When Reed Dyer walked into Cape Elizabeth’s Thomas Memorial Library he couldn’t miss the Cornerstones Orion StarBlast Telescope that was on display at the circulation desk. Dyer was intrigued, and a little intimidated. A self-proclaimed library junky and father of a nine-year-old, he admits to hitting the library weekly for books. This time he wondered if his family would get excited about stargazing.
“I didn’t really know much about telescopes,” says Dyer, “but the folks at the library were really supportive.” When he decided to borrow the telescope for a whole week while his family rented a summer camp up north, the library helped accommodate his request by reserving an additional day for the normally one-week library loan.
“The first night we used it, we quickly discovered that it was fun to play around with,” says Dyer. The next day, while his son and cousins were off playing in the lake, Dyer dug into the telescope instructions, learning how focus, to zoom, and discovering that telescopes can be used in the daytime too.
“Once I read the instructions, it was pretty easy to figure out,” says Dyer. One of the big surprises was that telescopes are good for more than stargazing – they work for wildlife viewing and host of other activities. The family set up the telescope on the front porch of their camp and kept it there all week for members of the extended family to enjoy.
In the end, Dyer and his family made use of the telescope in the daytime more than at night. They watched loons, a great blue heron – they observed the moon, which was prominent during daylight hours.
The experience was so rewarding that the family is committed to borrowing the telescope again.
“I’m excited to sign the telescope out when the skies get darker much earlier,” says Dyer. “We’re excited to give it another try.”
Meeting the Demand for Hands-On Learning
At Thomas Memorial Library, Janie Downey Maxwell, who runs adult programming, worked with Cornerstone of Science to bring in the telescope and backpack programs (the bright orange backpack includes a night sky binocular kit).
“We have the telescope and night sky binocular kit prominently displayed at the library entrance and last summer we backed it up with books, magazines, star charts, and a space-themed reading program,” says Downey Maxwell. These two programs offer great hands-on learning opportunities for our community, and there is strong demand. In the first year, the library checked out the telescope for 41 out of 52 weeks.
“There’s a bit of trepidation at the beginning when people are getting ready to take out the telescope, but by the time they bring it back, they’re much more comfortable with it and realize it’s not something scary,” explains Downey Maxwell.
Thomas Memorial Library offers a wide range of science related programs. The library partnered with the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust on a Tide Pools at Kettle Cove program; they contracted with the Maine Wildlife Center to bring in eight live animal educational programs this year; they offer a monthly wildlife series, and they host professors and researchers for talks and lectures on a wide range of topics from lichen, to whales, to birds.
The Cornerstones Telescope is part of Thomas Memorial Library’s effort to encompass all sorts of learning opportunities for library patrons of all ages. “Libraries are supposed to be conveners and providers or all areas of knowledge. We have always had books about science and technology, and now we’re excited to offer the telescope and backpack,” says Library Director Kyle Neugebauer. These kinds of hands-on offerings are just one way that libraries can engage communities in science learning.
How to get a Cornerstones Telescope
Cornerstones will train libraries in use of the telescope and other products and services that they offer. If you’re interested in bringing STEM literacy tools, such as telescopes, science trunks, and night sky binocular kits into your library, just click here! You can also give Cornerstones a call: 207-208-8975; or contact us here.