‘EPL on the Fly!’ summer initiative provides educational, creative youth programming


Photo courtesy of Brian Wilson

As part of Evanston Public Library’s youth summer engagement programming, children can work on arts and crafts and learn STEM concepts with “EPL on the Fly!” Alt Text: Children gathered at a table use fruits and vegetables to make designs.

Astry Rodriguez, Reporter

Evanston Public Library’s “EPL on the Fly!” initiative is hosting drop-in summer programming for children’s engagement and learning by bringing library resources to underrepresented communities.

Engagement librarians supervise STEM-related activities for children to outdoor locations every week on designated days, including James Park, Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, Mason Park and Dobson-Brummel Park. Children can make bottle rockets, learn engineering through marshmallows, craft CD color theory spinners and more. 

“This is our big effort to make the library more accessible … because we understand a library is more than four walls with a whole bunch of books in it,” Communications and Marketing Manager Jenette Sturges said. “It’s really a hub for connecting the whole community.”

Youth Engagement Librarian Laura Antolin, who leads the initiative’s activities, said she often chooses parks where there are free lunch programs to give access to families in the area with financial need. 

In addition to giving away free books and signing people up for library cards, Antolin brings do-it-yourself activities for all ages to also include smaller children. She said she plans activities up to eight weeks in advance as they require a lot of preparation.

At the events, children and families can also sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge, where they check out, read and log books for prizes. By encouraging continuous participation, Antolin said she can build relationships with the children she sees year round. 

“Families are always very grateful for the library being there (at the parks) and for something interesting being brought to their children,” Antolin said. 

“EPL on the Fly!” is part of the library’s yearly summer engagement initiative, through which the library travels to outdoor spaces where residents gather, including parks, beaches, block parties and festivals, Sturges said.

Sturges added that in the past few years, efforts like “EPL on the Fly!,” including hiring additional staff and providing culturally relevant books, have been created by the library to better reach the Latine and Black communities.

Children’s Librarian Kim Daufeldt helps run “EPL on the Fly!” events. For the last two weeks, Daufeldt has introduced a storytime segment before Antolin’s arts and crafts.

“That’s been really fun, we’ve had a few repeat families,” Daufeldt said. “The kids really get into the book.”

Antolin said this year she has introduced new activities like building a kaleidoscope and making bracelets using chopsticks and hair bands. 

Daufeldt said the activities also serve as fine motor skill training and are simple enough that families can recreate them at home.

The activities also allow children to learn STEM concepts like color theory and architectural engineering, which Antolin said is important for their development. She added that the programming helps children retain topics they learn in school. 

“It’s really great to do some foundational stuff for kids and get them to understand that when they’re building something, that’s a STEM activity,” Antolin said. “They’re trying to make something work and to build persistence and fight the giving up and running away.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @Astry_tpwk

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