Blog post by Christina Evans, Library Supervisor, Somerset Libraries
West Somerset is a beautiful place to live, with areas of natural beauty and picturesque beaches but it is also the lowest ranking district in England in terms of social mobility. As part of the government’s national plan to help address social mobility, West Somerset was identified as a key area for investment to try and help children and young people unlock their talent and develop their potential.
Play and Learn: Minehead Library
Play and Learn, held at Minehead Library, is a fortnightly digital skills event where young people can drop in and discover different digital skills. The sessions are staffed by engaged and enthusiastic library staff volunteers with a wide range of experience of technology from enthusiastic novices to tech wizards.
The sessions are for two hours and use a mixture of digital toys and tech such as 3D printing, Augmented Reality, Stop Animation, etc to help build digital skills. As well as using Osmo, an Educational games system for the iPad, which helps children and young people develop and learn new skills from coding, numeracy, drawing skills and creative confidence, spelling and critical thinking, and more.
The project has been fairly successful for the rural area with an average of around 8-10 children taking part at each session and has been particularly successful attracting children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds (with around 44% of participants receiving either Free School Meals or Pupil Premium).
And the feedback from participants has been the most encouraging more engaged parents and children attending other activities such as Code Club or using loanable tech such as Microbits for projects. One parent commented that the sessions had helped “to really bring him [his son] out of his shell, he’s constantly working on projects and ideas at home.” And one of the children attending commented that “I loved bringing my ideas to life with the app and seeing how it worked.”
Some of the unexpected successes has been the development of other events and activities because of the project. Similar sessions have been arranged at other libraries in the local area with staff providing outreach activities. As well as digital skill days happening during the holiday period were young people have worked on digital projects alongside some of our volunteers and partners.
What we’ve learned:
- Purchase a wide variety of tech, experiment and allow for play.
- Engaged and enthusiastic staff are key to a project’s success.
- Let young people decide their own programme of activity and what they want to do.
- Let young people learn at their own pace but support it with staff/volunteers.
- Use new or innovative bits of gaming technology such as Osmo to help develop and teach invaluable skills while making it fun.
- Ensure staff are trained not only on the tech but how to engage with young people.
- Make sure it’s fun both for staff and young people!
Contact Christina Evans, Relief Development Officer at Somerset Libraries (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.