STARNet Explore Exhibits

Traveling Exhibit Application Guidelines
Explore Earth: Our Changing Planet
Explore Space: A Cosmic Journey
Explore Tech: Engineers Make a World of Difference


Date application posted: July 13, 2015

Questions? Contact the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

Table of Contents

  1. Project Overview
  2. Award Information
  3. Eligibility
  4. Application and Submission Information
  5. Application Review
  6. Award Administration Information
  7. Points of Contact
  8. Other Information

I. Project Overview

In partnership with the National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL) at the Space Science Institute (SSI), the Lunar & Planetary Institute (LPI), and the Afterschool Alliance, the American Library Association Public Programs Office is seeking a total of 40 public library sites to host national tours of three panel exhibits: 1) Explore Earth: Our Changing Planet; 2) Explore Space: A Cosmic Journey; and 3) Explore Tech: Engineers Make a World of Difference. Each exhibition will travel to 13-14 sites. Public libraries in rural areas and those serving rural populations and groups underrepresented in STEM fields are especially invited to apply. Libraries which have already hosted or will host the large interactive exhibits, Discover Earth, Discover Tech, and Discover Space are not eligible to apply.

The three traveling exhibits are made possible through the support of the National Science Foundation. The exhibits and educational support materials and outreach opportunities are part of the STAR (Science-Technology Activities and Resources) Library Education Network (STAR_Net), a hands-on learning program for libraries and their communities. STAR_Net seeks to engage underserved youth and their families in fostering an appreciation and deeper understanding of science and technology topics through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs in public libraries, and library collaborations with scientists, engineers, and STEM organizations. The three Explore exhibits include a research study and evaluation of informal science education in a library setting. The knowledge gained about the nature of informal STEM learning in libraries through the evaluation of these exhibits will benefit both libraries and the informal STEM education (ISE) community. For more information about STAR_Net, visit

All three Explore exhibits will tour from February 2016 through July 2018. Selected sites will host the exhibits for two months. The exhibits require 200 square feet of space for optimal display. Each site will be awarded a grant of $1,000 to support public programs related to the exhibits. Each host library will be asked to actively participate in a national professional learning community called the STAR_Net Online Community.

The project includes an orientation webinar for each Explore exhibit. Webinars will feature presentations about exhibit set up; hands-on science activities related to each exhibit created by the Lunar and Planetary Institute; programming and outreach consultation with the Afterschool Alliance; and a number of professional training resources, including the STAR_Net Online Community, which will involve sharing of best practices among librarians, scientists, engineers, educators, and others who want to bring effective STEM learning experiences to public audiences in a library setting.

The Explore exhibits

Explore Earth

The view from space has deepened our understanding of Earth as a global, dynamic system. Instruments on satellites and spacecraft, coupled with advances in ground-based research, have provided us with astonishing new perspectives of our planet. The Explore Earth exhibition will focus on local earth science topics—such as weather, water cycle, and ecosystem changes—as well as a global view of our changing planet. The primary message of the exhibition is that the global environment changes – and is changed by – the local environment of all host communities. The exhibit is divided into three areas: A. Our Changing Planet, B. Ecosystems: The Web of life, and C. Environmental Change at Home. Library patrons will learn that Earth is a complex, global system of interacting subsystems—rock, water, air, and life; understand that Earth’s global system changes on short and long-term time scales; understand the water cycle and the important role that water plays in the earth system; learn about the basics of weather and how meteorologists predict it locally; understand the difference between weather and climate; and learn how to become a thoughtful steward of Planet Earth. The exhibit will include a touchscreen computer kiosk that contains several interactive experiences that will engage children and adults. These include Wild Weather, Earth Stories, along with a Quiz game.

Explore Tech

This exhibit shows how engineering provides solutions to better meet human needs and develops sustainable innovations for the future, and how engineers create new technologies to solve problems. It features hands-on and multimedia components that allow exhibit visitors to interact with exhibit content in a dynamic way, encouraging new perspectives about engineers and their vital work.  Visitors will become familiar with the National Academy of Engineering’s 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering, critical issues that must be addressed in the 21st century. They will also learn about the fundamental principles of energy, become aware of their own energy use, and understand the impact of engineering on societies over time and place. The exhibit includes three areas: A. Engineering: Past, Present, and Future, B. High Tech/Low tech, and C. Power Up! Creating a Sustainable Energy Future. The exhibit will include a touchscreen computer kiosk that contains a several games that will engage children and adults. Some of the interactive experiences include Game Changers, which is about the Grand Challenges, along with a Quiz game.

Explore Space

Space exploration and research will help us answer the age-old questions: Where did we come from and are we alone? NSF and NASA research programs are helping humanity understand the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars, and planets, and defining the conditions necessary to support life beyond Earth. The four exhibit areas are: A. Search for Alien Earths, B. Exploring Our Solar System, C. Space Rocks, and D. Electric Space. Exhibit goals for visitors are:  1) Learn how stars and planetary systems form and the role that gravity plays, 2) Understand the similarities and differences between Earth and Mars and the tools we use to explore planets, 3) Explore the role that asteroids and comets play in our Solar System, 4) Learn that the Sun is a dynamic star and how it varies, and 5) Explore electric and magnetic changes that take place in space (e.g., the aurora). The exhibit will include a touchscreen computer kiosk that contains several games that will engage children and adults. Some of the interactive experiences include Mission to Mars, Magneto Golf along with a Quiz game.

Physical Details

  • Each Explore exhibit requires approximately 200 square feet of floor space for optimal display.
  • Exhibits are composed of six panels, each of them 36” wide x 72” high x .5” deep. Panels are printed on both sides and fit into sturdy black bases for display.
  • Discover Stations: Each exhibit will provide several plastic containers that include a number of hands-on activities and materials that are aligned with exhibit themes. Host libraries will be responsible for providing two tables approximately 2.5’x6’
  • Each exhibit will include a computer kiosk that has a variety of interactive experiences. The kiosk comes with its own shipping case.
  • The exhibition will travel in two shipping containers—one container for bases and one for panels and Discover Station containers. Exhibits will require approximately one hour to set up.

Orientation webinars

There will be an orientation webinar for each Explore exhibit. Tentative dates are: Explore Earth—January 20, 2015; Explore Tech—January 21, 2016; and Explore Space—January 26, 2016. Each webinar will include:

  • Information about exhibit content and science themes presented by the project team
  • Presentation and demonstration by the National Center for Interactive Learning and Lunar Planetary Institute of hands-on science activities appropriate for various ages for both programs and Discover Station activities.
  • Presentations and interactive discussions about:
  • Ways to engage children and families in science
  • Additional programming resources, including a Family Guide and Teacher's Guide to the exhibition
  • Programming ideas during and after the Explore exhibit tours (e.g. citizen science and after-school programs)
  • Discussion of possible community reactions to the exhibition and resources
  • Building local partnerships with those who can support Explore exhibit content
  • Participating in the project’s STAR_Net Online Community (and the tools that support continued collaboration)
  • Exhibition assembly, maintenance, and take-down.

There will be additional webinars throughout the tour to offer program support to host sites, including:

Children’s and Youth Librarians’ Webinar: There will be an online training for children’s and youth public program providers from exhibit sites. At least one staff member is required to attend. Public program providers who will partner with the host institutions to implement programs for children, youth, and families will also be welcome to attend. During this webinar, participants will:

  • Undertake hands-on science activities provided by the Lunar & Planetary Institute
  • Discuss ways to adapt the activities to different programming schemes; and
  • Discuss techniques for facilitating STEM experiences for library patrons.

Professional Training /Project Support

Support Materials

  • An online Site Support Notebook will include programming, publicity, and resource and logistics information for the Explore exhibits.
  • STAR_Net Activity Planning Guides (developed by the Lunar & Planetary Institute) will contain step-by-step instructions and resources for facilitating hands-on science and engineering activities that are specifically designed for use in the library setting. Through the activities, children and teens will explore the central ideas of each Explore exhibit. Activity Planning Guides (except for Explore Space, which is in development) are available in the “Resources” section of the STAR_Net Online Community (

Engineering activities:
Earth science activities:

The STAR_Net Online Community

The STAR_Net Online Community currently has over 800 members from all 50 states, Canada, Mexico and the Philippines. Approximately 100 members of the community are STEM professionals who are working with their local libraries to provide STEM programming. The project team is guided by the extensive body of research on communities of practice such as (1) identifying gaps in knowledge and developing a learning agenda; (2) measuring the value of the community; (3) maintaining a cutting-edge focus; and (4) continuing to build and organize a knowledge repository. Goals include (1) continuing to grow the community; (2) improving and further developing the infrastructure that supports the online community; and (3) providing professional training opportunities for the community by supporting the learning that occurs by exchanging information and best practices. In an earlier phase, the project provided several webinars addressing topics such as collaboration and how to implement standards-based activities that were developed. Current plans are to greatly expand the use of webinars on topics suggested by the community and involving many more librarians and STEM professionals as presenters. The STAR_Net Online Community fosters continued learning and professional training for its members, and the formation of partnerships and collaborations to bring a variety of STEM programs to libraries. Please visit the website at for more information.

Other Project Information

All public libraries chosen as hosts for an Explore exhibit are required to do the following:

  • Sign a contract with the exhibition sponsor (NCIL@SSI) agreeing to programming, publicity, evaluation, reporting, participation in the STAR_Net Online Community and other project requirements.
  • Present a minimum of 10 public programs in collaboration with community organizations, local scientists, and scientists and educators available through the sponsors. The ten programs should be for different age groups, including one opening event, three public programs for adults, three public programs for families, and three programs for out of school K-12 children (one of these should be an after-school program). Any one of these programs may be combined with the opening event. Some programs must use STAR­_Net resources developed for the exhibit — these resources, including hands-on science activities and the Teachers and Family Guides to the exhibit, will be demonstrated at the exhibit orientation webinar. Resources and ideas for programs will be available from exhibition sponsors at the project orientation workshop and from other sources.
  • Actively participate in the project’s online community by posting program descriptions and outcomes.
  • Market the exhibition and programs to at least one underrepresented audience in the community.
  • Allow the public to view the exhibition and attend public programs free of charge.
  • Provide reports, including an exhibition condition report and a final report, to exhibition sponsors.
  • Participate in exhibition evaluation as requested.
  • Appoint one staff member as the Project Director of the exhibition. The Project Director is responsible for attending the orientation webinar, reviewing educational and support materials, and overseeing programming and marketing of the exhibition.
  • Appoint one staff member to be the local Project Coordinator. The Project Coordinator will also attend the orientation webinar, and will be responsible for project logistics and technology, i.e., assuring that the exhibition is set up, displayed and taken down according to project guidelines.
  • Agree to all publicity requirements, including use of designated exhibition credits and/or logos on all local publicity materials, both in-print and online.
  • Show that the library has sufficient space to display the exhibition (200 square feet in one area of the library is required), and can provide security for the exhibition, i.e., monitor the exhibition at least every half-hour during peak times and every hour at less busy times.
  • Be responsible for the condition of the exhibition. Sites will be held responsible for damage to or loss of the exhibition when it is under their control. Minor repairs will be carried out and paid for by the project grant.
  • INSURANCE: It is required that each host library add the exhibition to their institutional insurance coverage or purchase an insurance rider. The value of the exhibition is approximately $5,000. The exhibition should be insured from ten days' before the first day of the exhibition period to ten days after the closing date.

II. Award Information

Thirteen or fourteen public libraries will be selected to host each Explore exhibit between February 2016 and July 2018. Each host site will receive the following:

  • The traveling exhibition for an 8-week loan period (shipping costs are paid by the project grant).
  • A $1,000 grant for expenses related to local exhibition programming (indirect costs may not be charged to the grant by host sites) Please note that grant funds may not be used to pay for social events, receptions, entertainment, or alcoholic beverages.
  • A publicity kit containing images for use in publicity and on host library websites.
  • Media resources for a STEM @ My Library public engagement campaign (a STAR_Net project).
  • Opportunity to collaborate with the Afterschool Alliance and their Lights on Afterschool campaign.
  • Training through periodic project webinars, and printed and online project support materials.
  • Professional training opportunities: Libraries on the tour will have access to the STAR_Net Online Community during and after the project. The online community is a dynamic forum for host libraries to contact organizations and individuals for programming help, share programming resources and program outcomes, access to a growing library of STEM activity resources, and grant opportunities.
  • Technical and programming support from the National Center for Interactive Learning, other project partners, the STAR_Net Online Community and the ALA Public Programs Office throughout the tour.

III. Eligibility

The tours of the three Explore exhibits are open to public libraries in the United States. Public libraries in rural areas and those serving rural populations and underserved groups are especially invited to apply. Individuals and federal entities are not eligible to apply.

IV. Application and Submission Information

Applications will be accepted for Explore exhibits between July 13 and October 8, 2015 (extended from September 18). Applications must be submitted online by 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time on October 8, 2015. Late or incomplete applications, and applications from ineligible institutions will not be reviewed.

Applications and support materials may not be submitted by mail or e-mail.

Getting Started

To begin the application process, go to

To apply to host an Explore exhibit, you must complete the following ten steps:

  • LOG IN OR REGISTER (if you have not registered when applying for a different project)
  • LOG IN (if you have already registered when applying for a different project)


Before you can access the application, you must register to create an application account.



If you have already registered when applying for another ALA Public Programs Office grant project, you may log in, using your e-mail address and password.


Note: The Project Director is the person who will be responsible for coordinating the traveling exhibition at the site. He or she will be the primary point of contact for the project at the applicant institution.

To complete step 3, provide all the information that is requested for the Project Director, Project Coordinator, local library information, and shipping information. You must then save the information.

After clicking the “SAVE” button, you will be able to return to the application at any time and log in, using your e-mail address and password. This will allow you to edit, save, and return to your application as needed prior to the submission deadline.

One piece of information that you must supply is the applicant institution’s DUNS number. All institutions receiving an award are required to provide a DUNS number, issued by Dun & Bradstreet. Project Directors should contact their institution’s grants administrator or chief financial officer to obtain their institution’s DUNS number. Federal grant or subgrant applicants can obtain a DUNS number free of charge by calling 1-866-705-5711. (Learn more about the requirement.)


Applicants may apply for only one Explore exhibition. Only one application will be accepted from each applicant institution.


Please complete the Exhibition Scheduling item for the exhibition you are applying for. Each site will have the exhibition for two months, or approximately 8 weeks. If you have additional information about scheduling preferences to add to your application, please include it at the end of this section under “Comments.”

Please select at least five display periods in which you prefer to host the exhibit and five display periods when you cannot host the exhibit. You must indicate a choice in all the drop down menus. (You may indicate “No Preference” for any of them.) Please note that we cannot guarantee that the exhibition will be available during one of your preferred periods.


Before you compose the narrative part of this proposal, we strongly recommend that you read the guidelines carefully. If you do not, your proposal is unlikely to be competitive.


Please describe your plans for presenting the Explore exhibit you have chosen to apply for. The proposal narrative consists of nine sections (described below). Please note that each section of the narrative may not exceed 400 words.

Be sure to address the following points in your narrative:

  • Describe why your library would like to host this exhibit, including community interests in STEM topics, demographics, collections, or other resources or programming focuses pertinent to the project. What are your prior experiences with hosting traveling exhibitions and/or offering public programs about STEM topics?
  • What do you hope to accomplish by bringing this exhibit to the community?
  • A major focus of the STAR_Net project is to reach groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields—such as underrepresented minorities, lower-income populations, and women. Identify at least one principal underserved audience you will reach with programming for this exhibition and make a strong case for why you have chosen this audience and how you will reach them. A generally underserved geographic area can be considered an underrepresented audience.
  • Describe your general publicity plans for the exhibition. Attach a typical public programs communication plan your library might use in Section 7.A, and describe below anything you would do differently for this STEM exhibition project.
  • Collaboration with STEM organizations and individuals with STEM expertise is very important to the success of this project. The project will provide some potential partners/collaborations to sites, but tell us what partnerships with STEM and non-STEM organizations and individuals in your area will help you to make the exhibition and your programs a success. Have you worked with these organizations/individuals before? Attach support letters from project partners and other supporters in Section 7.B.
  • Describe the programs you plan to implement to meet or to exceed the project requirements. Project requirements are: Ten programs for different age groups, including one opening event, three public programs for adults, three public programs for families, and three programs for out of school K-12 children (at least one of these should be an after-school program) You may combine the opening event with a program. Some programs must use STAR_Net resources developed for each exhibit. These resources, including hands-on activities for each exhibit, will be demonstrated at exhibit orientation webinars. Tell us your ideas for programs and program presenters. Include names and qualifications of potential external (non-library staff) presenters. Support letters from external presenters may be attached in 7.B.
  • Describe how you will work with educators and schools in your area and estimate how many school-age children might visit the exhibition. Note any long-term relationships you have with local educators that might prove beneficial in reaching school age children with programming. Also tell us about your work with After School organizations. There will be a STAR_Net Teacher's Guide available for each exhibition—how will you use this guide?
  • Where will the exhibition be displayed in your library? Please describe the space and its relationship to traffic flow in the library. Please attach a floor plan and photos of the exhibit space in Section 7.C.
  • Please rank the two exhibitions you did not apply for according to your level of interest in hosting them, and use the text area to make any comments about your interests in STEM topics for library programs.


7.A. Communications Plan

Upload a typical public program communications plan your library might use and include anything you would do differently for this STEM project.

7.B. Letters of Support

Upload letters of support from project partners and other organizations, as well as from potential external program presenters.

7.C. Floor Plan and Photos

Upload a floor plan of the exhibition space in your library and photos of the space.


An application to host a STAR_Net Explore exhibit is an application for an award from the sponsor of this project (National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute). The exhibition sponsors are required by law to ask applicants to identify for each application a certifying official who is authorized to submit applications for funding on behalf of the organization.

To complete this section, you must enter all of the information that is requested.


The Review and Edit page summarizes all the information that you have entered. From this page you can review and edit each section, save the entire application and log out of the system, or move ahead to submit your application.


When you are satisfied with your application, submit it using the Submit button. Once your application has been submitted, you may still log in to view or print it, but no further editing or other changes will be possible. All applications must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Central Time on October 8, 2015.

Applications submitted after that time will be considered ineligible.

Applications and application attachments may not be submitted by mail or e-mail.

V. Application Review

Applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • The quality of the ideas underlying the planned public programs.
  • The library’s effort to contact qualified program presenters.
  • The availability of appropriate exhibition space, and the library’s ability to provide security for the exhibition.
  • The location of the sites. (The selection committee would like the exhibition to visit all regions of the country.)
  • The size and demographics of the community.
  • Evidence that the site has the support of community groups and other organizations in planning for the exhibition. Selectors welcome programming collaborations among science, education, civic and other kinds of organizations. However, sending the exhibition to more than one venue in a community during the display period is prohibited.
  • Evidence that the site can reach target audiences and market the exhibition and related programs to an underrepresented audience effectively. Collaboration with other organizations in the community reaching underrepresented audiences is a good strategy for accomplishing this goal.

Review process

Each application will be assessed by a review panel of librarians and representatives of other educational and cultural institutions and disciplines, in collaboration with the project partners.

VI. Award Administration Information

Application Deadline: October 8, 2015

Award Notification: By November 13, 2015

VII. Points of Contact

If you have questions about the project or the application, contact:
American Library Association Public Programs Office
1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045

VIII. Other Information

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