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Central Library opens new science center for children

This summer science-loving learners of all ages can have a fun experience in the all-new, all-different children’s center at the Queens Central Library.

After more than a decade of planning and two years of construction, the branch’s Children’s Library Discovery Center, at 89-11 Merrick Blvd. in Jamaica, ´╗┐opened last week and has become a popular destination for families, according to Queens Library spokeswoman Joanne King.

The library’s administration had hoped to add a science component to the library for years because most young visitors head to the branches for humanities and arts subjects and it wanted a one-stop destination for math, engineering and other science subjects.

“They were always asking, ‘What is missing from the library’s options?’” King said.

The 25,000-square-foot, two-floor space on the southwest side of the library entices visitors with images of Queens neighborhoods and an interactive pendulum game that teaches physics.

Inside, there’s more.

A large map of the borough shows off its hotspots, such as the Unisphere, Jamaica Bay and the Louis Armstrong House. Certain points include sound effects that simulate the feel of location when one steps on it, such as waves in the Rockaways or piano music near Steinway Street.

Surrounding the map are various science tables with experiments about select topics such as microbiology, astronomy and electricity. Children’s librarian Francine Field said a lot of the parents are playing with the setups and learning right along with their children.

“I think they’re all getting excited by reading,” she said.

The tabletop experiments will be showcased on a rotating basis so there will always be something new to learn, according to King.

The other side of the first floor includes a reading space for toddlers and computers loaded with software tailored for their learning. Jasmin Rahman, 24, comes daily to the center with her 2-year-old daughter Anusa and said that her young child has already become adept at the computers.

“She’ll learn a lot from that and from all of the books here, too,” she said.

The branch’s toddler-aimed materials fill up the bookshelves on the first floor while the second floor is home to the books for elementary school students. Although there are fewer science stations on that floor, young users have access to 18 computer terminals and a multipurpose room for activities.

The space has been in the works since the early part of the last decade and became a reality after Borough President Helen Marshall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), the Queens City Council delegation and grants from the federal government, including the National Science Foundation, helped to fill $38 million of construction and operation costs.

The new walls and features are not the only ways cardholders can increase their science knowledge. The Discovery Team Program has college-age, part-time workers teach elementary schoolchildren science lessons after school at the center.

“For instance, they have magnets and other objects and they give them to the kids to learn. They also have books on magnets so they learn in an interactive way,” King said.

The Discovery Center is not the only new addition to the Central Library. Plans are set for a major renovation for the branch’s main entrance that will bring a new look to the library, according to King.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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