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The great solar eclipse of 2017 was the inspiration for the community party at the Main Branch of the Evanston Public Library on Aug. 21. A crowd estimated at more than 500 – toddlers and teens to seniors – shared in the anticipation as the moon’s shadow nibbled away at the sun between  first bite at 11:54 a.m. and totality in Evanston of 89% at 1:19 p.m. “We were flooded – an exciting turnout,” said Library Trustee Tori Foreman, stressing that the event was free.

Some attendees converged on the Community Meeting Room to watch NASA’s coverage of the eclipse streaming live. On the cloudy but not inclement day, most participants gathered outdoors, on the front steps and ramp. The emphasis was on safe viewing. The first 160 people to register received free glasses that allowed them to gaze directly at the sun without damaging their eyes.  Children flocked to a table for materials and help in making a pinhole box viewer. With it they could peek through a cutout on one end and see the image of the diminishing crescent sun projected through a tiny hole in a piece of foil onto a sheet of white paper at the other end of the box.

Kids also created some 300 “sun” cookies using M&Ms for sunspots, colored sugar for sun granules (each of which is actually the size of Texas, they learned), and red licorice strands for the sun prominences that loop out from the sun’s surface. 

“They are experiencing science in a fun, edible way,” said Kim Kaufmann, the children’s librarian in charge of the festivities.

This was not the last chance for EPL patrons to explore NASA science and technology. Thanks to a NASA@My Library grant written by Ms. Kaufmann last spring and awarded to just 75 of the 500 libraries that applied, EPL will be hosting a series of programs in the coming months intended to stimulate interest in STEM topics.