The Saint Paul Public Library Dayton’s Bluff Branch has several great summer programs that are hidden gems and provide unique opportunities and a way to instill the value of learning into children of all ages.
Reading Fun and Games is based off the idea that “K-12 learners can lose up to eight weeks of reading skills over the summer if they are not engaged in reading activities or some sort of learning activity,” said Awo Ahmed, literacy coordinator for the Institute of Community Engagement and Scholarship (ICES). Fun and Games is a summer literacy program run by ICES in the Dayton’s Bluff Branch library to develop the reading habits for children aged 4 to 12 years. With a quiet space, reading material and a tutor, if necessary, children’s literary competence is encouraged. Tutors support readers and give positive feedback to kids and parents.
Reading Fun and Games runs 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Wednesday, and is divided into a reading period that begins at 12:30 p.m., and a craft and activity period starting at 1:30 p.m. Each participating child receives books for their home library, and a chance to win prizes of school supplies, more books and board games.
Monday’s activity involves the non-profit, In-Progress, which teaches the children digital photography and digital media. Another activity for the program is organized by a group called Code Savvy, which teaches children computer coding through a program called Scratch, created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Saturday Science introduces children to scientific topics through guided experiments, which change from month to month. The hope is that this program will lead the children toward a future in the fields of science. One demonstration involved the children in studying DNA, during which they crushed strawberries in order to extract the helix, while in another they built a solar oven, which was used to cook pizza. Along with the activities, children are given books that complement the topic of the experiment. The program runs from 2 to 4 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month..
Digital Media is on the second Saturday of every month and is taught by Xiong Lor from In-Progress, a non-profit digital media organization. Lor teaches the fundamentals of digital photography, sometimes using examples of Gordon Parks’ photography and photographic techniques. Children then tell their own story through pictures. Eventually they manipulate their pictures in Photoshop and print them out to take home.
The Third Saturday Social runs from 2 to 4 p.m. every third Saturday of the month and teaches children about different countries and cultures.
Code Club is a program taught by Code Savvy and runs on the fourth Saturday of each month. Children use Scratch to create a program and then load it into a Lego and Finch robots, which play out the commands.
“The goal is to introduce youth to computer programming and to build their confidence in building their computer coding skills. And to get them involved in different fields of computer science to let them know that computer coding is not really hard, it’s just like any learning experience—you have to build the skills,” Ahmed said.