The Altrusa International Foundation has several branches dedicated to serving local communities—including Santa Maria—through grants and education scholarships.
The Santa Maria chapter has donated money to the Oasis Senior Center and its senior lunch program, the Orcutt Academy Dance Team, and recently provided a $3,688 grant for the Santa Maria Library to purchase science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) kits for the Orcutt, Los Alamos, and Guadalupe branches, said Lorine Edens, the literacy chair of Altrusa Santa Maria.
“This is an ongoing project that we are trying to get going,” Edens said. “There will be another phase that will include the Cuyama branch, and then there might be another phase.”
These kits are designed to engage students with science, technology, engineering, arts, and math in creative ways and promote teamwork and creative thinking, Edens said.
“I know my grandkids have been involved in those. It’s interesting to see the kids come together and figure out how to do this,” she said. “This gives them another option rather than just at the schools to do this. Some schools do have STEAM funding, but also having it at the library [helps].”
Santa Maria Library Director Dawn Jackson said the library has been gearing its programs toward STEAM topics and programs over the past several years because a lot of students are falling behind in those areas in school.
“We hope that it will support their academic success by introducing them and bolstering their knowledge of STEAM, and for those who maybe haven’t had a chance to study those, it will foster an interest and delve more deeply into them when [students] encounter them in school,” Jackson said.
A few years ago, the library offered STEAM kits for preschoolers that included topics like magnetics, color blending, basic art skills, and counting and numbers, she said. The new kits will have more sophisticated topics for a higher age range, from elementary to high school students.
The library is expecting about 20 kits per branch—costing about $1,200 per branch—to arrive in three to four months, Jackson estimated. The library will also have the opportunity to rotate them between sites to make sure there’s a variety of experiments students can choose.
“Most of the kits will be packed with nonconsumable things so they can be reused but not used up. We do try to make them as nonconsumable as possible so they can be used over and over again,” Jackson said. “We set aside a budget to replace items as needed.”
When they are in the library’s system and ready to take home, students can use their library card to check out the kit, just like any other item at the library. Jackson said she hopes teachers will encourage students to check out the kits and help promote awareness of this new resource.
“We will take [the kits] to outreach events in the community,” she said. “We go to events at schools, we attend events like Downtown Fridays where we’ll take a sampling of new items, and if our Bookmobile is at that event, they can check it out right there, so that’s pretty exciting.”
Adding the kits helps promote the library’s other STEAM-related activities, like the preschool STEAM program, Coding and Culture, and the Maker Space program, which includes a STEAM-related project.
“We’re very thankful to Altrusa International, Santa Maria, for providing this donation to us and writing this grant on our behalf,” Jackson said. “We look forward to the benefit it will bring to children and teens in our area, and we hope it can boost interest in these subject areas.”
• The Santa Maria Public Library announced its fifth in the series of workshops to promote digital literacy, taking place on Jan. 14 at 10:30 a.m. in Shepard Hall. This part of the series will cover ebooks and e-audiobooks where patrons will learn how to borrow ebooks and e-audiobooks from the Black Gold library system and download them onto their mobile devices. Registration is required, and patrons are encouraged to bring their mobile devices with them for easier downloading. The library is located at 421 South McClelland St. Register at the library’s online events calendar, cityofsantamaria.org/library, or by calling (805) 925-0994.
Staff Writer Taylor O’Connor wrote this week’s Spotlight. Reach her at [email protected].