Eric Hirsch spent nearly two hours Saturday morning watching his children play and frolic beyond the books at the East Meadow Public Library.
Hirsch, 39, of East Meadow, said the Discover NASA exhibit at the library was “the perfect spot” for parents to experience indoor fun with their children, who can play while learning about space.
Through mid-October, the library’s free, interactive exhibit, funded with grants from NASA and the Boulder, Colorado-based nonprofit Space Science Institute, aims to inform the public about space exploration. The exhibit also features programming on Saturdays for children to learn more about science, flight and the universe.
Alongside informative vertical posters, children and adults can build on a flat table with wooden blocks and Legos, watch videos shot from the International Space Station and play interactive computer games to learn more about the planets.
Visitors also can send constructed gliders and other material through a wind tunnel, watching them enter one end and fly slowly out the other.
“These local things where people can interact one-on-one with these kinds of exhibits are a wonderful thing,” said the library’s director, Carol Probeyahn.
Though its most popular feature is the building table, the exhibit also includes meteorites and a green screen where attendees can create the illusion of broadcasting from space.
On Saturday, about 15 children and their parents learned about and constructed gliders, helicopters and parachutes.
Using straws, scissors, paper and tape, the children in kindergarten through second grade worked alongside their parents at long tables with images of real helicopters and aircraft beside them.
Led by an instructor, the children took their creations and tested their flying abilities one by one, as parents and library staff cheered them on.
Shaila Klepner, 39, of East Meadow, said her two children’s love of space, planets and astronauts led her to bring them to Saturday’s program.
“It was something fun and educational to do in the summer,” she said. “I can tell with my son, it’s really captivated his attention.”
Jia Sheikh, 38, of East Meadow, said she brought her two daughters and son as an educational experience.
As her children tested their aircraft’s flying abilities, Sheikh said she thought they were enjoying their hands-on roles in the program.
“I think they like it a lot and . . . feel like they are actively taking part,” Sheikh said.