April, 2013

A Letter from Executive Director, Cynthia Randall


Dear CoS Library Partners, Supporters of Science, Great Ideas and All Things Curious,

Oh, spring is in the air.  As nature rubs her eyes and wipes away the residue of winter, the ground is exposed once more to the warming rays of sunlight.  Our eyes begin to catch the colors of crocus pushing upwards and the shifting colors of the land from brown to green.  Our nostrils start to twitch as we begin to smell the fresh, moist soil in the air.  Our primeval brain fires as it means only one thing, “This is the year for the perfect lawn!”  Ask yourself this question, “Why do we love our lawns so much?”  It is more than just curb appeal we seek.   Our lawns are a status symbol of ownership, an expression of time, leisure, and a hallmark of our society. 

A call to action is sounded as we go to great lengths to protect the green velvety blades from the wicked weeds and irritating insects.   Some estimates put lawn care at a $40 billion-a-year industry in the United States, in chemicals, fertilizer, seed, water and energy.   Maine’s lobster and clam economy is foundering under this very situation.  The run-off of fertilizer and pesticides from lawns, among other places, are increasing the acidification of our bays.  The fertilizer creates algae blooms which in turn creates more carbon dioxide.  The carbon dioxide mixed with water creates carbonic acid which in turn, is stunting the growth and dissolving the shells of clams.  Like the Butterfly Effect, if someone asked you, that the actions you take in the name of your lawn, today, was going to seriously harm the rivers, oceans, the fish and shellfish you eat, tens, hundreds and thousands of miles away, now and into the future, would you stop?

The good news is that you can have your lawn and have your lobster, too.  For those interested librarians, wanting to share the science of lawns, with your patrons, there are a number of great organizations that can instruct the lawn enthusiasts on a variety of natural solutions and ways to stay green, such as: Friends of Casco Bay and their Bayscaping program (www.cascobay.org) or Lawns to Lobsters, a joint collaboration between the Cape Neddick River Association, the York Rivers Association, York Land Trust, the York Water, District and the Conservation Commission and others, as well as the expertise that resides at your local County Cooperative Extension.  If you would like assistance with setting up a program in your library, Cornerstones would also be happy to assist you with setting up a program.  Please contact Cindy Randall or Dave Carpenter.

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In the Spotlight……

Chrysalis Corner – A Citizen Science Success Story

Windham Public Library

Citizen science comes in all shapes and sizes.  A great example is found at the Windham Public Library in Windham, Maine.  Started in 2008, the staff, volunteers and patrons have grown a Monarch Butterfly program into a highly anticipated annual event.  What started out as a program with 18 caterpillars in the Library has now grown to 72 caterpillars with 36 in the library and 36 in various patrons’ homes.

Librarian Laurel Parker and dedicated volunteer Jeanne Thurber have become passionate about the program over the previous 5 years.  They have learned a great deal about the issues of care and release to the point where they feel extremely comfortable with the entire process.  It is clear, however, that what they are most happy about is the enthusiasm shared among the library patrons.  As Laurel states, “It has allowed patrons to be true citizen scientists.”

Beginning in early August, caterpillars are placed in individual mason jars where they will metamorphose into chrysalis.  Covers are then transferred to the “butterfly condo” which is kept on the front desk so that all may easily witness the transformations. Butterflies are on their way south by early September.  As in any true science project, records are kept for this endeavor which are then provided annually to Monarch Watch.

While there is a level of commitment required by the staff and volunteers, it is clearly a commitment that is gladly accepted.  In fact, they have recently been designated by Monarch Watch as an official Monarch Waystation.  This library/patron program is a great example of pure citizen science.
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Book Recommendations

Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard

by Loree Griffin Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz

This book provides a look at four citizen science activities that align with the four seasons.  Tagging and tracking Monarch butterflies, for example, is one of the themes and is expressed with rich photographic images to help the reader grasp the activities. 

Scholastic Discover More: The Elements

by Dan Green

For ages 10 and up, this book explores the various Elements, the history of their discovery and how everything around us is made up these Elements.  Discover More: Elements is part of the larger Discover More series by Scholastic which includes Discover More: Planets and Discover More: Ocean and Sea.

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Websites of the Month


Celebrating the Science of Plants, Kites and Wildlife.


Go Botany – New England Wild Flower Society


As buds are soon to bloom, this is a perfect time to learn about Go Botany by the New England Wild Flower Society. The site includes a “Simple ID Tool” designed to help users identify over 1,200 different New England plants and an “Advanced ID Tool” that helps users identify over 3,000 New England plants. A handy feature is that the site is compatible with mobile devices which allows the user an opportunity to identify plants while in the field.


Let’s Go Fly a Kite! – Science Buddies


With snow melting away and spring settling in, we can easily combine a little science and outdoor play. This Science Buddies page walks you through the steps of building your own Kite. The building process is perfect for that rainy Spring day with a result that is great for the eventually sunny and windy Spring day.

Creature Feature – National Geographic Kids


This National Geographic Kids page offers viewers access to animal habitat maps, facts & photos and video & sounds for a variety of wildlife. With a number of different wildlife categories including amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles, there are over 120 different creatures to discover.
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Library Partners…….

Engineering is Everywhere

Prince Memorial Library 

The Prince Memorial Library in Cumberland is participating in a pilot program through the Boston Museum of Science called Engineering is Everywhere!  The classes are for grades 6-8 and will be held during afternoons in April.  FMI 829-2215.

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Save the Date

May 3rd, 2013 is recognized as Space Day in the State of Maine with events planned around the State for that day as well as the entire Month of May.