While working as a science teacher in New Orleans, Todd Wackerman faced a common dilemma: lab materials are often outside the school’s budget. To help other educators facing a similar issue, Wackerman created the STEM Library Lab, an equipment share center for teachers. Now educators all over the greater New Orleans area have access to sensors, iron filings, electromagnets or plenty of other supplies they need to create cool and interactive in-class labs.
Annual membership to the STEM Library Lab provides teachers with access to over $120,000 in STEM classroom equipment. The current inventory includes everything from a 3D printer to a 4D animal cell model. Plenty of laboratory basics, including beakers, spring scales and test tubes, are also available. Plus, the STEM Library Lab team also offers support and training with the materials. Teachers can confidently demonstrate principles of static electricity with a Van de Graaff generator in class, without any shocking surprises.
In addition to equipment rental services, the STEM Library Lab team also provides support for teachers with lesson planning
and classroom management. They even launched a free store for teachers, which offers new and used classroom supplies to any teacher in any field.
Although it’s only been in operation for about a year and a half, the STEM Library Lab has already improved the teaching experience in many classrooms throughout the city. One high school chemistry teacher showed up to the lab for the first time, went wide-eyed from the amount of stuff available, and walked out with about $1,000 worth of labware he put into use the next day. Sometimes, educators return every week to borrow new equipment. “Honestly, I could give you exciting teacher stories all day,” says Wackerman.
Local businesses or other organizations who have materials to donate to the STEM Library Lab, or the free store for teachers, are welcome to get in touch.
Currently, getting the word out about the STEM Library Lab is the organization’s biggest goal. The lab is already partnered with over 20 area schools, but the team would like to increase this impact. On January 22, the lab hosted an awareness-raising event inviting the community to learn more about its lending library and resources, hoping to bring in even more schools. “Anyone in this city is one degree away from an educator who can benefit,” says Wackerman.