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Unit Six
Fostering Engaging ISL Discussions

The Pushing the Limits programs are unique opportunities to bring people together for exploration and sharing. The videos and books introduce plenty of exciting topics for consideration, and your community members will have interesting thoughts and experiences to share. Effective facilitation is crucial to creating and sustaining an engaging discussion. 

To build your facilitation skills, in this unit you will:

    • See examples of some of the engaging program discussions that have occurred in libraries when they offered the program series


    • Learn strategies to foster informal STEM learning, including different facilitation techniques that you and your science partner can use to promote inquiry and rich program discussions


  • Have an opportunity to apply facilitation techniques to handle difficult situations that may emerge during program discussions

Each program in the Pushing the Limits series has been designed to be a 60-minute event, but a longer program is certainly possible. Many libraries have found that a 90-minute program works well. You should determine the best program length, based on your own experience with — and knowledge of — your community.

    • Download the PDF or the customizable MS Word version of Planning Your Program Format to see suggestions for sequencing activities during a 60-minute or 90-minute program. arrows


  • After taking a few minutes to review the different program format options, the next video will give you some tips for planning that will support your program’s success.
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Unit Six, Video One
Consider Your Community’s Interests and Needs


There are several ways to prepare for each program event. Some of the ideas discussed in this next video will be useful.

Unit Six, Video Two
Advance Program Preparation



During the program, your science partner will likely take the lead role in introducing initial questions and providing a science context for the discussion as it unfolds.

You can work with your science partner to co-facilitate the discussion. Many of you have probably facilitated popular book discussions or film showings, and this situation will be similar, but with a focus on STEM topics and issues. Your knowledge of your community and library patrons will also be an important asset to the success of the programs.

  • Before watching the next video, download Strategies to Promote Program Discussions. As you watch the video, see how many of these strategies you see in action.arrow icons
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Unit Six, Video Three
Discussion Strategies


Review the Strategies to Promote Program Discussions document — which of those strategies did you see in the preceding clips?

  • The next video presents more sample program discussions. Watch the video and identify additional strategies in practice.

Unit Six, Video Four
Additional Discussion Strategies

You’ve now seen many clips of the program discussions in action. Consider:

    • Did you see how the questions that the science partners and librarians posed were open-ended to encourage conversation and interaction among the program participants?


    • Did you notice if follow-up questions were used to promote expanded discussion of an idea?


    • Were there examples of the science partner and librarian listening attentively to the conversation to acknowledge the contributions of each participant?


    • Did you note how the science partner provided a quick summary of a participant’s comments or connected an idea to everyday situations to make it relevant and more understandable?


  • Did you notice how the science partner made sure that no single person dominated the discussion and kept the focus of the discussion on the program theme?

All of these best practices can help you co-facilitate discussions in your library.

Review Strategies to Promote Program Discussions once again. Do you have other thoughts to add that will make your library discussions engaging? Jot down those ideas to share later in the Community of Practice.

Consider sharing this handout with your science partner as you prepare for your programs.

This is also a good time to review the suggested discussion questions created for each program. If you have not downloaded them from the Public Program Resources page, you can get them here.

Your science partner will be asked to download these same questions from each of the Program Unit pages, so as you go over your program plans, you can decide together how to co-facilitate the programs.

After each program, you should spend a few minutes with your science partner to discuss what seemed to work particularly well and what might be changed to improve the upcoming programs. Remember that the outcomes and objectives you identified in your Marketing and Communications Plan will yield useful information that can contribute to these discussions with your science partner.


We’ve probably all been in discussions that somehow go astray or even become contentious. No matter how prepared we feel, difficult situations might crop up in our program discussions. Let’s consider some tips for handling tough situations.

    • Download Handling Difficult Situations as a Facilitator and take a few moments to note any concerns you have about your role as a facilitator. arrow icons


  • Later, you’ll have a chance to share discussion scenarios and to work with your peers to apply some of these ideas.
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Unit Six, Video Five
Discussion Scenarios


    • Take a few minutes to jot down any concerns or challenges you think you may face in your role as a facilitator.


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