Guest Blogger

Take it Outside: Nature-Based Engagement

Plenty of librarians are familiar with the research linking literacy to whole body, whole brain learning, but lots of library activities happen inside the building. We may find ourselves reminding people to walk more often than encouraging the kind of rugged adventuring that builds large motor skills and coordination.  Since public libraries don’t always have abundant green spaces that invite learning and outdoor exploration, here are some simple ways to make the most out of small spaces that encourage nature-based engagement and outdoor fun.  

We started with a passive engagement option: a nature table near a window with rotating activities. With the help of a talented staff member (noted in the photo credits), we added window decorations featuring animals, birds, flowers, and insects that careful observers might notice outside. With a drawing book, children’s binoculars, and flannel boards, the indoor space was transformed. The simple alterations to available space inspire ongoing observation, curiosity, and reflection. 

Take & Make kits and passive activities became useful during COVID, and they continue to play a part of efforts to facilitate family participation in citizen science. Packets relating to projects like Journey North’s Monarch Count, Audubon’s Backyard Bird Count, and other projects connect folks to larger environmental issues with pathways for participation at all levels. Nearby parks or schools are often available for library activities, but we reconsidered the green space surrounding the building, too. At first glance, the small garden had little more than a picnic table and thriving milkweed plants. However, with a little adjustment that tiny space became a lively outdoor area where we host nature themed storytimes and loose parts play for preschoolers, nature-themed crafts for multiple ages, and oversized game days and book club meetings for school aged children.

Photo Credit: Leslie Swaim-Fox

Are you ready to explore options? Check out the resources from U.S. Forest Service, Natural Start Alliance, and Project Learning Tree and take it outside.

Today’s guest contributor is Erika Hogan. Erika is a youth services librarian at Heights Libraries in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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