Port Arthur Library partners with NASA to create STEAM opportunities for local students

Published 12:48 am Saturday, October 2, 2021

Texans have reached for the stars for years and now a partnership between the Port Arthur Public Library and NASA is bringing the stars closer.

Port Arthur Public Library has been selected through a competitive application process to be part of NASA@My Library, an educational initiative created to increase and enhance STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) learning opportunities.

Claudia Hairston, assistant library director, said the exciting educational initiative offers opportunities for students in the community who may not already have them available.

Port Arthur Public Library’s Carolyn Thibodeaux flips though a science magazine. (Mary Meaux/The News)

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“Why not have one of the next astronauts come from Port Arthur, Texas,” she said. “We’re definitely excited. When we did the research and looked at the possibility to be able to partner with NASA, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Hairston said it is unfortunate NASA headquarters is down the road in Houston but many of the city’s residents can’t even get to Houston to visit.

“We’re hoping that another component of this initiative will be to bring those resources to our community and to make it easily accessible to them,” she said.

Carolyn Thibodeaux, program director, said Port Arthur is one of 60 libraries nationwide joining this initiative.

“We look forward to introducing STEAM concepts to our younger patrons and to exploring the universe together with people of all ages during our public programs in 2021 and 2022,” Thibodeaux said.

Thibodeaux plans to use the library’s gallery, which features a number of TV/computer screens, to create a multimedia presentation for the initiative.

Port Arthur Public Library’s Carolyn Thibodeaux holds science books while talking of a partnership with NASA@My Library. (Mary Meaux/The News)

She said it is similar to an art exhibit but will focus on space.

“We’re hoping to be able to host some in-person formal programming with professional subject experts,” Thibodeaux said.

The collaboration allows the chosen libraries to interact with each other and collectively study together.

One of the events Thibodeaux is looking forward to sharing with youth is NASA’s upcoming launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, set for Dec. 18.

The telescope, according to NASA, will serve as the premier deep space observatory for the next decade.

“Science is everything,” Thibodeaux said.

The library is currently hosting a 5-week series on Monday nights using vision boards.

“How do you teach science in that?” Thibodeaux asked. “You get to bring out the creativity of teens and tweens and hopefully you can nudge their creativity to science, stars and the galaxy.”

Thibodeaux hopes to announce upcoming initiative related events soon.

The library has the seal of approval/sponsorship of the Port Arthur Independent School District and the Port Arthur Housing Authority.