THUNDER BAY - For Jocelyn Knoester and her two children, who are five and seven-years-old, the addition of a permanent science and engineering exhibit and learning area at a local public library will help their curious young minds explore new concepts and ideas in a fun and interactive way.
“They want to be exploring things around them, they want to be able to use their creativity,” she said.
“There’s lots of great things to do in Thunder Bay, but having this, in particular, to come to so kids can just use their imagination to build things is a really exciting opportunity. It’s for them to have something that lets them do that.”
Science North officially opened its latest Northern THINK Hub at the Brodie Resource Library on Monday. Six permanent installations are being opened in communities across the north, including Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Kenora, Fort Frances, Timmins, and North Bay.
The six locations received $1 million in funding from FedNor and $1.6 million from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation.
Lora Clausen, senior scientist of northern initiatives with Science North in Sudbury, said the THINK Hub is an extension of a travelling exhibit that was built by Science North.
“We created these exhibits to travel across Northern Ontario. They are permanent installations at each of the six community hubs,” she said. “It’s really all about engaging people in all of the sciences, technology, engineering, and math.”
THINK stands for tinker, hack, innovate, network, and know and youth will get to take a hands-on approach to science and engineering through building their own experiments and testing the results.
“They are going to learn about curiosity, they are going to learn about engineering, how to try building things, experimentation, and rebuilding things to come out to different outcomes,” Clausen said.
“It’s really important to engage people of all ages with hands on experimentation in science. The lessons seem to really have more effect and are more engaging when they are able to do them hands on.”
Science North is partnering with various community spaces in the six communities to ensure the THINK Hub is open to everyone, particularly those who might not otherwise be exposed to interactive science and technology exhibits and underrepresented in STEM fields.
“That’s one of the reasons why we are doing this,” she said. “It really focuses on youth, underrepresented populations, and it gives an opportunity to try difference sciences, different forms of experimentation and learn new things and try things on their own.”
Chief librarian and chief executive office of Thunder Bay Public Library, John Pateman, partnering with Science North is another way for libraries in the community to evolve into community hubs.
“The great thing about this partnership is it's going to bring young people into the library and make the library look very exciting and an attractive space,” he said. “It’s growing an audience for the future.”
Pateman added library staff will continue to work with Science North to determine all the details when it comes to staffing the THINK Hub. He also said there are plans to expand the hub to all four library locations in the city.
Knoester, who is also a community hub librarian with Thunder Bay Public Library, agrees that it’s important for libraries to rebrand themselves as community hubs.
“I think libraries are really important because they are sort of that last free public space where people can just be,” she said. “So the more people can do here the better because there are so few options for families and community members to come where they are just allowed to be, and explore, and learn, and connect with other people.”