Carroll library's space series takes off

Elementary students targeted

science program picked up in Baltimore, Calvert County

November 09, 2006|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun Reporter

When a group of Carroll County librarians launched the Aha! Science at Your Library series last fall, they were driven by a desire to encourage science literacy among young children.

More than a year later, the program has mushroomed into lessons focusing on the workings of the Earth, planets and solar system - and has even spilled over into other branches and surrounding areas.

Now Carroll County children can learn about the universe through American Indian stories in the SkyTellers series, help determine where astronauts should land on the dark side of the moon in the Explorer program and discover the volcanoes on Jupiter's moons in the new program Heat from Within next year.

"It's been highly successful," said Jackie Sollers, manager of the Eldersburg library branch, where the Aha! Science program began.

Sollers said the idea for the lessons emerged from a conference she attended where a Harvard University professor spoke of how the United States was falling behind other countries in science literacy.

"He said that if we wanted to stay competitive ... we needed to focus on literacy, as in science and technology, and that libraries played a large role in that," Sollers said.

She and two other librarians decided to do something for preschoolers, first- and second-graders, she said. They received a $27,000 grant from the State Department of Education for Aha! Science last year.

"We just went from there," Sollers said. The librarians created hands-on activities to teach children about heat absorption, magnets and rockets.

The new programs - this fall's SkyTellers and Explorer, and Heat from Within, which starts in February - were created with training from the Houston-based Lunar and Planetary Institute, she said.

Eldersburg's Aha! Science has caught the attention of other librarians, including those in Baltimore City and Calvert County. During the summer, Sollers said, about 100 librarians came to the branch for training and left with a binder of lesson plans.

Next week, Enoch Pratt Free Library's children's services staff members will receive training during their monthly meeting, said Julie Dietzel-Glair, assistant children's services coordinator in Baltimore.

If the Pratt staff expresses interest in doing the lessons, Dietzel-Glair added, the library probably would find a way to support them.

Calvert County libraries started their own Aha! Science program in September after their Carroll counterparts trained them, said Pat Hofmann, the Calvert library director. Because children sometimes struggle with science, she said, the concept seemed an appropriate addition to the library's repertoire of children's programs.

All four branches in Calvert have hosted the monthly series, which is geared toward second- to fourth-graders. The sessions have been packed, Hofmann added.

"It's educational, and it's fun," she said.

It's also the kind of lesson libraries should teach, Sollers said.

"These are the kids that in 2020 are going to help send us to Mars," she said. "We do have a role in promoting literacy in other areas besides reading."

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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