Volume 2, Issue 3  /  October 2013 

A Letter from Executive Director, Cynthia Randall


Catalyzing Scientific Exploration

I am always looking for those intertwining scientific, structural, technological and mathematical threads that surface in our daily lives. They may appear in an upward glance at clouds, weather patterns or migrating birds. Or they manifest in problem-solving the mysteries of car engines or innovating on a cell phone.  One of my favorite laboratories is my kitchen, where I can create delectable concoctions while experimenting.  The response to these moments is often visceral—a chemical reaction in our brains prompts feelings of pleasure and excitement when we find affinity, an understanding, a solution.

Cornerstones of Science embodies this spirit of curiosity and experimentation, even as it intertwines the worlds of librarians, scientific researchers and citizens. Bringing these elements together creates an environment in which libraries can become successful, sustained laboratories fostering science experiences among youth and adults. 

The National Science Foundation recently awarded a $2.5 million grant to foster more community engagement in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through creation of “STEM Hubs.” The project will begin within the Dexter/Dover and Blue Hill areas. This project will add three more regions over the next 5 years. Public libraries in these areas will become viable community science centers through a broad-based  partnership involving Cornerstones, the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, Maine Maritime Academy, UMaine Cooperative Extension/4H, and the Education Development Center. All of us at Cornerstones are very excited by this opportunity to build a new collaborative model that fosters community science and helps transform libraries into STEM Hubs.

As with all scientific experiments, we will be learning a lot about the power of combining these elements through this project. In upcoming newsletters, we’ll share some of those lessons with you. But don’t wait for the results of this project to begin your own grand experiment. If you‘re a librarian, a professional or avocational scientist, or an enthusiastic library patron, you can begin catalyzing scientific explorations in your own community. Visit our newly re-launched website to get ideas and connect with others.

In the Spotlight


Bigelow Laboratory Scientists Study the Chemistry of Ocean Life

Scientists from Bigelow Laboratory are part of a team that has been collecting and analyzing the chemical composition of marine plankton from ocean samples taken around the globe.  The team found that the chemical composition in marine plankton communities was significantly influenced by factors such as latitude and temperature.  Learn More

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Cornerstones News

Cornerstones and the Maine Space Grant Consortium Launch the STAR Program

Cornerstones of Science has received a grant from the Maine Space Grant Consortium (MSGC) to launch the STAR program in Maine.  The STAR (Sharing Telescopes and Astronomy Resources) Program:  1) creates a link between school and public libraries that increases access and opportunity to hands-on astronomy and space science experiences and 2) establishes public libraries as a community resource that provides youth, adults and families with high-quality accessible STEM opportunities year round. 

The Program will begin by linking two school libraries with their respective community libraries to help foster conversations, within libraries and at home, about space, night skies and astronomy as well as the implications on both the community and individuals.  Additionally, Cornerstones will work with MSGC to develop the STAR Science Trunk. The trunk will be a sustainable travelling resource that is loaned to libraries. It will contain: 1) a telescope; 2) curriculum of hands-on activities; and 3) reference materials to introduce space sciences, astronomy and STAR to new libraries around Maine.  The STAR Trunk will be targeted to families and adult audiences.

Telescope Happenings: Orr's Island Workshop & Gorham Star Party

Telescope Workshop: Orr’ Island Library – Orr’s Island, Maine

On September 24th, Ron Thompson of Southern Maine Astronomers and Cornerstones staff provided a Workshop at Orr’s Island Library for library staff and Board members.  The objective of the Telescope Workshop was to help staff become comfortable with the use and care of the Telescope so that they can then help their patrons who will soon be able to “check out” the Telescope for personal use.

Star Party: Baxter Memorial Library - Gorham, Maine

Baxter Memorial Library recently hosted a Star Party for library patrons led by Ron Thompson of the Southern Maine Astronomers and using telescopes provided by Cornerstones.   There were 37 adults and children who learned about the telescopes and then moved outside to spot constellations and star clusters in the night sky.

In the News


Fall Science Read - The Swordfish Hunters

Presented by:   Curtis Memorial Library
Dates:                October 9, 15, 23 and 30, noon to 1:00 pm

The Swordfish Hunters, by Bruce Bourque, is the featured title for the Fall Science Read at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick.  This book tells the story of the Red Paint People and the archaeologists who have tried to understand them. This is the first time that the author of the featured book will share insights at the Fall Science Read.  Dr. Bourque will facilitate on October 9 and 30 and will have copies of his book available for purchase.  

Book Recommendations


The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe

by Theodore Gray and Nick Mann

This offering is a compilation of information and stunning images of the elements from the periodic table of elements.  You’ll read about the element’s place on the periodic table, atomic weight, density, atomic radius, crystal structure and so on. However, it is the imagery that will keep you turning the pages with stunning full-page images of elements in pure form and photos of there uses.

Linus Pauling: And the Chemistry of Life

Readers will find that this book offers not only a look at Pauling’s professional accomplishments but also at various personal and family issues that affected him throughout his life.  The author shows us how his science undertakings and his personal beliefs played equally in the life of the recipient of both the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and Nobel Peace Prize.

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Websites of the Month

Celebrating National Chemistry Week October 20-26

CHEMSOC Timeline - Royal Society of Chemistry

The CHEMSOC Timeline is an image centered look at key events in the history of science with a focus on chemistry. Examples of items on the timeline include the publication of the first chemistry text book, when Avogadro’s Law was put forth and when Friedrich August Kekulé concluded that the structure of benzene is a closed, hexagonal, six-membered ring.


Chemistry Science Fair Project Ideas - Science Buddies

Looking for chemistry science project ideas?  This page from the Science Buddies website provides a number of activities.  Grouped by skill level, each activity includes a summary and information on the cost, material availability and time required to complete the project.


Visual Elements Periodic Table - Royal Society of Chemistry

This interactive periodic table includes history, podcasts and videos for elements on the periodic table. The site provides great information in a visually appealing manner.

Library Partners


Prince Memorial Library - Cumberland

Prince Memorial Library has a call out for Makers Fair submissions.  Anyone is welcome to attend.  The fair will be Saturday November 2nd from 10-1.  Questions can be directed  to Jennifer Gifford

Merrill Memorial Library – Yarmouth

Merrill Memorial Library has just launched their "Adventure" backpacks. There is a pack for the Beach and one for Nature trails. Both packs  are developed around the Yarmouth Open Spaces Guide. Each backpack contains trail guides, binoculars, activity sheets and a guide book. The nature pack also includes  a compass. They can be checked out at the library for 1 week.  You can contact Mellissa Madigan for more information.

Save the Date



Science Café


When:  October 10th, 5:30-6:30pm
Location: Portland Public Library

Cornerstones of Science and the University of Southern Maine are sponsoring a Science Café entitled Edward Snowden and Who’s Watching You to be presented by USM cyber security researcher Edward Sihler.  For more information, please contact Jennifer Dean, USM College of Science, Technology, and Health, at 207-780-4149 or via email.

National Chemistry Week


When:  October 20-26

National Chemistry Week is an annual event designed, in part, to help make a positive change in the public’s impression of chemistry.  Learn More.

Cornerstones Library Partner Summit

When:  Thursday, December 5, 2013 from 8:30 am – 3:00 pm
Location:  University of Southern Maine, Portland Campus

Cornerstones of Science Library Partner Summit to be held at the University of Southern Maine, Portland Campus on Thursday, December 5, 2013 from 8:30 am – 3:00 pm.  All libraries are welcomed.  More information will be found on our website.  Mileage reimbursement is available.  Topics will include: How to Participate in Upcoming Cornerstones of Science Programs; Makerspaces, LEGOs and other Low-Cost Building and Design Projects For Your Library and Picking The Right Children’s Science Literature to Engage and Inspire.
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