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A space for young learners: Library exhibit combines science and art

In the Three Little Pigs makerspace, a new exhibit for children at the Douglas County Library, Tiffany Olson, a fifth-grader in the Brandon-Evansville School District, helps Lexie Lamm, a student in the district's 3-4 School, build a "straw" house. The Brandon-Evansville students explored the new exhibit on Friday, Dec. 1. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 1 / 4
On Friday, Dec. 1, students from the Brandon-Evansville School District try out the Three Little Pigs makerspace at the Douglas County Library. Fifth grade students were paired with students from the 3-4 School. Justin Ledermann helps out his partner, Brielle Elmer, make a house out of wood. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 2 / 4
Tiffany Olson, a fifth grader in the Brandon-Evansville School District, helps Lexie Lamm, a student in the 3-4 School, with the mask she made in the Three Little Pigs makerspace at the Douglas County Library. The new exhibit lets children create, invent, explore in a hands-on way the story of the Three Little Pigs. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 3 / 4
Students in the 3-4 School in the Brandon-Evansville School District, including Lucas Bosma and Paige Meichsner, got a chance to try out the new Three Little Pigs makerspace at the Douglas County Library. The free exhibit will be open through the month of December. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 4 / 4

Kids can huff and puff all they want to test the strength of the houses they build.

The "Three Little Pigs" makerspace at the Douglas County Library is now open through the month of December.

Parents are encouraged to bring their children to the library for the debut of this makerspace, which is a STEAM makerspace project set up by Deb Berry and Linda Saari, Brandon-Evansville teachers, along with help from the Douglas County Early Childhood Initiative, Douglas County Child Abuse Prevention Council, United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties, University of Minnesota-Morris, particularly students Katie Hassler, Molly McGrath and Joyce Zanol, the Andria Theatre, David Berry Woodworking and the Douglas County Friends and Foundation.

So what is a makerspace and what is STEAM?

According to Sarah Wethern, youth librarian at the Douglas County Library, "A makerspace is a setting to create, play, hypothesize and be dramatic." And she said that the focus of this makerspace is for ages 5 and younger.

Wethern said the makerspace for the "Three Little Pigs" demonstrates all aspects of STEAM - science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

So what exactly is a "makerspace" and what age groups will benefit from the "Three Little Pigs" makerspace?

Berry said that Diana Rendina, who wrote the book, "Challenge-Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace," also explained that makerspaces are a place for children to invent, explore and tinker by using a variety of tools and materials.

Berry said this explains the "Three Little Pigs" makerspace as children will get to do the following:

• Build houses using straws, small craft sticks and Legos.

• Make a pig or wolf mask.

• Play a pig and wolf dance dice game.

• Read the story of the "Three Little Pigs" in the pig house.

Berry also said families will be given a kit and instructions for using the "Three Little Pigs" makerspace. Even babies and toddlers can do the activities, she said. She said simple things like talking about shapes, building with simple items, guessing how many pigs might fit into a house and making the masks, all help to develop cognitive and thinking skills for this age group.

Children are encouraged to be creative and if their houses and masks don't look like they "should," they should be told, "It's OK," Berry said.

Wethern said the goal of this STEAM experience is to engage the young learners through a variety of elements, like building the houses, making the masks and sharing the familiar story.

The best makerspace for kids allows them the chance to explore at their own pace," Wethern said. "Caregivers and children are encouraged to spend time at the exhibit, participating together and discussing the best way to build a house and what factors might destroy a pig's home."

As with all activities at the Douglas County Library, Wethern said the "Three Little Pigs" makerspace is free and open during regular business hours. Questions can be directed to Wethern at 320-762-3013. For more information about the library including hours, storytime information, and upcoming programs, visit the Douglas County Library's website at " target="_blank">

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in nearly 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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