Chapel Hill Kids Learn the Science Behind Firefighting

Firefighters are pretty much experts when it comes to teaching fire safety. But math and science might be some of their lesser known skills.

“The general population, doesn’t think of firefights as being mathematicians or scientist or engineers,” said Stephanie Halpin, the STEM Coordinator for Granville County Schools.

Chapel Hill firefighters explain the gear they use. Photo via Erin Wygant.

Chapel Hill firefighters explain the gear they use. Photo via Erin Wygant.

She coordinated with the Chapel Hill Fire Department and the Chapel Hill Public Library to host “Sci Why,” an interactive event to teach kids about the science, technology and math behind firefighting.

“Science, technology, engineering and math is what STEM stands for and there’s so much of that in firefighting but most people don’t make that connection,” Halpin said.

A group of twenty firefighters hosted the three-hour event where they taught kids about the equipment they carry and different ways to put out fires. The four hands-on stations emphasized the science and math behind their job, discussing equations, molecular structures and new technology that are all part of firefighting.

“We had two learning goals,” Halpin said. “One was fire safety, obviously. The other one was to help students make connections to science and math in their daily lives.”

Yan Kong brought her daughter to the event because she said she wanted to encourage an interest in science and math.

“Sometimes they think boys like cars and girls like dolls but I don’t think so,” Kong said. “I think everyone should be able to learn with anything for their future life.”

Dawn Towery brought her two sons to the event for a similar reason.

“We love the library, we love firefighters and we like science and math and technology, so we thought it’d be a great afternoon activity,” Towery said.

Her 10-year-old son Ian said he was curious about the science behind fires.

“I’m hoping to learn more about smoke because I know about particles and atoms but I don’t know much about smoke. So I want to know more.”

But Ian had other motives for learning about fire safety, too.

“In video games I like to set things on fire and then I have to put it out.”
“So maybe this firefighting class will help you with your video games?”
“Yes, by helping me find the source of the fire.”

The event included some experiments with household items.

Firefighters taught kids about density and weight using oil and water. Photo via Erin Wygant.

Firefighters taught kids about density and mass using oil and water. Photo via Erin Wygant.

“What we have here is regular water and some regular cooking oil that your parents might use,” explained a group of firefighters. “And what we’re trying to figure out, is if we pour this blue water onto the cooking oil, will it go to the bottom or stay on top of the oil?”

The kids watched the water filter down to the bottom of the cup, leading to a discussion about mass and density.

Gill Corbett was the first to try on a fireman's coat. Photo via Erin Wygant.

Gill Corbett was the first to try on a fireman’s coat. Photo via Erin Wygant.

At a different station, children learned about the clothes fire fighters wear, and the science behind their protective qualities. Eleven-year-old Gill Corbett put on one of the firemen’s coats, which he said was the highlight of his day.

“My favorite part was when I tried on the coat. It was really heavy but still pretty cozy.”

His reaction was exactly what Halpin was looking for.

“I hope it gives them some excitement about learning,” Halpin said. “And I hope they can see some leadership in the community with some of the positive role models that are here.”

Halpin said she hopes to partner with the fire department again, much to Gill’s delight. When asked if he’d come back, he responded with a hearty…

“Definitely! Oh definitely.”

Molly Luby and Earl Canty: Hometown Heroes

Molly Luby and Earl Canty are Wednesday’s Hometown Heroes.

Molly Lube

Molly Luby

Molly is a Library Experiences Assistant at the Chapel Hill Public Library.  She’s been working on a special project with Earl, who is a resident of the IFC Community House.

There is a library at the Community House.  Molly and Earl have been working together to improve it for the residents.

Molly and Earl went through every book in the Community House library.  Then, with help from the Friends of the Chapel Hill Library, they brought in books that had been requested. by Community House residents.

Earl Canty

Earl Canty

The result is a smaller collection of books, but ones that are of more interest to the men at the house.

They also redesigned the library room to make it more cozy, comfortable, and inviting.

You can nominate your own Hometown Hero.  WCHL has honored local members of our community everyday since 2002.

Martha Brunstein: Hometown Hero

Martha Brunstein is Thursday’s Hometown Hero.

Susan Brown, Martha Brunstein, Jill McCorkle

Susan Brown, Martha Brunstein, Jill McCorkle

Martha is the President of Friends of the Chapel Hill Public Library.  They are an association of persons committed to furthering the excellence of the Chapel Hill Public Library by raising money for library needs, sponsoring programs for adults and children, and fostering interest in the Chapel Hill Public Library.  The group is close to 400 members and is pledging about $100,000 to the library this year.

Fundraising has grown every year under Brunstein’s leadership.

Learn more about Friends of the Chapel Hill Public Library.

Chapel Hill Library Receives Funding for Pop-Up Library Project

The Chapel Hill Public Library was awarded nearly $100,000 by the State Library of North Carolina for its upcoming Pop-Up Library Project.

The Pop-Up Library will be a library on wheels allowing the CHPL to engage with the community directly wherever they might gather.

The purpose of the program is to deliver services and resources beyond 100 Library Drive. “This service will help us support educational success and outside-the-classroom learning for kids and families,” said Susan Brown, the director of CHPL, in a release.

CHPL Assistant Director Meeghan Rosen and the project’s manager, said in a release, the summer learning programs will reach even more kids by bringing the library directly to where they live and play.

The Pop-Up Library is set to hit the road summer 2017.

Chapel Hill Public Library Adds New Hours

The Chapel Hill Public Library is adding seven hours to it’s weekly schedule.

When fully implemented starting March 14, the new library hours will be:

Monday – Thursday        9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Friday                             9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday        10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

This makes a total of 69 hours per week. These changes were made without any increase in their operating budget because of a reorganization done last year.

Library users should also note a planned closure on Friday, March 18.

“Unbound” Unveiled At Chapel Hill Public Library

It’s a work of art more than a year in the making, weaving together nearly ten thousand pieces of Chapel Hill’s history, community and life – and it’s on display now in the Chapel Hill Public Library.

Unveiling "Unbound." (Photo by Aaron Keck.)

Unveiling “Unbound.” (Photo by Aaron Keck.)

It’s called “Unbound.” Commissioned by the town’s cultural arts division and compiled by Rhode Island-based artist Erik Carlson, it’s a digital projection through more than a hundred lenses, cycling through 9,469 still images and videos collected over the spring and summer of 2015 – including kids’ drawings, menus, maps, love letters, TV broadcasts, Super 8 films, YouTube videos and more, all drawn from life in Chapel Hill. (The piece also includes nods to various forms of communication: shorthand, Morse Code, binary, cursive writing, and Braille.)

Erik Carlson.

Erik Carlson.

The town selected Carlson from a pool of 235 applicants for the project. Carlson shuttled back and forth from Rhode Island to Chapel Hill throughout 2015 and 2016 to gather material and produce the piece – touring restaurants and bars, visiting community centers, attending cultural events, and more. (His final trip was down I-95 through six states, all with the finished artwork sitting precariously in his vehicle – but he says he made it without incident.)

The work was officially unveiled Friday evening, with Mayor Pam Hemminger, Cultural Arts Division head Jeff York, Public Library director Susan Brown, and most of the Chapel Hill Town Council in attendance along with Carlson himself.

Susan Brown, Pam Hemminger, and Erik Carlson discuss "Unbound." (Photos by Aaron Keck.)

Susan Brown, Pam Hemminger, and Erik Carlson discuss “Unbound.” (Photos by Aaron Keck.)

A couple days before the official unveiling, Carlson and Brown discussed “Unbound” with Aaron Keck on WCHL.


Learn more about “Unbound” here.

Chapel Hill Public Library Unbound 8

"Oh, let's just rip it!" (Photo by Aaron Keck.)

“Oh, let’s just rip it!” (Photo by Aaron Keck.)

And learn even more about it here.

Chapel Hill Public Library Unbound 1

Chapel Hill Public Library Unbound 12

Chapel Hill Public Library Unbound 11

Chapel Hill Public Library Unbound 10

Chapel Hillian Publishes Debut Novel

It’s a contemporary retelling of the Noah’s Ark story – only now with Noah’s wife coming into her own as the main character. (Gradually, at any rate.)

Just released in January, “Noah’s Wife” is the debut novel of Lindsay Starck. Originally from Wisconsin, she now lives in Chapel Hill as she pursues a doctorate in comparative literature at UNC.

Starck discussed the novel with Aaron Keck (and read a short passage) this week on WCHL.


You can meet Starck and hear more of “Noah’s Wife” this Thursday, February 18, at a “Meet the Author Tea” hosted by the Friends of the Chapel Hill Public Library. The event takes place in the library at 4 pm (free and open to all), with refreshments starting at 3:30.

Photo of Starck via

Photo of Starck via

To buy the book, click here.

Chapel Hill Public Library Plans To Expand Hours

The Chapel Hill Public Library is planning to add four to six hours to it’s current schedule.

Before deciding when these hours would be, the library is asking for public input to help figure out which hours would best serve the community.

The deadline to submit input is February 15.

According to the library website, these expanding hours will come with no increase to the current budget.

The library will announce its expanded hours in March.

Step Dancing Comes To CHPL

The Chapel Hill Public Library begins its celebration of Black History Month this Saturday, February 6, at 3 pm with a free exhibition of step dancing performed by local students.

The step groups at UNC’s Communiversity Youth Program are comprised of 3rd through 5th graders, taught by UNC students through the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History. Step is a percussive form of dance that originated at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the early 20th century.

Chris Wallace of Communiversity discussed Saturday’s program with Aaron Keck on WCHL, joined by two dancers and one teacher from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

Medicaid Expansion In NC?

North Carolina is one of 16 states nationwide that still hasn’t expanded Medicaid, even though (or because) Medicaid expansion is a key component of the plan behind the Affordable Care Act. With a major election looming this year, what is the status of the Medicaid expansion debate in North Carolina?

The League of Women Voters of Orange, Durham and Chatham Counties is hosting a discussion on Medicaid expansion this Wednesday, January 20, at 6:30 pm in the Chapel Hill Public Library. (The LWV is a nonpartisan organization, but it’s taken a position in favor of Medicaid expansion.) League president Janet Hoy will speak along with Adam Linker of the NC Justice Center.

Janet Hoy previewed the event and discussed the issue with Aaron Keck on WCHL.


Wednesday’s event is called “Status of Medicaid Expansion: What’s On the Political Horizon?” It’s free and open to the public.

Visit for more information.