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Girl Scout creates interactive STEAM learning centre for younger students in Loudon

Annabella Sarver spent the summer working on the centre and even earned the Gold Award, the highest achievement award you can earn as a Girl Scout.

LOUDON, Tenn. — The Loudon Public Library has a new addition to its children's section, and that's thanks to Arabella Sarver.

"Arabella has always been an inspiration, even when I first met her," said Kate Clabough, Director of Loudon Public Library.

During the pandemic, Sarver approached Clabough with an idea to create the interactive centre.

"We put our heads together and came up with this great, compact, but full of information centre that kids can come and work at, and then we can put it away so that we can do other things in this rather small space," Clabough said.

Sarver was motivated by her desire to change the world- starting with closing the education gap.

"This centre was to address the growing disparity between underserved communities such as Loudon and schoolchildren, particularly in the education areas of STEAM, which is science, technology, engineering, art, and math," Sarver said.

The interactive centre is comprised of five boards. These boards are in the corner of the children's area in the library. They had to get creative. 

"Our children's department isn't very large," Clabough said.

The original idea was to have a STEAM wall; however, the library does not have any open walls. Nearly every inch of the inner walls is covered in books or windows. 

"It forces you to confront new ideas and challenge your ways of thinking," Sarver said.

Once they came up with the concept, Sarver researched the best tools to put onto the boards. She wanted to make it accessible, interactive, and fun for the students.

Sarver said she chose to do the project in Loudon Public Library because she spent a lot of time in libraries growing up. Her mom worked in one and Sarver always saw other kids.

"A lot of times you have parents who are working 12-hour shifts in factories, and the library is a safe place for children youth to be dropped off and almost minded," Sarver said.

Especially in places where child care isn't affordable for some families.

"I've grown up in a town where high poverty rates and low education rates have severely impacted the social climate," Sarver said.

Sarver doesn't want any student to lose out on educational opportunities because of financial or socioeconomic limitations.

"Growing up as someone who wouldn't be where I am today, without people who have given me just a chance, I wanted to be that for someone else," Sarver said.

As for the Sarver STEAM Interactive Centre, it's getting a lot of use.

Clabough is at the library on a daily basis. She has gotten to see how the kids react to the boards.

"First they kind of look at it from the side and kind of check it out. And then we roll them out. And then they're all over it," Clabough said.

"If they're going to be here. Let's serve them where they are and meet them where they are," Sarver said. 

Sarver is a Juliette Girl Scout. This means she is not a part of a troop; instead, she acts independently through the Girl Scout program with the guidance of a caregiver or another adult mentor. 

Her work on the Sarver STEAM Centre earned her the Gold Award, the highest achievement a Girl Scout can earn.

Sarver said she has been a Girl Scout since the 'Daisy years.'

"Especially growing up in a town where there isn't much positive female representation, getting to see those leaders in a female-made for a female-led community group that's just empowered me a lot," Sarver said.