Partnership with 4-H brings more resources to library’s STEAM program
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
As national education trends move forward, they tend to gain more diversity.
In the case for the Crawford County Library System, the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program, a curriculum aimed at preparing students for college and technology based careers, has added art into the mix, making it the STEAM program.
Crawford County Library Director Connie Meyer, who is a former teacher, said some educators have added aeronautics to STEM initiatives, but the library chose to add art since it was more user friendly.
To bring more to the table for local youth, the library has partnered with the 4-H program run by the Crawford County Michigan State University Extension Office.
“They have all the resources that we want for our STEAM program, too,” Meyer said.
On Thursday, Feb. 16, a group of 20 tweens and teens worked with roominate kits to build structures and honed their art skills by drawing with 3-D pens that created a hard plastic image on a sheet of plastic at the Devereaux Memorial Crawford County Library.
“We want to provide our tweens and teens with more hands-on activities, so they’re not sitting in front of the computer all day and they’re not learning,” Meyer said.
To broaden their the teens’ horizons further, the library is hosting the Michigan 4-H Children’s Art Exchange with China.
The Michigan 4-H China Project, conducted in cooperation with the People’s Republic of China, is a global education program that uses the arts for both in-school and after school learning experiences.
The program has been in existence for over 20 years and was spearheaded by Betsey Knox from the MSU Extension and the State Director for 4-H Mike Tate.
“Betsey was very into international programming and worked with extension offices all over the country,” said Nancy Persing, the 4-H director for Crawford and Roscommon counties.
Michigan is matched with Sichuan Province of China since both areas are on the same parallels on the globe.
Persing said students in China get an early start with art when they are learning to write.
“When you write in Chinese, their writing is pictures, so they start with a paintbrush in preschool creating words and letters,” she said. “Their art talents are halfway developed before they even start on art because that’s how they write.”
More than 300,000 Michigan youth have participated in the project.
Michigan kindergarten through sixth grade students can:
• Learn of the many similarities between their lives and the lives of their counterparts halfway around the world.
• Gain a sense of being part of one world, whether they live in Michigan or in the Sichuan Province.
The Michigan 4-H Children’s Art Exchange with China had a record 2016 year, with 6,380 participants – an increase of over 400 participants from 2015.
Persing hopes that partnership with the library will boost local participation in the program.
“They have a good way to get to the kids,” she said. “The kids are there and we don’t have to worry about when are we going to work it in the school day.”
The initiative used to be based out of the Grayling Elementary School, but they no longer have an art teacher due to budget constraints. Persing said homeschooled students are also urged to submit their art.
Art submitted by local students is sent to the Kettunen Center, a conference facility operated by the Michigan 4-H Foundation, where it goes through another selection process and is on display.
The finalists have their art sent to China as part of the exchange program.
“Ten pieces to go China and those 10 pieces tour in China in a moving art exhibit for a full year,” Persing said. “The art that we send them is a gift from our state.”
Art from Michigan youth, which has been submitted in the past, can be viewed on an MSU Extension website. And displays of art from youth from China can be checked out to go on display in schools, libraries, and other public agencies.
“We try to get a different kit each time, so they’re not seeing the same pictures,” Persing said.
Art will be in the display case at the Devereaux Memorial Crawford County Library up until the annual trout opener gala, which will be held on Friday, April 28.
“I would like to swap out the pictures so people get to see the art from the different children and that is my goal,” Meyer said.