Library program takes newcomers to new heights

High above our solar system – and the Evanston Public Library, for that matter – galaxies are merging.

They stream across deep space like children turned loose on a playground, advancing, retreating and eventually intertwining in an intergalactic game of tag.

At least that’s what appeared in colorful images on the overhead screen in the community room of the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., on a recent July morning.

Julieta Aguilera, a researcher in interactive and immersive visualization, and associate director of the Adler Planetarium’s Visualization Laboratory, explained how scientists were able to compress billions of years in the process using imagery.

“This is visualization,” she said. “It’s not a photograph. It’s a model that scientists have built for extra understanding.”

She included a picture of her office setting at the Adler Planetarium, where she is surrounded by other scientists.

Library staff worked in partnership with School District 65 this summer to introduce newcomer families to the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., and its resources.

About 50 youngsters, ranging from kindergarten age to middle school, participated in the sessions, the last one of which was held July 19.

Presentations from scientists such as Aguilera were a bonus, and drew from the library’s highly successful Jugando con la ciencia/Playing with Science program, held from 3 to 5 p.m. every other Saturday afternoon in the main library’s children department, where youngsters get to interact with top flight scientists.

Huong Banh, a teacher in the newcomer program, said the library sessions fit nicely with what she and other teachers were stressing in their classes at Oakton School, about the scientific method and how they might integrate science into their lives.

Mayra Bazan, 9, a student at Washington Elementary School, showed she grasped immediately the implications of one question that came up at the library class.

The students were asked about what a loss of electricity would mean to their lives.

At Bazan’s house, electricity is the force which motors the blender, which turns out delicious smoothies.

“If you didn’t have electricity you wouldn’t be able to use it,” Bazan volunteered.

Participants in the newcomer’s program came from a variety of countries, including a heavy concentration from Pakistan and the Mideast.

At the July 3 session, about “half the kids were missing because of Ramadan and the rituals surrounding that observance,” noted Banh.

The program mixed fun with instruction. At the first session, a scavenger hunt was held the to acquaint children with library staff and learn where important resources are located, said Daylily Alvarez, EPL’s community outreach librarian who worked with the school district on the program.

At that session too, many children received their first library card, she said.

Alvarez said Isabel Carerra, assistant librarian, was “amazing,” bringing in guests and giving the youngsters a sample of the Jugando con la ciencia/Playing with Science program she, Carerra, helped begin.

For the children, such awareness is “really important,” Alvarez said, because otherwise “they don’t see what scientists do, what role they play in society.”

For example, in Aguilera’s case, the youngsters go to see “she plays a very integral role,’’ in her job at the Adler Planetarium and also glimpsed “bits and pieces’’ of the possibility of science as a career.

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