A photo of a young girl in an astronaut helmet getting a chance to explore a variety of science topics in a hands-on environment.

The Science Saturday Program

The Science Saturday Program at the Ruth Camp Campbell Memorial Branch of the Blackwater Regional Library began in September 2004. The program was initiated to give schoolchildren a chance to explore a variety of science topics in a hands-on environment.

Now in its third year, Science Saturday has evolved from a children’s program to a family program. The community support has been exceptional; a majority of the presenters have been volunteers. The concept of the program is to choose a science topic, find a knowledgeable presenter, and have an art project to reinforce the concepts learned during the presentation. Local experts on bats, birds, astronomy, archeology, rivers, miniature horses, bees and honey, snakes, fish, trees, and swine have given enjoyable and interesting talks complete with live animals, videos, and handouts. All of the programs have had a high level of audience participation.

Chemical engineers from Hercules Incorporated/Eastman Chemical Company led a “Fun with Chemistry” demonstration. Substances were tested to see if they were acids or bases, and minirockets were launched. The children were able to practice predicting, observing, testing, and adjusting their hypotheses. The National Weather Service in Wakefield showed footage of actual storms and taught participants how to be safe if caught in bad weather. An SPSA (Southeastern Public Service Authority) representative taught the importance of “Recycling, Reusing, and Reducing.” Birdfeeders were made from two-liter soda bottles, and sun catchers were created from discarded CDs. David Wright from Tidewater Community College gave a dynamic presentation, “Physics is Phun.” He had exploding Twinkies, singing water goblets, and a bed of nails, among other demonstrations. Specialists from the Department of Forestry and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries enlightened participants about trees and fish.

Two highly attended programs were the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center’s “Ocean in Motion” and NASA Langley Research Center Aerospace Education Service’s “Living and Working in Space.” After a presentation about habitats, conservation, and food chains, participants visited mobile touch tanks and an aquarium truck provided by the Marine Science Center. NASA offered a slide show of past, present, and future space travel vehicles and demonstrated how astronauts work, eat, sleep, and play in space.

A photo of a young girl with a beaker full of dark liquid getting a chance to explore a variety of science topics in a hands-on environment.

The benefits of this program have been numerous and varied. The children (and adults) have been given opportunities to explore several science topics and to meet people dedicated to science and education. The topics range from the accessible, such as plants and horses, to the inspirational, such as space and oceans. It has been exciting to see the interaction between science professionals and eager, curious children. It is gratifying to have the community and educators so willing to donate their time and talents to the Science Saturday program.

Children’s Garden Project

The Children’s Garden Project was initiated in March 2005. Created to inspire the long-term involvement of young library patrons, the garden is a joint effort between the Ruth Camp Campbell Memorial Library Branch of the Blackwater Regional Library, the City of Franklin Public Works Department, and the local Boys and Girls Club. The library provides the garden site, resources, and guidance. The Public Works Department prepared the site and has supplied topsoil, compost, and mulch. The Boys and Girls Club supplies the labor needed to plan, plant, and maintain the garden.

Now in its third year, the garden project is thriving. The children have been involved in all aspects of the garden, including deciding what to plant, weeding and maintaining the garden, harvesting the produce, and making accessories to beautify the garden area. A team of children from the Boys and Girls Club, ranging in age from five to seventeen, meet at the garden weekly.

Photograph of the library garden site for The Children’s Garden Project in March 2005.

While planting, the children compare seed sizes, study how deep to plant, and note length of time until germination. They keep a journal to note progress and problems as they arise. The garden has evolved into an outdoor classroom where subjects such as weather, insects, wildlife, birds, and art have been introduced.

The younger children have made decorative stepping stones and birdhouses to enhance the garden. The first year, teens built rustic trellises on which to grow cucumbers, pole beans, and other climbing plants. This project allowed the teens to learn basic woodworking skills, safe tool usage, and teamwork. To reinforce their new skills, the teens built an Adirondack-style garden bench the following year.

Plans for this year include planting a climbing vine on an arbor; making mosaic gazing balls; and planting a red, white, and blue garden to join gardeners across Virginia in commemorating the 400th Jamestown anniversary. The garden project continues to be enjoyed and supported by the community, the Friends of the Library, library staff, and the Boys and Girls Club. VL

Diana Devore is youth services coordinator at the Ruth Camp Campbell Memorial Library Branch of Blackwater Regional Library in Franklin, Virginia. She can be reached at ddevore@blackwaterlib.org .