Sep. 23—WILLIMANTIC — A new partnership with NASA at the Willimantic Public Library continues to gain STEAM, as in the educational acronym being thrown about in educational circles.
As schools across the country continue to expand their focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), the library is bringing new STEAM programming to the library.
One new initiative is the library's involvement in NASA@ My Library, a program designed to increase opportunities for library patrons to learn about the STEAM fields.
The library was one of only 60 libraries in the country to be selected to participate in the program and the only library in the state, according to the library.
"There's just a lot of interest in space right now, so we really want to capitalize on that and foster the interests of our Willimantic residents," Willimantic Public Library Director Daniel Paquette said.
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The program is for people living in the Windham villages and Willimantic.
The new program is provided through the National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute, in partnership with the American Library Association Public Programs Office; the Lunar and Planetary Institute, which is managed by the Universities Space Research Association; and the Education Development Center, a nonprofit organization.
Paquette spoke of the recent news about space, including news about billionaires who want to go to space and Virgin Galactic, a spaceflight company founded by Richard Branson and his British Virgin Group.
Virgin Galactic is developing commercial spacecraft with the goal of sending tourists to space.
Paquette said space is a topic of interest, noting there are missions to Mars planned and unmanned rovers are sending back photos of the red planet.
Through the initiative, staff members will receive training and resources to implement programs, access to a university Subject Matter Expert ( SME) to support patron engagement and $ 1,600 for programming expenses.
Program topics will include the next generation space telescope launch later this fall and the first telescope images in the spring.
NASA is planning to launch the space telescope Oct. 31.
Willimantic Public Library Youth Services Librarian Frances McGrath, who helped write the grant application, will help coordinate programming, publicity and events.
Lisa Clymer, a technical assistant in the youth services department, will serve as project director.
Paquette said Clymer has been passionate about space for a long time.
"Both McGrath and Clymer are absolutely thrilled by the possibilities presented by NASA STEAM programming and activities and cannot wait to share with the community their excitement and passion for the story, science and adventure of NASA's scientific explorations," he wrote. Paquette said staff have spoken to Natchaug Elementary School and Eastern Connecticut State University about programming and plan to work with other schools as well.
He said the library's NASA programs will help " tie into" curriculum at the schools.
" We're definitely coordinating with the schools, but we will try to have all- ages programming," Paquette said.
The library is also in the process of creating a " maker space," a place where people with shared interests in STEAM can work on projects together.
That project is funded using $ 8,000 from the Pageau Trust.
The " maker space" will include a sewing machine donated by Schiller's Sewing Circle in Willimantic and robotics.
" It's really going to be fun and exciting and a fun way for students to get handson experience, putting what they're learning in class into action," Paquette said.
More information about NASA@ MyLibrary will be available in the future on the library website, www. willimanticlibrary. org.
Follow Michelle Warren on Twitter — @mwarrentc.