of the Hubble. Another neat thing is that you can get instructions on how to make your own mini Hubble! This site is simple to use and it does a good job of sorting the numerous facts and images. I would recommend this site to any space enthusiast looking for lots of information on space, astronomy, and the Hubble. – Kara Stokke

Khan Academy

Khan Academy

5I 3R 5U

M J S

Whether it’s algebraic matrices, brain teasers, biological DNA, Graduate Management Admission Tests, American civics, or core financing, Khan Academy is the place to go.  There are 3,200 educational videos to see, including subjects in math, science, finance, economics, and humanities, as well as test preps (no English that I can find, however).  They may not be the most exciting thing to look up on the Internet, but these videos are both audio and visual experiences that are sure to assist you in any of your projects or tests.  The site is, despite its huge list of videos on display, very easy to navigate.  A toolbar has the main subjects listed on the first page, and even when you scroll off the page, the toolbar will follow.  Once clicking on a subject heading, it will also display the specific topic, which you can click, taking you straight to that page without delay.  You can read comments on how others reacted to each video or post your own comments.  Khan Academy is a wonderful tool to use both for learning and teaching.  -Emily Stant

Edheads

Edheads.org

5I, 4R, 4U

M J S

Ever wanted to stimulate a mental patient’s brain? Or investigate a crash scene? Such aspirations are quirky, but Edheads is the perfect web site to live vicariously as a surgeon, an engineer, or even a meteorologist via the virtual world. I remember being a precocious 10-year-old when my fifth-grade teacher introduced me to Edheads, and feeling squeamish joy when I sliced open some poor patient’s thigh to perform Hip Resurfacing Surgery. The graphics are anatomically correct with enough of a cartoonish twist to avoid nausea, but for those with strong stomachs, there are slide shows of actual surgeries. Edheads succeeds at balancing the informative and hands-on aspects of the simulations, but occasionally a virtual nurse’s lectures about heart palpitations can become tiresome. Overall, for an aspiring medical student, or even a typical bored teenager, Edheads is easy to navigate, stimulating, and most important, loads of fun.–Kira Zahedi

TryEngineering

TryEngineering

5I 2R 2U

S

This is a site for those who are looking for a possible job in the engineering field, but it was not very usable. The main screen for the web site was so cluttered; it was as if I couldn’t think. The games on the site were very hard to understand, needed a higher Shockwave Player to run, needed to be downloaded, or just wouldn’t load at all. The information, when you finally found it, was very informative, but used a lot of big words that little children wouldn’t understand. I would recommend this site for only older children who are truly interested in learning about all fields of engineering.–Brandi Roland

Your Sky Tonight

Seeing in the Dark

4I 3R 5U

A/YA

Do you ever look up at all the stars and think how pretty they are? Well, there is a lot more to stars that meets the eye. Your Sky Tonight is a fun, interactive website about astrology and literally, your sky. You can look up anything from the Orion nebula to how light pollution is robbing kids of the breathtaking view of the night sky. You can also find your birth star, you click on their birth star chart, chose your age and it will show you the name of your star and facts about it. For example, if you’re fifteen this year, then your star would be Gliese, a dwarf star in Aquarius the water bearer; it also has planets revolving around it. The website also has a photo gallery with pictures of different planets, the Orion nebula, comets, and much more. Your Sky Tonight contains interesting information on things for amateurs and experts. You could also use it for a report or some homework. Even though this site is great, it would be better if they fixed some glitches, like occasional connection errors.–Danielle Cornwell

Kudos for Library Teen Sites

STEM Subjects

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Web site visitors are greeted by cool graphics, created by graffiti artist Ramon Trevino, that have an edgy, urban feel.  They are immediately empowered to pick their favorite color for the text boxes and the site is very user friendly, with a clear menu along one edge.  Most of the menu options are also featured front and center, as easy to distinguish tabs for specific STEM-related subjects.  The tabs offer book recommendations with the covers prominently featured, and a brief article answering the quintessential question, “Why STEM?”  The menu takes you to longer lists of book recommendations on everything from “Anatomy” to “Math” and “Science Trivia.”  Links to resources for the science fair, STEM career possibilities, and even teen issues are also available.

Rebecca Purdy is the Youth Services Coordinator for the Central Rappahannock Regional Library system in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  The Web Surfers are a collection of teens willing to volunteer some of their time to see their names in print and help young adult librarians find good sites for their library blogs and Web pages.

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