Photo Gallery | PHOTOS: STEAM summer program at Dalton Free Public Library
DALTON - One summer program at the Dalton Free Public Library is offering a feast for the senses.
The STEAM program - which stands for science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics - teaches practical lessons using the approach of applying a common theme through multiple disciplines.
Wendy Provencher, Coordinated Family and Community Engagement ( CFCE) specialist for the Central Berkshire Regional School District, received a $5,000 grant in February to develop a STEAM program for the area. The funding comes from the state Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. Provencher chose to partner with the Dalton library, and has developed units around various themes, be it cooking, colors, or this summer's exploration of the five senses. Through the funding, she's also been able to distribute more than 30 backpacks to kids, filled with educational materials such as activity books, crayons, laboratory-style goggles, a magnifying glass, measuring tape and more.
"It's given me the opportunity to really think of creative ways to teach kids. I'm having so much fun with it," Provencher said.
The STEAM program is offered at 10 a.m. each Tuesday, and caters to children ages 3 to 6.
Last week, Provencher introduced a group of 20 kids and their family members to her 18-year-old son, Keenan.
"Today, Keenan's going to read a book to you, but he can't use these," she told them, pointing to her own eyes.
"Keenan is blind. He can't see with his eyes like you and I can. He has to read in special ways, like using his fingers to read braille," she said.
Keenan then proceeded to read to his captive audience the Eric Carle book, " Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?"
Afterward, Wendy Provencher passed around the book so that the kids could see the pictures and also feel the sentences, written in a series of raised bumps, that had been taped below the printed words on the page.
Library Director Robert DiFazio and Assistant Director Katherine Hoag said that the STEAM program, which will continue during the school year, has been a great addition to the library's other offerings for children and families.
"They really get into it. She's done some amazing activities," Hoag said, referring to Provencher's weekly projects.
Last week, after Keenan's book reading, the children and their caregivers got to make collages with various textured objects and type their names using a braille machine. They also did an activity that involved food ingredients - popcorn kernels, flour, salt, dried split peas, among others - that were stuffed into uninflated balloons, obscuring the food. Using primarily touch, the kids had to guess what ingredient was in each balloon.
Other previous activities have included, among others: learning and demonstrating chemical reactions, playing with colors, making sculptures with recycled materials and learning about food science by baking a chocolate cake.
Tina Charter has been taking her 3-year-old son, Evan, to the weekly STEAM sessions. Asked if Evan had a favorite subject, the mother said, "He loves it all. It's good for him."