Kids explore the creatures and stars of the night sky at the Jamestown Library

aheymann@vagazette.com

A NASA employee, flying squirrel and elementary school student walk into the Jamestown Library. While it could be the opening line of a joke, it was the scene at the library’s STEAM at Night: Exploring the Night Sky.

Families gazed at the stars, met nocturnal creatures, painted black light pictures and participated in other STEAM-related activities Saturday evening.

“It’s kind of fun to have the library open at night for special activities, and I think the families that come seem to enjoy that, too,” said Melissa Simpson, adult services director at the Jamestown Library.

Simpson said she thinks because STEAM Saturdays are fun, it makes science and math more accessible to children.

“So you go and you go do something that is sort of science-based but fun — so maybe then you think ‘I had a good time when I went to the library and I saw some interesting things,’ and then as you start going through school, you learn more about it,” Simpson said.

One particularly popular activity, according to Simpson, was the nocturnal animals presentation given by the Virginia Living Museum. At this show and tell, guests were able to see a skunk, bat, flying squirrel, owl and tree frog up close.

Looking into the bat’s box, one child exclaimed “There’s poop!” with a mixture of disgust and excitement.

“Yep, that’s called guano,” the presenter from VLM said. “You poop too, every day. You should tell your parents if you don’t.”

Children were eager to go stargazing with the Skywatchers Club from NASA Langley. Members of the club brought along their telescopes to show people the moon, star clusters and other celestial objects.

Simpson said this was the first time a group from NASA has collaborated with the library for STEAM Saturdays. Paul Tartabini, president of the Skywatchers Club, said the group came out in November to scout out the library and find the best place to set up telescopes.

Tartabini said the club does a lot of events with the public and he thought the evening at the library was successful. His favorite part of the night was seeing the children's reactions

“It’s always rewarding with the kids when they see something and you know they saw it because sometimes they’re looking and it hasn’t quite clicked and all of the sudden ‘oh yeah!’ ” Tartabini said.

“I was standing here watching when people came in from outside and there was a lot of excitement,” Simpson said. “There were little kids, like young elementary kids, who were coming back with their parents saying ‘I saw stars!’ It was really exciting.”

One family that came for the stargazing was Gregg Aldape, Julie Strongson-Aldape and their two children. They said they come to the event because had recently purchased a telescope.

“We thought we’d come out and see how to (operate) it from the people who are good at it,” Aldape said. “We’ll definitely be coming back out (to STEAM Saturdays).”

Want to attend?

The next STEAM Saturday is Critters and Crawlers on Feb. 24. To learn more about this and other future STEAM Saturday events, visit wrl.org/steam-saturdays.

For more information on the Skywatchers Club, visit larc-exchange.larc.nasa.gov/skywatchers/.

Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.

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