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.


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