New ways of working with Fiona from the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh

Here at Edinburgh Libraries’ Children and Young People’s services, we are finding new ways to work with our partners during lockdown.

Last year the theme of the children’s Summer Reading Challenge was ‘Space Race’ so some Edinburgh Libraries staff prepared by attending outreach and storytelling training provided by the Royal Observatory, getting us ready to share the story of how 50 years ago Apollo 11 landed on the moon. These sessions were run all over the city, including at the Discover initiative.

This year, things need to be different, so we are working on being able to deliver online sessions to our Chatterbooks and school library groups. Watch this space…

Fiona, who works at the Royal Observatory has shared with us the changes to her working day.

“Hello! My name is Fiona and I am part of the Public Engagement Team at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. Our small team can usually be found in the Visitor Centre, which is part of the original Victorian buildings on site. My day-to-day job is organising a public programme of events that aim to inspire, engage and involve people in the amazing technology and science that happens at the Observatory.

Before the lockdown, I would start my day with a long walk up the steep road to the top of Blackford Hill. I had always felt so lucky to be able to look out across Edinburgh every morning: ‘best view in the city’ I would tell my friends and family.

The East dome at the Royal Observatory, with a view of Arthur’s Seat in the distance.

After the lockdown, I now start my day with a short walk downstairs to my ‘home office’ in the dining room. Unfortunately, not the ‘best view in the city’ but it does the job! Myself and the team (including Ivor, my new feline assistant) have been working hard to make sure we can still share the wonders of the universe with you all.

Working from home with Ivor the cat

The first events to make the move online are our Astronomy Talks. Although we can’t invite you in person to the Observatory there is room for people to join from all corners of the world. The record so far is someone watching all the way from New Zealand! If you are interested in astronomy and want to find out more, please join us!

Visit our website to register for free upcoming talks. Talks are most suitable for an adult or young adult audience, but everyone is welcome to tune in and there is always time for questions at the end.

For the younger space fans in your family, we are currently putting together fun interactive sessions for uniformed groups and school aged children. We are also working to create some short videos and easy to follow activity ideas to keep you busy at home.

As we look to an uncertain future, we hope that we can find new unique opportunities to work together. If you represent a local community group or school and have an idea of how you would like to work with us then please get in touch via email, we would love to hear from you.”

You can follow Royal Observatory Edinburgh on Twitter to keep up to date @RoyalObs and follow the #STFCScienceAtHome for lots of free STEM activities for the whole family.

With many thanks to Fiona from the Royal Observatory Edinburgh team for sharing an insight into her working from home day.

Baby STEM at Muirhouse Library

Once Upon a Time…
…as all great stories are supposed to start. Not too long before Christmas 2018, a BIG box of resources arrived at Muirhouse Library. At first, we were a bit confused, we stood and looked at the box, we scratched heads and we wondered what to do.

So we rummaged, looking at this and that, until we stumbled upon a box of Lego Duplo. It wasn’t the biggest box of Duplo we had seen – and it didn’t have lots of pieces – but it looked fun. It’s name was Animal Bingo and from this little box, Baby STEM* was born (* in case you don’t know STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math!!).

Our journey begins with Bookbug…
…Bookbug sessions are popular at Muirhouse Library and we all know it has positive effects on early years child development. Parents often would stay after Bookbug for a chat and a cup tea. This gave us a bright idea!

As parents were already in the library, we could use this as a chance to try out our new activity. So when Bookbug finished, we asked the adults (after their cup of tea of course!) if they would like to stay and try out a this new activity called Baby STEM.

All the grownups thought ‘oh what a grand idea!’ In the first session we used the Animal Bingo. Out of the box there are eight animals to build with flash card instructions. Afterwards everyone asked if we could do it again next time and some even asked where they could get their own set of Animal Bingo. We were all so happy that everyone had a good time.

And finishes with a busy morning…
…since that first Baby STEM session, it has become a regular activity. The most popular activity with the babies is playing with the Lego Duplo. It has been fantastic and well received! Not only have we noticed that Baby STEM builds on the skills we encourage in Bookbug, but also it builds on some other skills too such as:

  • Hand eye coordination
  • Shape and Colour recognition
  • Matching and Counting
  • Taking Turns
  • Social development with other children
  • Adult-children interaction

From Baby STEM, we have seen children develop from struggling to find the right part when prompted and having difficulty with the fine motor control needed to put the blocks together. To being able to follow the flash cards and build everything themselves!

A Tuesday or a Friday morning at Muirhouse Library for our youngest customers starts with Bookbug at 10:30am, wrapped up with Goodbye babies and a sticker. Followed by short intermission for juice and a snack at 11:00am and then onto some Baby Stem around 20 to 30 minutes.

Then it is nap time for EVERYONE, and we all lived happily ever after.

Join in with our Digital Fun Day – Saturday 12th October

We are finishing off Libraries Week 2019 in style with a Digital Fun Day! On Saturday 12th October you can come along to Central Library’s mezzanine and get help setting up Library2go services on your device or your children can join in with a fantastic range of fun events –

Kids & Teen Events

  • Introduction to Micro:bits with CodeBase Stirling 10.30-11.30am
    Use pocket-sized computers to create simple games (ages 8-15 yrs)
  • Introduction to Coding with CodeBase Stirling 11.30-12.30pm
    Use codecombat to explore coding basics (ages 8-15 yrs)
  • Bee-Bot Robot Fun 1.30-3.30pm (drop-in, no need to book)*
    Program the bees to guide them along paths and mazes (ages 5-10 yrs)
  • Digital Bracelets Craft Event 2-3pm*
    Learn the basics of coding by making binary bead bracelets (ages 7-12 yrs)

* Children under 8 years old must be accompanied by an adult.

Adult Events

  • Library2go Drop-in 11am-1pm and 1.30-3.30pm (drop-in, no need to book)
    Bring your tablet, smart phone or laptop along for help getting set up with the library’s ebook, audiobook, magazine and newspaper services.

All events are free, book your place on Eventbrite –

Contact or – 0131 242 8047 if you have any questions regarding these events.

Wester Hailes Library celebrates #Apollo50

On Saturday 20 July, Wester Hailes Library hosted ‘Mooniversary’, a special drop-in event to commemorate 50 years since the Apollo 11 Moon landing. ‘Mooniversary’ was our first event, as part of the Library’s new FUNgineers programme at Wester Hailes Library, which aims to get kids aged 4+ engaging with STEM topics in a fun and accessible way.

Children (and their adults) had the chance to take part in a range of fun activities including an Apollo scavenger hunt in the Children’s Library, studying the Moon using meteorites, using the 3D printer to recreate the Copernicus crater and making a lunar surface using marbles, flour, cocoa powder and a lot of enthusiasm!









After all the science activities were over, our ‘library astronauts made straw rockets and tissue paper stained glass pictures of the Moon. Over 30 children and adults took part in our ‘Mooniversary’ celebrations and everyone went home happy and covered in flour.

FUNgineers is running weekly on Fridays at 3pm throughout the summer at Wester Hailes Library and will continue afterwards, alternating with Tiger Tales.