Space-themed Programs Presentation at ARSL conference

By Hannah Stewart

The Association for Rural and Small Libraries’ annual conference in St. George, Utah (September 7-9, 2017) was an amazing training opportunity.  Keliann LaConte (Professional Development Manager for the National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado) and I, Hannah Stewart (Youth Services Manager for the Yuma County Library District in Yuma, Arizona), were able to provide a session on low-budget space-themed programs, entitled “Out-of-this-World Programs on a Down-to-Earth Budget.” Keliann focused on STAR_Net resources and programs.  I provided extra program ideas, a handout with free resources, and a hands-on activity. I also talked about the technological journey that the Yuma County Library District has taken over the last several years.

We provided hands-on experiences like Sensory Moon Sand made of cornstarch, fine play sand, food coloring, and water.  The participants were told they could make the sand in different ways and dye it different colors to simulate the soils that could be found on planets near and far.  We also let participants explore how craters are made on the moon by covering cocoa powder with flour in a container and then dropping rocks in to make the dark, moon-like craters.

We discussed using basic supplies, such as pushing colored pencils through freezer bags full of water to explain the basics of plastic polymers and how their flexibility allows the pencils to slide between the chains of polymer molecules that make up the bag without bursting it.

At the end, we offered a handout that featured all the resources and concepts we discussed plus additional websites and ideas.

Keliann LaConte and I also hosted a STAR_Net booth to promote the free educational resources they provide to libraries.  The booth visitors were encouraged to try out space apps, look through a telescope, and take home free materials.

We delivered space-themed ideas, particularly the 2019 Summer Reading Program, “A Universe of Stories.”  That summer will feature a celebration of the 50th anniversary of NASA putting the first man on the moon.

It was a pleasure to have the chance to present this session to the attending library professionals.  It would not have been possible without the generosity of the Arizona State Library.


Hannah Stewart is Youth Services Manager for the Yuma County Library District.

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