Wonder Makers connects kids to bigger picture

By Robert Mackenzie

Published Aug. 1 2017

A light blue table cloth peppered with stray glue and glitter covers a table in the Wilberforce library branch while the adults in the room go about their reading and web surfing.
The seven children seated at the table are attempting to make their own bouncy balls out of white glue and Borax the latest installment in the Haliburton County Public Library’s The Wonder Makers series of free programming teaching basic STEAM (science tech engineering art and math) principles to kids in the area.

Kestrel Woodley a McMaster occupational therapy student who returned home for the summer to work with the library on the STEAM programming is leading the bouncy ball experiment in Wilberforce July 21. Woodley says The Wonder Makers programming –  held four times a week at four different library branches in the county – is important for the kids because it allows them to learn through hands-on activities.
“It’s a good way to get them to think about things they can do with materials at home and just to be hands on and using their brain to work through problems” Woodley said.
The Wonder Makers along with The Code Makers which teaches simple and basic scratch coding to kids is part of the library’s ongoing community of making initiative. This initiative aims to group a number of organizations in the county together to provide spaces where people can share knowledge and equipment and work on technologically focused projects.

Noelia Marziali designed the current Wonder and Code Makers round of programming. Marziali says the STEAM-focused programming acts as a stepping stone for the kids.
“Whether they think they’re interested in science at all when we start to link [science] to games that they play or computer science we’re just starting to draw connections between these fundamental ideas and the bigger picture” Marziali said. “They can see how they can take a concept from engineering and make something themselves that they didn’t think they could.”
Cara Smith brought her three children from their cottage on Benoir Lake to the bouncy balls workshop in Wilberforce. Smith says the program is an opportunity to get her kids to go to library and read more.
“It sounds cooler than a reading group so it makes them ask to go to the library and then once they’re already here by default they’ll pick out a book.
“My son picked out a bunch of books that he thinks looks cool but he never would have asked to come to the library to pick out a book because he just assumes that there are no good books out there.”

According to Marziali the programs are designed so that anyone can access the content online even if they can’t make it to one of the branches. She says her experience studying fine arts influenced her to add art into the traditional STEM subjects covered in the programming because along with Haliburton being an arts community  it allows the kids to work with their hands.
Smith’s youngest daughter Quinn comes out of the Wilberforce workshop with the two best-looking bouncy balls although the six-year-old had some help along the way from Woodley and her oldest sister Kelsey.
Kelsey enjoyed the experiment because science is one of her favourite subjects. “I like how there’s always mystery to what could happen there are a bunch of different outcomes” she said.
After the workshop the Smiths head back to their cottage with some books and bouncy balls in tow. But before they go Cara says she plans on taking her children to the Code Makers workshop in Haliburton the next week.

The Wonder Makers workshops run weekly in Wilberforce Minden Stanhope and Dysart until Aug. 24 while The Code Makers programs run weekly in Dysart and Minden until Aug. 16.