SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - From Rowan Public Library: Have you ever looked up at the night sky and wondered what's out there? Watched objects streak across the sky and wondered what they are? Or are you simply looking for something free and fun to do on a Friday evening?
If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, then Rowan Public Library has the event for you! This Friday, RPL's South Rowan Regional branch, located at 920 Kimball Rd. in China Grove, is hosting "Stars, STEAM, & Fun!" from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The event is free, and all ages are welcome.
"Stars, STEAM, & Fun!" is part of the 2018 Statewide Star Party, which is sponsored by the N.C. Science Festival and made possible through the support of the N.C. Space Grant. South Rowan Regional is one of only six public libraries serving as host sites, and it's the first year that public libraries have been invited to do so. In total, there are 37 host sites across the State, including astronomy clubs, state and local parks, universities, planetariums, science centers, nature centers, and libraries that will host public sky-watching sessions on either Friday or Saturday. About 4,000 visitors and 200 STEM professionals and volunteers are expected to participate Statewide.
The Star Party has taken a lot of thought and careful planning, and RPL staff have been busy getting details sorted out. Book displays are going up throughout the branch, and the lobby display, "Is Anyone Out There?," will be available until April 30. "Is Anyone Out There?" features periodicals collected by the father of South's Children's Librarian Stephanie Reister that celebrate the 1969 Moon landing.
"We're excited. We had a great response to our programming around the solar eclipse last August," said Jennifer Nicholson, RPL Youth Services Supervisor, referring to the storytimes, educational programs, and viewing parties themed around the total eclipse. "It showed us that many of our patrons are interested in space and science, so we're hoping that they'll come out and enjoy the Star Party, too."
Night-sky watching is the prime focus of "Stars, STEAM, & Fun!," and after sunset, Horizons Unlimited staff will lead viewers in a tour of the night sky on the lawn of J. Fred Corriher Jr. YMCA (located across the parking lot from South). There will be long-range binoculars and spotting scopes available for viewers, too.
The fun begins promptly at 7:30 p.m. when South re-opens. "Apps for Night-Sky Watching" is a drop-in program that runs from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Bring your phone or other app-friendly e-device, download your apps of choice, and then try them out at the night-sky watching event or use Google Cardboard to get the virtual reality experience from your apps. While the program will focus on free apps, there may be costs associated with your app(s) of choice. All ages are welcome at this program.
From 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., visitors are invited to experience "Yoga Under the Stars" on South's lawn. This free class will be led by SoFul Yoga & Wellness of Salisbury staff. Participants are encouraged to bring a mat or towel for groundwork.
Throughout the evening, from 7:30 until 10:30, there will be a wide range of hands-on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) activities, informational displays, and even a face-painting booth for patrons to enjoy.
Statewide Star Party organizers provided all host sites with a kit that includes several activities based on the year's theme "Anyone Out There." "There are a lot of fun activities in the kit," said Laurie Lyda, South Rowan Regional branch supervisor. "The ice world exploration is one of my favorites." Staff have created small ice worlds that people can explore with magnifying glasses. "There are some fun surprises in a few of the worlds," she added.
There will also be learning stations that showcase RPL's growing collection of teachable technology. "RPL has received some STEAM-specific grants that have allowed us to add to the system's collection," Lyda explained. "We'll have some of those items here that evening for people to experiment with."
The learning stations will feature Ozobots (pocket-sized coding robots), Cubelets (modular robots), SquishyCircuits (conductive dough that teaches about electrical circuitry), Makey Makey (connect everyday objects to a computer program – for example, make a banana play music), and more.
"We hope that we'll have something for everyone," Lyda said. "This type of event can spark people's imaginations and encourage them to seek out knowledge – to learn, to grow."
"The Statewide Star Party is such a unique event," said Melissa Oleen, RPL Library Services Manager. "I hope the community will really enjoy it."
During "Stars, STEAM, & Fun!," all branch services will be available, including South's computer labs and circulation, so patrons are welcome to browse the collection, check out items, and work on the public computers, just as they would during normal operating hours. South returns to regular business hours on Saturday, April 21, and will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
After April 20, RPL has two more events scheduled that are also part of the N.C. Science Festival:
Celebrate Earth Day, Lorax-style, on Saturday, April 21. Headquarters, located at 201 W. Fisher St. in Salisbury, will host "Hats off to you, Earth!" Crafts and activities begin at 10 a.m., with a showing of The Lorax (PG, 95 min.) at 11 a.m. This program is recommended for children 5-11 years old, though all children are welcome.
It's time for a "Legos and Robots Party" on Saturday, April 28, at Headquarters (Salisbury) from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. This hands-on program features activities with RPL's newly acquired Lego We Do 2.0, Dash Robot, and Cubelets. This program is recommended for ages 5-11, though all children are welcome.