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A special filter blocks 99 percent of the light, enabling the gazer to see the sun.

This week the Valley of the Tetons libraries began working with an educational program sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA.

The program is called “NASA @ My Library,” and is run by the Space Science Institute and the nonprofit Starnet, based in Boulder, Colorado.

“There are 17,000 libraries across the country, and three got chosen,” said Anne Holland, the public engagement manager at the Space Science Institute, the organization helping to run NASA @ My Library. “These three that were chosen to be pilot sites are helping us to develop that programming for the other locations.”

The Valley of the Tetons library system was chosen thanks to outreach by Driggs Librarian Susie Blair.

“She definitely called both my cell and my office number asking how this library could get involved,” explained Holland with a laugh. “The harassment paid off.”

The first project the libraries and Starnet will undertake is programming for next summer’s solar eclipse, including educational activities and resources, like distinguishing between an eclipse and the phases of the moon.

“Typically when you ask a crowded room of people how an eclipse happens they explain the phases of the moon and vice versa,” Holland explained. “Everyone has the idea that it’s just shadows moving across bodies. That’s true of an eclipse. But with the phases of the moon, half the moon is always lit up, but we can only see part of it. If you can create a model of the night time sky, and have kids or adults act that out, they get a much clearer picture of what’s happening around them.”

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The view of the sun through the telescope: see the sun spot in the top left corner?

NASA @ My library has a much larger focus than just the 2017 solar eclipse.

“The idea is we are trying to bring NASA science mission directorate information to libraries across the country,” said Holland. “Valley of the Tetons will be helping us develop programming around the different NASA directorates, like the helio-physics directorate, some things that don’t get talked about in libraries very much.”

The programming will be far from dry and academic.

“It’s definitely playing,” said Holland. “Sneaking the science into the fun stuff libraries are already doing… with a NASA spin on it.”

Playing with NASA sponsored projects and toys isn’t just for kids, and Starnet is hoping to engage anyone with an interest in science.

“One of the reasons we do library programs is it hits the kids, it hits the adults and under-served audiences that can’t make it to that science center or don’t have that college education,” said Holland.

This includes recognizing the science already being done in the area.

“A lot of people do science in their day to day jobs and don’t even recognize it as such,” said Holland. “A good example are farmers, who use GPS technology to monitor their crops. Those GPS satellites are controlled by NASA and run by NASA.”

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Miguel Martinez (8) and his brother, Alan (13) look at sunspots thanks to equipment provided by Starnet and NASA at my library

There are several STEM (which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related initiatives at the library for the new program to work with.

“Many of the things that we are already doing can be given a NASA twist,” said Maker Space Librarian Tucker Tyler. “We have done GPS, we have made our own GPS devices that you can use in the field to find your location. We have talked about those satellites, we’ve even talked about putting up our own satellite.”

Although short of launching satellites, the library hosts weekly activities for curious minds to explore coding, electronics and robotics.

One of these is Tech Time.

“It used to be called tech club, but I guess club was making people think it was exclusive,” said Tyler. “We focus on a different component every week, so it could be speakers one week, LEDs the next week, it could be temperature sensors, we have a lot of different options.”

Visitors are welcome to come and learn at any of the weekly sessions, Wednesdays in the Driggs location and Tuesdays in the Victor location. Other programming includes “Girls who Code” which starts at 3:30 on Thursdays, and Open Build time, which starts at 5:30 on Thursdays in Driggs.

To get in touch with the Tyler and the tech scene at valley libraries, contact makerspace@valleyofthetetons.org.

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