Librarians “Go Bananas” for STREAM

Invariably, during any all day workshop, presentation, conference, lecture, seminar, everyone gets distracted: checking email, surfing the web, logging into your security camera to see if Fido is being a good boy, checking your calendar, accessing an app,  or, my favorite, escaping to a beach in Cozumel, a $1 Modelo in hand and enjoying the sights.

Dr. Betsy Diamant-Cohen with puppet

I never got to Cozumel on Feb. 26 during the “Play Your Way to STREAM” workshop, sponsored by the NJ State Library and hosted by the Old Bridge Public Library, because Dr. Betsy Diamant-Cohen provided enough distractions to keep everyone engaged and active throughout the day.

When was the last time you started a work-related training event by singing about eating a banana? Or how about interviewing a puppet for three minutes and telling the class what the puppet told you? The workshop was informative, with a lot to take away, but it was also fun. The room filled with laughter during the team block building exercise. Adults playing like children and enjoying themselves – not your typical workshop fare.

The purpose of the workshop was to show the value of play and how playing can help children develop essential skills. Play affects mental and physic health, it is an essential part of a child’s life, helping to build many skills. Singing the “Go Bananas” song teaches sequencing, memorizing, rhythm, repetition, exercising, sense of community, vocabulary and that words can have different meanings. The hands on experience of playing with blocks stimulates language, allows the formation of symbolic thought, involves multiple pathways in the brain and holds the power of discovery learning. Play stimulates imagination and creativity.

Lauren Antolino, Cranford, interviews a puppet

What once started as STEM and evolved into STEAM has now begat STREAM: Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math. Different types of play can strengthen a variety of skills and improve literacy. Competitive play can teach teamwork and how to accept losing (and winning) gracefully. Music play can teach vocabulary through singing songs. Puppet play can stretch the imagination.  Creating snow brings science to a child’s hand. These and more are the skills the toddlers visiting the library today will need in the future and 60-some librarians now know how to help develop those skills through the wonderful world of play.

Betsy Diamant-Cohen (right) making snow with Tara Carlisle (left), Cape May County Library and Liz Hoens, Rahway Library

Dr. Betsy Diamant-Cohen has been a children’s librarian for more than 25 years, and has worked in public libraries, school libraries, academic libraries, non-profit libraries, children’s museums, preschools, home-daycares and more. She holds a BA from Brandeis University, an MLS from Rutgers University, and a DCD (Doctorate of Communications Design) from the University of Baltimore. In the early 1980s, she ran programs at different public libraries in New Jersey for parents with infants and toddlers. Her wealth of personal experience combined with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for giving all children equal chances to be successful has led to the development of the Mother Goose on the Loose early literacy program, the publication of several books, and the production of a few CDs. She was named a “Mover and Shaker” by Library Journal in 2004.


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