As the quiet halls of elementary, middle and high schools across Wisconsin come alive with the sounds of clanging lockers, excited young voices and ringing bells, the 2019-20 academic year kicks off.
On the college level, campuses throughout the state are seeing their own reawakening as the numbers of students who took summer coursework or toiled in labs are joined by their academic-year peers.
For this parent of three children, it’s a wistful time, because my youngest heads into her final year of college. Our family’s learning journeys, like those of many families, took many forms.
There were the protracted goodbyes at a Montessori preschool when I was entranced by my daughters’ or son’s enrichment at the sensory table, stacking the pink tower or learning addition using number chains. That sure looked like a lot more fun than sitting at my desk for the day.
We progressed to the hair-tugging days of hitting big-box stores to cross dozens of items off the school supply list. I recall some were frustratingly specific and unrelated to academic success. Would my kid really progress faster if they were using a blue plastic pocket folder with a three-hole punch versus a red one? Other items were surely outmoded. Compass and protractor, anyone?
During the pre-teen and teen years, there were struggles not only with completing homework assignments but also actually turning them in. I could never fathom how one or another of my children would spend time on an algebra or history assignment but not bother to drop it into the classroom homework basket near the teacher’s desk.
Each of my children attended college in Wisconsin. While it was nice not to need a plane ticket and a multi-day commitment to see them between semester breaks, it was still tough to get in the car for the drive back to Madison while they remained—with their stack of prosaic dorm items, and our collective hopes and dreams for this amazing experience on which they were embarking.
For us, those educational adventures are coming to a close. For thousands of Wisconsin families, though, the educational aspirations are renewed and now struck me as a good time to stop simmering in my memories and offer a tip that could be useful to STEM learners across the Badger State—the Wisconsin Water Library.
It’s right down the hall from my office and is a treasure trove of resources. From books to journals to STEM kits, I’d urge you to give it a look. Its 30,000 volumes serve K-12 audiences as well as those in higher ed. In fact, any lifelong learner may be interested, and state residents can check out materials. Items can be viewed online and requested. They will be delivered to your local public library.
Me? I might be hunkered in the library on my daughter’s first day of school – recalling past academic aspirations and celebrating the educational promise that the library, and all our returning students, represent.