FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — Thanks to funding from NASA, the Fort Fairfield Public Library is launching a series of space- and science-related projects over the coming year aimed at fostering curiosity and exploration of the planet and beyond.

The northern Maine library was among 75 nationwide — and the only one in the state — selected from 5,000 applicants to participate in the NASA@MyLibrary Program.

“The library is thrilled to have been selected from more than 500 applicants for this project,” said youth library assistant Dianna Leighton. “With the tools, funding and support provided by the NASA@My Library initiative, we’ll be able to share the exciting world of astronomy in fun and exciting new ways, connect with libraries across the country and build community partnerships.”

The idea behind the initiative, according to Leighton, is the promotion of youth-focused STEM — short for science, technology, engineering and math — disciplines.

“For the state in general and certainly for northern Maine, the shifting economy and the way we are looking at the current generations of students for that job market, those STEM fields are I believe going to be mandatory,” she said. “Just in day to day living, being able to think critically and creatively is important [and] anytime we provide hands-on [STEM] projects, we see that kind of thinking.”

The NASA program will provide the library with numerous space-related educational materials including two NASA STEM kits designed for hands-on programs, a pre-loaded computer tablet, $500 to fund programming and ongoing library staff training.

As part of that training, Leighton will participate in a two-day NASA workshop in Denver later this year.

“We are excited to be able to bring programming that will inspire and support STEM fields to children and parents of all ages in Fort Fairfield,” said Jennifer Gaenzle library director. “The library plays a wonderful role in a child’s life, by providing a safe, empowering space for learning and development.”

Over the past year, according to Leighton, the library worked with the Maine State Library’s Cornerstones of Science Program to offer a variety of science-based programs to the community.

“Through those programs we were really able to gauge the community’s level of interest in science,” she said. “They were so well received, it pushed us to look at the NASA programs.”

Leighton said her staff plans to develop programs to appeal to all ages with the ultimate goal of them involving multiple generations working and discovering together.

“We want to promote lifelong learning,” she said.

Plans are already in the works to develop an event around this August’s solar eclipse and to have a program for International Observe the Moon Night in October.

There will also be opportunities to view live-stream broadcasts of rocket launches during the year, track the goings-on of the International Space Station and discuss global conditions impacting climate change.

All of the events are open to the general public and participants need not be residents of Fort Fairfield.

“We want people to stay curious and learning about the world around them and beyond,” Leighton said. “We want to show everyone that, when you stay curious, anything is possible.”

Additional information on the NASA@MyLibrary program in Fort Fairfield is available by calling Leighton as 472-3880, or online at the library’s Facebook page at

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Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.