Learning Center department head Lance Simpson hosts a program for teens in the Teen
Zone at the Central Library
As a volunteer on the board of Birmingham Public Library's Friends Foundation, I continue to be excited by the programs being developed in the Central Teen Zone learning center. Three groups of volunteers with special knowledge have helped librarian Lance Simpson create some really exciting hands-on learning opportunities for the teens, grades 9-12, who participate. (I'm hoping for the day when some of these same learning experiences may be offered to adult patrons as well!)
|UAB School of Engineering volunteer at the Woodlawn Branch Library|
The Teen Engineer BHM program, co-sponsored with the UAB Engineering Department, operated as a pilot program offered at Central Library and two branches for its first two years through a grant from the UAB Benevolent Fund. This year there will be four branch sites in addition to Central because of a $95,000 two-year grant awarded to the library by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. All the program sites are near either high schools or middle schools, whose students are invited to come check out unique projects that represent real life engineering concepts and problems, using robots and micro computers.
|UAB School of Engineering volunteer at the Pratt City Branch Library|
The engineering students, both undergraduate and graduate, work one-on-one with the participating teens, focusing on hands-on learning. These UAB students receive a stipend for sharing their skills that helps with their own education expenses, creating a win-win situation for all involved.
|Lance Simpson with the Spring 2017 Student Mock Trial participants|
During last spring's school term the Birmingham Bar Foundation and the federal Public Defender's Office partnered with BPL to hold a student mock trial program for teens at the Central Teen Zone. About two dozen teens registered for the program and met at BPL after school once a week for eight weeks with lawyers who volunteered their time to explain the criminal justice system. The students were able to play the roles of lawyers, judges, and witnesses. As a final experience, participants put their knowledge to work by holding a mock trial inside the Jefferson County Courthouse in downtown Birmingham, assuming the roles of defense lawyer, prosecutors, witnesses, and judge in an actual trial setting.
|Lance Simpson (l) and Jim Baggett (r) with the civil rights poetry group|
This summer the BPL Teen Zone was the site of a week-long spoken word poetry camp. For this camp, the Teen Zone partnered with Real Life Poets, Inc. and the BPL Archives Department. The camp titled "Civil Rights Through The Eyes of a Young Poet" gave participants the opportunity to talk about the civil rights movement of the 1960s through artifacts from the Archives of BPL. Each participant wrote, rapped, and spit verse, then completed a spoken word poem which was archived in BPL's digital archives and shared with the world.
Did you know that BPL receives no funds for programming from the city of Birmingham? This means that the library must seek these funds through grants, individual and corporate sponsorships, and donations paid into the Friends Foundation. We invite you to contribute to the Friends Foundation and become a friend of BPL, joining us in supporting BPL's mission of providing the highest quality experience to our community for lifelong learning, cultural enrichment and enjoyment.