I'd like to tell you about a really neat event that happened at the Rural Libraries Conference in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada last month. (RLC is organized by Peace Library System, the area's cooperative system that has 42 public library members.) I was lucky enough to be invited to keynote the conference, so I got to experience the atmosphere and people of northwestern Canada for the first time -- a treat indeed!
Many multi-day conferences organize some sort of evening events to give attendees something to do and ways to network in the off hours. I thought this one that Peace put together (with the help of Grande Prairie's Children's Literature Roundtable) was really great. It was An Evening of Stargazing. It included star stories, astronomy info, great snacks, and real stargazing!
One of the conference's featured speakers was Joan Marie Galat, author of the award-wnning Dot to Dot in the Sky book series. These childrens' books combine sky science with star myths of ancient cultures, pointing out constellations and sharing stories of how past people explained them. Joan also spoke at the evening session, along with a local professor who was an amateur astronomy buff.
But let me set the stage. Everyone who wanted to attend was transported to Peace headquarters, which was set up beautifully. Amazingly creative (and delicious!) snacks were on hand, each of them re-named to relate to star and sky. As you can see from my pictures, there were lemon-filled "sun beams," and brownies became "dark side of the moon." Spinach balls were "meteorites" and sprinkled thumbprint cookies were "moon craters." Of course there were star-shaped cookies as well as sliced star fruit, assorted UFOs, and more. Good old-fashioned chocolate, along with hot and cold drinks, rounded out the buffet.
The room for the talks was dimly lit, had some candles, and had paper planets and stars hung from the ceiling. There were glow-bracelets and star maps on the tables for us. Once everyone was seated with snacks, Joan told us captivating legends from her Dot to Dot books. Then the professor, who was extremely funny, showed us various tools and telescopes and told us how they worked. After the presentation we all went outside to take turns using the tools to find the constellations and stars ourselves.
This was a really fun evening of snacking, learning, and conversing that lots of other libraries could replicate--as long as you can find a couple good speakers, some creative cooks, and an outdoor site without too many streetlights. I want to congratulate Peace Library System on putting together such an interesting and well-thought-out evening event. It added even more to an already great Rural Libraries Conference.