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Walpole Library hosts desert STEAM event

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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Molly from Walpole looks on as Kara Dean helps her make a rice cactus.

Molly from Walpole looks on as Kara Dean helps her make a rice cactus.

After having made recyclable towers last week, and with their animal filled “rainforest reptile” event coming up next, last Wednesday afternoon, the Walpole Library held a desert-themed STEAM challenge designed to teach kids about life in the driest regions of the world.

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics, so the various library activities looked to simultaneously challenge the children in all these fields, as well as to educate the youngsters about desert life. To accomplish this, tables were set out with activities for the staggered groups of children to work on before moving to the next activity.

The first activity revolved around cacti and their ability to absorb moisture. After the kids investigated a large cactus piece (one that had been stripped of its prickly parts), as well the pieces of a cactus that had been dissected, they were given cups and told to mark a point where they believe one yellow sponge would be able to fill after being soaked in water.

This was also the last event of the day, as the water being poured over the sodden sponges tended to make a mess.

“This is the perfect event for us to end on,” declared Yvette Sammarco from The Walpole Coordinated Family and Community Engagement Programs (Walpole CFCE), as she grabbed one of the sponges. “Now we can scrub the tables.”

Another messy activity utilized dry rice to represent the needles of a cactus, as kids created their own representation of the famed desert plant using glue, construction paper and the sprinkles of the grain.

While these activities were a bit untidy, a decision was made to avoid using the thing most people associate with the dessert. As Kathleen Greulich of the WFCE explained, “We thought about having a sand table, but figured it would be too messy.”  

An activity designed to teach kids about the chameleon’s ability to hide itself used a paper plate and a sliding clip to allow kids to hide the chameleon on the back of the plate. This was similar to another art project the kids made in which they colored an image that showed a rainy day with a toad when viewed from one angle, and a sunny day free of the animal from another. The idea was to teach the children that the specific animal, the spadefoot toad, only comes out when it rains.

The mathematics element of STEAM came from a rattlesnake coloring activity, wherein children were tasked with recognizing color patterns of the snakes.

Maddie examines a friend’s rattlesnake pattern.

Maddie examines a friend’s rattlesnake pattern.

While these activities were the most active element, youth librarian Kara also Dean displayed a table of desert-related books for anyone who wanted to check them out.

These activities and books were great, but above all else, it was the passion and fun attitudes of Yvette Sammarco, Kathleen Greulich and Kara Dean that made sure the desert STEAM event was far from a dry affair.

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