The STEM resource center offers educational materials

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EDWARDSVILLE — The COVID-19 pandemic has made its mission a little more difficult, but the STEM Resource Center (SRC) at the Center for STEM Research, Education and Outreach at Southern Illinois Edwardsville continues to offer a wide range of services.

SRC has extensive STEM educational materials available for rental/loan for students, educators, and community members.

“For example, we have robots, chemistry lab equipment, owl pellets and engineering kits,” said Candi Johnson, program coordinator and STEM resource center manager. “If you need hundreds of beads for a math and proportions project, you can borrow them, so you won’t have to go through the trouble of finding or buying them.


“We have a classroom set of various robotic kits for use by teachers who may not have the storage space or funds to purchase them. They can borrow them from us free of charge for a few weeks and bring them back to us at their convenience.

The material available through the SRC is designed for a variety of different age groups and abilities.

“We’re located at a university, so we’re here for the students, but we also work with K-12 students in local school districts, as well as parents,” Johnson said. “We also tried to buy items to support preschoolers, which is a gap we felt we had in previous years.

“We have something called the ‘Rigamajig,’ which is a huge, shiny sports bag made out of random wood and plastic materials that preschoolers can use to build things like pulleys and levers. You can let them use their imagination to learn some fairly advanced concepts. The SIUE Early Childhood Center is a kindergarten that borrowed it for their students and the kids really enjoyed it.

The STEM resource center also has robots called KIBO, designed for children aged 4 to 7.

“They can help preschoolers start thinking like a computer programmer,” Johnson said. “Coding languages ​​are letters put together to express a message or command, and we have LEGO robots that can break down those communications into block coding.

“KIBOs allow students to physically do block coding with wooden blocks that young learners can put together. The KIBO robots scan the blocks and then complete the task that the computer programmer, the preschooler, has just set up. »

The STEM Center website is: http://www.siuestemcenter.org/. The STEM Resource Center website that serves as the platform for the STEM Educational Materials Lending Library is: https://siuestemcenter.myturn.com/library/.

“Much of our business is physical and in-person, and like the STEM Center in general, we run outreach activities and workshops. For the STEM Resource Center specifically, our numbers since the start of the pandemic have dropped by nearly half when it comes to physical visitors,” Johnson said. “We have shortened our hours and had to reduce some of the in-person opportunities we offer.

“We had to find smart ways to keep reaching our audience and STEM educators in the region. I also write programs for some of our outreach programs and these are traditionally in-person activities. We had to find ways to engage our participants without this hands-on component. We are blessed with excellent instructors and graduate students, and their passion shines through on the (computer) screen.

Johnson added that even at the height of the pandemic, when COVID transmission rates were at their peak, the SRC always tried to have at least one staff member available a few days a week for people who wanted to get STEM teaching materials.

“Even though we are reducing our staff on site, they can make an appointment in advance and wear a mask,” Johnson said. “We have also increased the way we sanitize our items when they are returned, and will continue to do so even when the pandemic is over.

“Our student workers have been really great and flexible. Some of their functions have changed. We’re adding a little more organization and cleanup to what they do.

Johnson emphasized that the STEM Resource Center isn’t just available to educators.

“If you’re a parent homeschooling your students, you don’t have to do it alone,” Johnson said. “We have thousands of items and millions of dollars worth of equipment that you can borrow for free. We have more existing programs with public schools, but we also work with private schools.

“If you are an individual and would like to learn more about STEM education, or if you are a student working on a project, you can also borrow articles. For preschoolers who are interested in engineering all the way to adults who might want to teach their kids or grandkids something about STEM, we’ve got you covered.

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