Bringing Hands-On STEM Experiences to Kids Everywhere, One Library at a Time
SKPL exists because we believe all children – regardless of race, gender, financial condition or home environment – should have access to high-quality, hands-on STEM learning experiences. By making catalyst grants available to public libraries; we empower them to start their own science kit collections that are free and accessible to the public.
Where It All Started
While serving on the board of the Mount Prospect Public Library (MPPL), IEEE Senior Life Member, John Zulaski, came up with an idea that would marry the role of public libraries with the notion that science kits could be checked out as easily as a library book. Hence, the concept of SKPL was born. Growing up, John enjoyed the science kits his parents provided to him and made it his mission to extend the same excitement and curiosity for STEM to all children, regardless of their circumstances.
A flagship partnership between IEEE and the Mount Prospect Public Library (MPPL) began. IEEE-Chicago provided the funds to purchase a collection of science kits and MPPL provided the know-how.
2011 - 2012
The IEEE-Chicago Section applied for and received a $40,000 grant from the IEEE Foundation and Life Members Fund, formally establishing the SKPL program. This grant provided the necessary funding to launch science kit collections in 26 libraries across the Midwest.
Within 6 months, 26 collections containing 355 science kits were purchased, 745 science kits were borrowed, and 173 in-house STEM programs were presented with a total attendance of over 4200. Much was learned about what the library needs to consider before taking on this activity including cataloging, packaging, storage, staff time, and technical expertise needed. Much was also learned about how to manage a large scale SKPL program.
2013 - 2016
Funds were raised to award catalyst grants to 23 greater Chicagoland public libraries.
2017 - 2019
SKPL Grant awards for the greater Chicagoland continue at a pace of 5 to 6 Grants annually. In addition, thanks to the generosity of the S&C Electric Company Foundation, all 80 branches in the Chicago Public Library system now have science kit collections accessible to the public. Plans are developed to sustainably expand the SKPL program to cover the entire Midwest.
Smithsonian Science Education Center. The STEM Imperative Sheet. Last accessed 2019-07-04
Due to the great partnerships and success of SKPL with the Chicago Public Library system and Public libraries in the greater Chicago land area, we believe that SKPL has a place in every public library. We will be focusing on achieving sustainable expansion of the SKPL program to the Midwest and ultimately to the entire USA.