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Scottdale Public Library to host new discussion series exploring science

| Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, 1:31 p.m.
Kaidia Pickels | For The Independent-Observer
These books will be used in the Scottdale Public Library's new 'Pushing the Limits' discussion series.

The Scottdale Public Library will be offering a new discussion series this spring called Pushing the Limits, which combines books and digital media to explore science in the natural world.

“The library received a grant from the National Science Foundation for this particular program,” said Patricia Miller, library director. “A team of library professionals, scientists, and filmmakers have collaborated to come up with the concept.”

The Scottdale Public Library is one of only 15 rural public libraries to receive this national grant.

“One of our goals is to get families and students to focus on STEM sciences,” said Miller.

STEM is an acronym that refers to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“If we can get parents to have something to talk about with their children, to talk about what's out there in the science field, we might see more creative science careers arise,” she added.

Each of the group's four sessions will begin with video clips exploring the fields of science mentioned in the previous month's reading as well as the book's author and their mindset when writing the book. The program will be facilitated by Dr. Charles Greenberg, the Library Board President of the Murrysville Community Library Foundation.

“By using a selected book of fiction and nonfiction for each theme, I will lead each session's discussion, and I will add material from other sources to broaden and deepen the perspective of the participants,” Greenberg said. “I hope to make each participant a lifelong learner in STEM subjects, each having lost any fear he or she may have had about dealing with STEM subjects.”

“Our main goal is to see some really good discussion,” Miller said. “There are so many different topics that can come up from each book, and within a community like Scottdale there are a lot of really diverse opinions and viewpoints that we can explore.”

The books that will be discussed in the program are “Thunderstruck” by Erik Larson, “When the Killing's Done” by T. C. Boyle, “Flight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver, and “The Seven Daughters of Eve” by Bryan Sykes. Notably, all four books are either partially or entirely works of fiction with authentic scientific themes.

“Fiction makes the bounds limitless,” Miller said. “Authors can take fiction anywhere, pushing the limits of what might be possible in real life. This helps people to stretch their imagination.”

“This is about pushing the limits for lifelong learning, just as it is about illustrating how science and mathematics have pushed the limits of our knowledge about the universe, the physics and chemistry of the universe, and life itself in the universe,” said Greenberg, when asked why adult readers should push their own limits. “It is not possible to live truly joyously in this universe without being a part of knowing how it works. That is the most important reason, but I can also make the argument for needing to earn a good living in a competitive world, for guiding our children to do the same, and for enriching our governance.”

The group will meet four times: Feb. 27, March 27, April 24 and May 22. All meetings will be held at 6 p.m. in the Scottdale Public Library's Community Room. The program is open to adults and older students who are advanced readers.

“When you register for the program, you receive the first book we'll be reading,” Miller said. “It's even theirs to keep. We'd really love to see students and parents who are interested in science — and who aren't afraid to talk!”

Interested readers can register by contacting the library at 724-887-6140.