STEAM Education Centres: Learning and Making in St. Thomas and Elgin

This is a guest blog post by Jessica Moyes, Executive Director of STEAM Education Centres! STEAM Education Centres is one of the Library’s Community Partners. Like us, they offer services that encourage self-directed discovery, community maker spaces and continuous learning. See Jessica’s post below to learn more!

STEAM Educations Centres: Learning and Making in St. Thomas and Elgin

It’s hard to believe but this fall will mark one year since the STEAM Education Centres opened its doors to bring new educational approaches to learning and making to the St. Thomas and Elgin County region. And what a year it has been! We have lead some awesome programming, participated in a variety of community events, opened a temporary pop-up location and have some exciting plans for the near future – and, I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Programming with the Community

The STEAM Team and guest teachers have designed and lead some amazing workshops and school field trips, both in the Centre and in the community, for learners of all ages on topics ranging from coding, computer rebuilding and animation art using 3D design and printing, to Teen and Adult coding with Raspberry Pi and Maker CNC projects. We also took our programming on the road this summer to a pop-up location at the Elgin Mall! There, we lead four weeks of summer camp for kids – Music Maker Camp and Alien Investigations Camp – as well as a range of teen and adult workshops such as Make your own digital picture frame using Raspberry Pi (shown below).

Learn to make a Digital Picture Frame using Raspberry Pi – Summer workshop for teens and adults at STEAM Education Centres pop-up location.


Making Connections

It was an active summer connecting with people out in the community for the STEAM Team. We kicked off the season with a free BBQ at the STEAM Centre and topped off the night with a screening of Most Likely To Succeed; a film about the future of education and innovation. It was a fantastic evening filled with the sounds of laughter, discovery and summertime spirit.

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STEAM Centre Block Party guests screening Most Likely To Succeed; a film about the future of education and innovation, June 2017
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STEAM Education Centres’ Summer BBQ and Block Party, June 2017

We also participated in the Canada Day festivities in Pinafore Park this summer. Kids of all ages learned how to program, or code, an Ozobot using colours, navigate a Sphero maze and made their own smoke ring machines!

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Kids learning to make smoke and smoke machines with STEAM Education Centres at Canada Day celebration at Pinafore Park, July 2017

Full STEAM Ahead

Looking to the fall, there are no signs of slowing down! We are currently busy organizing our first event called STEAM Mission 150 for September 30th! STEAM Mission 150 is an exciting new event that will test students like never before while honouring the history of the local community, land and Canada’s 150th! This one-day event will see teams of students between 12 and 15 years old diving deep into fun challenges that require creativity and collaboration while tapping into science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) skills. And, just for fun, a handful of brave teachers will be able to enter the Mission as well!  We invite everyone to join us for an unforgettable day, whether to participate, spectate or volunteer! With Mission sites scattered throughout the community and over 165 students, teachers and volunteers participating, Mission 150 is set to turn St. Thomas and Elgin County into a STEAM learning playground with a new adventure around every corner! For more information or to get involved as participant or volunteer, visit

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We are also busy preparing our workshops for ages 7 and up, starting September 12, 2017. While most will be new themes, there will be a few repeats due to popular demand such as Kid Roboteers and STEAMKids 101! Stay tuned or enroll now at

Finally, this fall we will welcome STEAM School in partnership with Thames Valley District School Board. This project will see seventy grade 10 students and four TVDSB teachers joining the STEAM Team this fall while students work to complete four regular high school credit courses through the lens of ‘making life better for someone else’. Students will undertake community based projects and work closely with the STEAM Education Centres staff to gain needed support throughout the fall semester. You can find more information on STEAM School at

So, as we close out our first year and look ahead to the future, we wish to express our sincere thanks to the community that we support and has supported us, as well as the St. Thomas Public Library staff. It’s been a phenomenal year and we look forward to meeting more people, making more partnerships, and providing greater essential learning opportunities to our rural region of learners and makers!

Jessica Moyes

Executive Director

STEAM Education Centres






Libraries Should Be What Users Want

“Libraries should be what users want—with a little help from librarians,” says Francine Fialkoff in a recent editorial in Library Journal. She talks about the Fayetteville Free Library in New York, where staff “have launched a Fab Lab for creation of physical products—and those can be as high-tech as what comes out of a 3-D MakerBot or as low-tech as the product and designs of a crochet group, which can be made into a book to inspire others.” Can you imagine your public library offering those kinds of services?


In Confronting the Future: Strategic Visions for the 21st Century Public Library, (an American Library Association brief), libraries of the future are moving more toward “virtual” collections and services, more toward “creative “ spaces rather than collection spaces, and away from individual services to more “community” services and spaces. Those were the trends we had in mind in designing our Revitalized Library, as we reduced the physical collection and added more space for people sitting, studying alone or together, working in collaboration in study rooms, and in open spaces at work tables.

We’re also working on creation spaces and services. We have assisted fledgling authors to produce a born-digital novel, to print on demand, and to sell their works to a wider audience, perhaps even to a global market. Our computer lab will be the site of song-writer/ musician Deni Gauthier working with budding local talent to write and record original music.


Futurist Thomas Frey, in a great series on the future of public libraries, proposes a series of even more imaginative possibilities. He writes: “since the role of the library 20 years from now is still a mystery, we recommend that libraries put together creative spaces so staff members, library users, and the community at large can experiment and determine what ideas are drawing attention and getting traction. Some possible uses for these creative spaces include: band practice rooms, podcasting and vidcasting stations, Art studios, recording studios and theater-drama practice rooms. He also recommends “imagination” rooms. What do you think that may include?


Future theorists believe that it will be possible to archive and index qualities such as smell, taste, texture, vibration, and a host of other attributes. Libraries may become resources of these attributes and perhaps provide a “time capsule room” where you could find out what Mrs Baker’s award winning pie in 1954’s community fair smelled like.


What will the next generation of public libraries look like? Two decades ago it was predicted that the library as physical space was doomed. As the quantity and variety of technology and digital resources explode, some futurists are predicting the demise of the book, but libraries have a history of adapting…becoming whatever users want. Imagine.