Science Programming 101: Presenting Excellent Science Programs in Your Library

Editor’s Note: In case you missed it, this week we’re featuring blog posts on ALA Annual Conference programs. This entry focuses “Science Programming 101: Presenting Excellent Science Programs in Your Library,” where attendees learned how to create exciting, hands-on science programs for children and young adults from representatives of the National Center for Interactive Learning/Space Science Institute and the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

Does your library have access to paper plates and colorful crepe paper? If so, you have the necessary tools for children to create a wind vane to observe how our outdoor environment is constantly changing.

At Sunday afternoon’s Science Programming 101 session in New Orleans, attendees participated in hands-on activities to investigate aspects of wind, clouds, and rain, and began to see how local weather relates to broader Earth systems. The interactive session was a sneak peek into the full activity module the Lunar and Planetary Institute is developing to support the exploration of Earth science in public libraries. The final module will include activity ideas for children, youth, and families; material guides; step-by-step instructions; and resource lists. Program leader Keliann LaConte, of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, said the activities are “designed for you to take to your communities and to use as you see fit.” Once the activity module is finalized, it will be made available online for you to use in your library.

Session leaders also discussed Discover Earth: A Century of Change, a new, interactive traveling exhibition for public libraries, made possible by the National Science Foundation. The Discover Earth exhibition will focus on local Earth science topics—such as weather, water cycle, and ecosystem changes—as well as offer a global view of our planet. Ten public libraries will be selected to host the exhibit and receive a $1,000 grant to support public programs related to exhibition themes. Learn more or apply.

The Discover Earth exhibition and its educational support materials and outreach opportunities are all part of the STAR (Science-Technology Activities and Resources) Library Education Network (STAR_Net), a hands-on learning program for libraries and their communities. Even if your library does not display the traveling exhibition, you will have access to the exciting activities described above, as well as a host of other resources and outreach possibilities provided by the National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute, the Lunar and Planetary Institute, the National Girls Collaborative Project, and the American Library Association Public Programs Office.

All libraries are also encouraged to join the project’s online Community of Practice (CoP). CoP is open to librarians, scientists, engineers, educators, and others who want to provide and support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning in libraries. CoP is an innovative new forum for members to share resources, form programming partnerships, foster continued learning and professional development, and, most importantly, facilitate effective STEM learning experiences in libraries.

Paul Dusenbery of the National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute said it best, “Our earth is an amazing system. There are so many ways to engage in learning about our planet.” Sunday’s session highlighted a number of ways for public libraries to delve into science education. Additional helpful project resources will be made available online soon—be sure to sign up for the online Community of Practice. Also, for additional information or to offer feedback, please leave a comment below or send a message to Jennifer Dominiak at