As a NASA @ My Library grant recipient, Cumberland County Public Library & Information Center receives STEM kits, technology, and resources to share with our community. Our role as a NASA @ My Library Partner aligns with our mission, “the library opens windows to the world by encouraging expression, enlightenment, and exploration,” with NASA @ My Library’s goal to strengthen STEM learning opportunities for library patrons in underserved areas. Our Youth Services Leadership team, composed of professional librarians from all eight public library locations, has already met to review grant requirements, collaborate on programming initiatives, and to coordinate these NASA-related STEM programs through system-wide planning.
Our public library’s partnership with Fascinate-U Children’s Museum will offer opportunities for museum and public library collaboration through STEM programming. Our staff will partner with a local Title One public elementary school, with a high percentage of minority students and the county’s only elementary school with self-contained classrooms of children with hearing disabilities, to share NASA resources. The Cape Fear Botanical Garden also serves as a valuable partner in this initiative; library staff presented stories during the botanical garden’s Star Party this spring.
Community collaboration remains central to our third goal within our long range plan, “the library will provide customers with opportunities and experiences that explore and support diversity in the community” through offering inclusive, multicultural programs for all ages. Our library plans to host a community forum on space and STEM-related occupations with support from the Raleigh Astronomy Club through the Night Sky Network. The NASA Solar System Ambassador program has already provided substantial support to create successful public library space programming. Numerous space programs will build interest until our high-profile Eclipse Explorer Celebration scheduled for August 21st during the solar eclipse.
Eclipse Explorer Celebration will combine engaging books and interactive activities to recognize the solar eclipse and encourage families to discover, explore and create as they imagine space’s endless possibilities. Our free eclipse glasses, provided through funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Research Corporation for Science Advancement, and Google, will help our families experience these programs together.
The public library also plans to host series of interactive programs during the 2017-2018 school year and beyond to encourage young students on their path to scientific discovery. This series of Learning Lab programs will utilize NASA @ My Library resources, coding kits, and engineering blocks to encourage students from all backgrounds to consider careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These programs will target students from underserved communities, including the Boys & Girls Club, to explore and discover through new technology.
How will this NASA @ My Library partnership benefit our young customers? One staffer remarked, “The children in our area enjoyed my monthly Tween STEM Challenge series, which features rotating topics based on their suggestions and interest level. I have hosted popular computer coding programs, astronomy programs, and recycling programs . . . community interest has grown, too. I have introduced children as young as five-years-old to computer coding, been told by a pre-teen girl that she was proud to learn that she could code just as well as the boys, solved engineering challenges with children from ages four to fourteen, and helped eager children learn how to use a planisphere in time for World Space Week.”
We are excited to hear more success stories such as this as we continue our work as a NASA @ My Library partner. How do you incorporate STEM into your programming for your community? Please share in the comments below!