The Adler Planetarium and Chicago Public Library (CPL) collaborated to build capacity within each organization to engage Chicago students with STEM topics, specifically focusing on telescope observing of the daytime and nighttime sky. The outcomes we intended were the following:
- development of a teen telescope facilitator training program,
- identification of a network of Chicago Public Library locations to host future telescope observing events, and
- increasing availability of telescopes, astronomy, and maker resources at CPL branches.
On February 18, 2015, Adler Planetarium hosted more than 25 CPL teen program and library program facilitation staff for a workshop about light, color, optics, and telescopes. The goal of the workshop was for CPL staff to work with and identify educational resources they would like to see in a kit of materials to be available for branches to check out from the main Harold Washington library; this kit will be useful for library staff to facilitate astronomy and telescope-related programming, especially on or around times when Adler Planetarium staff might bring telescopes for Scopes in the City telescope outreach events. The kits were assembled and distributed to CPL staff in May 2015.
Next, Adler Planetarium staff have developed a new telescope training program that will be used in future programs to train teens to operate and facilitate telescopes. This program was piloted in March 2015 and will continue to be refined.
Thirdly, Adler staff are assembled a complete list of all CPL locations that are suitable for telescope observations of the daytime or nighttime sky. Adler staff surveyed all 81 CPL branch locations; of the 81 available branches, 60 were determined to be suitable for sky observing during at least some portion of the year.
One additional exciting outcome was for the team to pilot two telescope observing events at Chicago Public Library sites. These events were held at two CPL sites, Sulzer Regional Library (April 27; rescheduled from March 26 due to weather) and Albany Park Library (April 28). Adler Planetarium staff and volunteers brought 1-2 telescopes to these locations, and community members were invited to stop by and check out the sky through a telescope. In total, 91 people attended both events.
The Adler and CPL staff teams look forward to continued collaboration! Additional organizational impact has already been noted:
- Adler and CPL staff were so encouraged by the results of both pilot observing events that many more have been scheduled at other CPL locations throughout Chicago during the rest of 2015. Adler Planetarium staff have scheduled a total of 12 ‘Scopes in the City telescope outreach events at library locations in 2015. More are expected in 2016 and beyond.
- In summer 2015, Adler Planetarium and CPL staff planned several events at library branches whereby Adler staff and teen interns brought activities to facilitate with library teens and patrons.
Adler and Chicago Public Library staff look forward to continued collaboration!