The Harker Heights Public Library hosted the STEAM Dream Arts and Sciences Festival on Saturday, and featured hands-on, science-based activities for children of all ages.
Children’s librarian Amanda Hairston said, “We have a whole bunch of people this year. We’re partnering this year with Girl Scout Troop 20301 ... Everyone is bringing hands-on activities. We’ll (also) have our magic show — he (Kent Cummins) is kind of the culmination of the day, he’ll perform at the end.”
At the event, activities were provided by Legos for Littles and their interactive seek-and-find, the Free Forest School of Bell County with their nature bins, Central Texas Makers with 3-D printing, Texas A&M University-Central Texas with snap circuits, and the Temple Children’s Museum with their gear wall, just to name a few.
Many of the “vendors” provided more than one activity. For instance, Texas A&M-Central Texas not only provided snap circuits, the university also had arts and crafts.
Outreach and instruction librarian Margaret Dawson said, “We do a lot of projects with the Harker Heights Public Library. We go out in the community and show what kids can do. We (also) have STEM camps during the summer.”
MecaTX, also known as the Multi-educational Cross Cultural and Arts Association of Central Texas, was present with an anatomy display, a medical 3-D scanner and printer, and a large microscope set up that shows human muscle tissue on a computer screen.
One of the biggest draws of the day was the Free Forest School of Bell County, which had several different activities for children that provided a multi-sensory experience. The school had scent jars containing things such as fresh grass for children to smell, and a microscope with a clover leaf that children could look at.
The Free Forest School’s table also had four different nature bins: a dough bin, made of a mixture of flour and oil that children could then form with their hands (volunteer Kelsey Case said, “Moon dough is what I call it.”); a bin containing kinetic sand; a bin containing sticks, rocks, leaves and flowers (all things collected from the last hike people were on with the school); and a bin with animal figures representing animals normally seen on area hikes, such as deer and snakes.
Ashlea Choate of Killeen brought 5-year-old daughter Avery, and spent some time at the Free Forest School’s table. Choate said she was familiar with the school.
“A lot of moms who come to the library also go to Forest School,”she said.
She and Avery are regulars at the library’s morning programs.
“We come to every activity the library hosts,” she said.
Girl Scout Troop 20301, the library’s partner in the festivities, had several different booths set up throughout the Activity Center, one each for science, technology, engineering, and math. The science booth held slime-making, which proved to be very popular; technology featured Ozobots, tiny robots which teach coding much in the way Dash and Dot do; the engineering booth featured several activities, including building structures with marshmallows and toothpicks and building catapults with tongue depressors, plastic spoons, and rubber bands; and the math table taught kids about the Fibonacci sequence.
This year’s event also held something new.
“This is the first year we’re really marketing to babies — the Friends of the library purchased almost everything for the Baby STEAM room,” Youngblood said. “We really want everyone to know that we can start encouraging exploration in arts and sciences from zero to five years.”
Despite the rain, the event was quite a success, with over 100 people in attendance before 11 a.m. and more coming in as the event progressed.
Youngblood said they were expecting around 300 by day’s end, an expectation they far surpassed. The event drew about 400 for the day, not including the magic show at the end of the afternoon.