Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bringing Nature Inside at the Libary

There has been much research and many studies recently regarding the effects of nature and natural materials on the psyches of children and adults.  The link below will lead you to some of them, however, to sum it all up; children and adults need nature in their lives.  (http://www.childrenandnature.org/documents/C118/ )

In several previous posts, I've described the six libraries in the North Philadelphia Cluster in many ways. This time I'll describe their settings in regards to the availability of nature and natural settings.

Three of the libraries have little or no nature close at hand. Kensington, has no grass, trees, or any other type of natural growth immediately on its property.  Ramonita de Rodriguez  and Cecil B. Moore each have a couple of small trees in the front, but, otherwise nothing else.  Widener has a small area of grass behind the library, which has been used for various programs involving nature. Lillian Marrero has a fenced-in yard surrounding it. And, McPherson Square sits in the middle of a large square, which would be wonderful, if it wasn't also known as "Needle Park"as it sits at the epicenter of the heroin trade.  Long story short, there isn't much opportunity for programs involving nature outside of our libraries.  What do you do?

Of course, you bring nature into the library.  I have, on several occasions, attended the Nature Play Study Group organized by DVAEYC.  It is attended by a number of teachers from preschools that have outdoor classrooms or access to forested areas.  There are also people from other types of organizations who are interested in this topic. I attend each meeting with the primary purpose of considering how to adapt the activities to take place in a library setting.

We have done some very simple things, like using sweet gum tree balls and small pine cones with
the kitchen sets instead of purchased play food.  (The play food tends to disappear rather quickly, and the children do not put the natural items in their mouths.)

Tree cookies are another item which works well in the library.  They are
good for building, counting, as loose parts to be used with wooden blocks, examining textures, and every other thing the children can dream up.

There are several ideas we have and will make them available as soon as we have the materials needed.  An example is this simple building project that uses twigs and stones.

These are very small efforts, indeed.  However, at the rate these items go home in pockets and bags, and need to be replaced by librarians and others, it become apparent that the children are fascinated by these natural objects and don't always need store-bought pretend food or other things.

The staff of the North Philadelphia Cluster think I'm a little obsessed with this, and maybe I am.  Here is an article from the National Association of the Education of Young Children to back me up.  Also, if you are in Philadelphia, we will happily accept donations of pine cones, pebbles, tree cookies, and other natural objects.


Friday, May 13, 2016

In a world of change ...

"In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists."  Eric Hoffer

I heard this quote while attending a seminar titled, "The Leaders Role and Responsibility as Mentor" presented by Dr. Chip Bell, and it made an immediate impression on me.  I started to look back on the approximately two and a half years of North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries Cluster.  There has been a natural ebb and flow of the group coming together and then drifting apart, into what looks like a dysfunctional family.  There is a closeness and a camaraderie that is only found in groups that have worked together over time, along with the type of tattle-tailing and bickering that frequently happens with siblings.  I don't see this as a bad thing.

We see this with staff.  The people who have "learned" or accepted new ways have had an easier time adapting.  Those who were sure they knew what it is all about took longer to catch up.  I've noticed those are sometimes the ones sitting in the back of the meeting with their arms crossed, or they are the people who always seem to have some other important commitment when cluster meetings are scheduled.  The rest of us are having much more fun discovering new and different ways to do thing.

My thinking then expanded to the wider FLP world, specifically, the staff forums. Who are the people we hear from most on those forums?  The learners or the learned?  Who are the persistent nay-sayers? And, who are the voices of reason that occasionally pop up?

I asked a few different people what they thought about this quote, and got the response below from one of them.

"I feel like this implies a willingness to change and adapt.

We see this now with highly educated people who refused to learn/ keep up with technology-  and now they are totally left behind and out of the loop on many current events, innovations, discoveries, etc.

We see this with librarians (and Las) who refuse to accept and adapt to the changing nature of what our job is and insist on reference and books being everything."

I would be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this.