This Sunday, March 20th, marks the official start of spring. For many of you with school-aged children in Jackson County, next week is, appropriately enough, Spring Break. While some of you have made plans, others may be wondering what to do while your children are out of school. Lucky for you, Jackson County Library Services (JCLS) has a variety of solutions for this problem.

One event we are particularly excited about is “STEM in the Park.” At “STEM in the Park,” your child will explore Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM), and more. Fun learning activities will be centered around being healthy, particularly as that relates to the ongoing pandemic. While we are currently experiencing a downturn in cases and some precautions are being relaxed for now, we’ve learned that COVID-19 does not plan on slinking away quietly, and we will need to learn how to coexist with it. Even if some miracle came around to eradicate it, other viruses, germs, and diseases are waiting in the wings. The more children know and understand about germs, viruses, vaccines, and other things that can affect their health, the more prepared they’ll be to protect themselves and others.

Children and their caregivers will visit different stations with fun, age-appropriate activities and experiments (ages 5 and older are the recommended ages). Some of the stations will be:

  • “How Clean Are Your Hands?” Using a special cream and a black light, children can see how many germs are on their hands before and after washing their hands.
  • “Create Your Own Virus Bracelet” Children will learn about DNA by creating a “virus” in the form of a bracelet. Colored beads will represent the various parts of the genetic sequence.
  • “Code Your Own COVID-19 Simulator” Our DART (Direct Access to Resources and Technology) van will bring computers that kids will use to code and manipulate a COVID-19 Simulator using the Scratch programming language.

JCLS is presenting this program with a grant from Communities for Immunity. Communities for Immunity is supported by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services), among others. The grant provides funding to libraries, museums, science centers, and other cultural institutions, to build trust in the COVID-19 vaccine by helping to create and deliver evidence-driven materials and develop resources and programs in the community. They have funded similar programs at numerous libraries and museums around the country. Each library decides how best to use those funds to meet that purpose.

Carrie Turney Ross, Area Manager of Outreach and Programs for JCLS, is coordinating this event. According to Turney Ross, “Kids get to do these experiments and their parents play an active role in that, so they’re learning alongside their kiddos about the history of vaccines and viruses and learning about how viruses spread.” She added that some children may experience anxiety about having to get a shot. “Helping them understand what the benefits are from being protected against this virus and that, yeah, you’re going to get a little poke in your arm, but that is a lot better than being very sick and possibly being hospitalized.”

In addition to the learning stations, there’ll be tasty treats and book giveaways. JCLS is partnering with Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to offer a mobile vaccine clinic at the event. Those who have not received a COVID vaccine, or need a second shot or booster, are encouraged to come by. No appointments are required. Representatives from Rogue Community Health Clinic will be there to answer your health questions.[MO3] 

“STEM in the Park” will be offered twice, so more people are able to experience it. It will be held this Saturday, March 19, and next Tuesday, March 22. Both events will be from 2:30-4:30 pm at Twin Creeks Park, 555 Twin Creeks Crossing Loop in Central Point.

In addition to “STEM in the Park,” JCLS locations around the county have more things for children to do over Spring Break. Gold Hill Library has a “Spring Native Plant Passport” activity in which young botanists can explore the Rogue Valley and learn how to identify native spring flowers.

On Monday, March 21st, the Medford Library is hosting “Spring Break at the Library!” between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm. This drop-in event will include crafts, activities, and games, including some awesome items from our Library of Things collection. At the White City Library, kids can learn to draw animals, plants, faces and more on Tuesday, March 22, from 1:30-2:30 pm. Children, eight and older, can attend a “Mystery Party” at the Ashland Library on March 23, from 3:30-5:30 pm (Registration Required). The Calendar of Events on our website has more information.

If you’re looking for some things to do at home, the library has books, magazines, and DVDs with activity ideas such as cooking, making crafts, learning a magic trick, or creating new Lego designs. There is something for all ages and interests. We have audiobooks, either on CDs or downloadable, which are a great way to make road trips more enjoyable. I would be remiss if I did not mention reading for pleasure as another Spring Break activity. If you need help using any of our library services, or would like suggestions on what to get, ask for help when you visit the library or by using our JCLS Discovery Service for recommendations.

We hope to see you at “STEM in the Park.” While the event is intended for children and their caregivers, we encourage “children” of all ages to attend. See you there!