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Harford Co. Public Library's Little Leapers Foster Early Literacy Through STEM

BEL AIR, Md. (WJZ)—Libraries are in the business of loaning books, entertainment and digital items. But now Harford County is putting together special plastic boxes filled with science materials that will teach preschoolers and keep their parents happy.

Mike Schuh reports what's happening at the library could change lives.

This is a kind of science class for toddlers like Makenna Wiechert.

"She will be 2 April 11," said Melissa Wiechert, mom.

Toddlers? Preschoolers? It begs the question: doesn't that seem a bit early?

"Well it's not because science is all around you," said Mary Hastler, Harford County library director. "You can learn as soon as you're born because it's the world around you, the interaction with mom and dad and your caregiver."

A balloon demonstration gives a closer look at what they're calling Little Leapers.

"Little Leapers is STEM meets early literacy at the library, and STEM is science, technology, engineering and math," Hastler said.

Here's how it works. The library has 117 boxes packed with science stuff, 10 themes from chemistry to botany.

"These Little Leapers are about $200 a piece," said Amber Shrodes, Library Foundation.

So, the parents check out the box, bring it home, and then mom, dad, brother, sister, grandparents, babysitter, whoever, plays with the toddler.

But they know no matter how cool the kit is, kids this age will soon tire of it.

"And then you can return it back to the library and check out a new one," Shrodes said. "You're not out the 200 bucks. And if you think about it, by the time you go through all 10 kits you'd be out $2,000."

It's an idea Wiechert endorses.

"Well, being almost 2, you are always trying to find ways to entertain her. You kind of run out of things to do, but you want to keep it educational too," Wiechert said.

This is the only one-of-its-kind program in the country.

Anyone with a Maryland library card can register with Harford County and get one of those Little Leapers kits.

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