"When you think of NASA, the first aspect is usually rockets and space shuttles, and then you hear about the other areas and it opens up a whole new world," said third grade teacher Glenda Hampton after roaming through the exhibit.
A national traveling exhibit, "NASA @ Your Library" is a four-week initiative that aims to raise awareness and interest in science as well as encourage young people to consider a career choice in science.
Housed in the McAmis Room of the library, the main interactive exhibit -- an audio dome with six iMac computers -- includes topics such as shuttling to and living in space; a laboratory in space; and the nation's future in space. The flat screen computers run an interactive, multimedia presentation featuring animated cartoon characters, which were specially designed for the exhibit.
By mid-morning Thursday, third graders David Burch and Gavin O'Brien were getting the hang of things.
The other stand, located at the entrance of the library, is a plasma-screen theater. it shows movies about NASA research. For four weeks special weekly presentations will play continually for the public and show how NASA has improved health, home and transportation, agriculture and the environment and commerce.
Jackie Wortmann, project coordinator of NASA Educator Resource Center at Southeast Missouri State University, said she's really excited for Sikeston.
"I hope the surrounding communities will come and check it out. There are only 120 places in America that will get this and it is amazing," Wortmann said about the exhibit.
Sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of ALA, the exhibit is a special event because Sikeston is one of only two libraries in the state that will display it. The other is in St. Louis.
"Next month we will be launching into space and right now there are two men living in space," Wortmann said.
Although most people associate NASA with space shuttles, it's really about more, Wortmann said. "It's about people and how the outcomes help everyone."
Wortmann pointed out how packaged foods like pudding cups, the dust buster and Velcro were developed by NASA.
"NASA has also done a lot of research on the human body and they monitor humans in space and it helps with health research," Wortmann explained.
While NASA may not necessarily be farming, in an agricultural aspect, it is working on ways to grow fresh food in space should humans ever colonize a planet or a moon, Wortmann pointed out.
"When you grow something on earth, the roots grow down, but if you take away gravity, where do the roots grow? That's part of what they're studying," Wortmann noted.
It's a rare opportunity for children to be able to look to the future, and with this exhibit, they can, she said.
"And this is a wonderful opportunity for parents to bring children and learn with them," said children's librarian Ann Thompson.
Getting the NASA exhibit to Sikeston has been two years in the making, Thompson said. Originally the exhibit was supposed to be displayed in October 2003, but due to scheduling conflicts, it was postponed.
"In order to get this grant, we had to show how NASA research has impacted our community, and we did that because we have an agriculture community," Thompson said.
Sikeston Library also received a $1,000 stipend from NASA and the American Library Association to purchase needed materials for the exhibit and other related books, Thompson said.
In addition to NASA's exhibits, the Sikeston Public Library has several hands-
on activities for children who visit the exhibit. And throughout May, Wortmann will implement a program for three nights for children of different age groups.
"It's an experience they can't get anywhere else," said parent Julie O'Brien as she looked around the dome exhibit. "I think we may have future astronauts here."
The area-wide exhibit is available during regular library hours through May 26.