Gila Valley teens will soon have an opportunity to get more hands-on STEAM experiences thanks to a traveling library exhibit put together by the Space Science Institute.

The Safford City-Graham County Library is just one of 12 libraries nationwide that received a grant from the institute.

According to the American Library Association, each library will receive $15,000 over four years to participate in professional development activities, support community collaborations and purchase STEAM learning materials.

The selected libraries will also host traveling STEAM exhibitions and develop programs and outreach kits with collaborators and community members, the association said.

Specifically, the library will be partnering with the Eastern Arizona Hispanic Heritage Corp., according to the association.

The libraries went through a two-part application process and they were judged by peer reviewers on several criteria, including programming plans, involvement of partner organizations and community need, according to the association. Selected libraries serve populations of 25,000 or less, have a Hispanic/Latino population that is at least twice the national average for rural communities.

According to the association, the Latino population is the U.S.' largest ethnic minority group and the fastest growing segment of the rural population. However, Latinos earned 13.5% of science and 10% of engineering bachelor’s degrees nationwide and make up only 7.5% of the U.S. science and engineering workforce. Hispanic women are even more underrepresented, making up only about 2 percent of STEM occupations.

Although Lesley Talley, library supervisor, doesn’t know the exact details of the exhibit, including when it will arrive, she does know the theme and that it will take library staff roughly four to six months to go through the training to teach the STEAM programming.

“It’s all about a growth mindset,” Talley said. “The theme this year is ‘I’m Super, I’m Creative, and I’m Curious.”

Acccording to their website, the 28-year-old nonprofit "is shaping our future by enabling scientists to advance our understanding of Earth and the Universe; increasing science and technology literacy for people of all ages and backgrounds; and inspiring youth to pursue science-technology education and career opportunities."

The institute is well-known for providing high quality Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math programming for younger teens, she said.

The exhibit will be a huge opportunity, she said.

“We know these thinking skills make those kids successful as adults,” she said. “We’re trying to get the kids in the community the tools they need to be successful. We've just got to get them those tools.” 

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