KidLit for Japan Meets Story Walk

Long time readers of my blog may remember that I participated in the KidLit for Japan fundraiser last spring following the devastating earthquake. I donated a field class  for up to 25 students. On Monday, I finally facilitated that class for the Sandwich Partnerships for Families. We negotiated a change in the original plan and I facilitated a Story Walk instead of the more open-ended class I had originally envisioned.

The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library. The basic idea was to combine stories and walking.

To set one up, you purchase two copies of a book. You disassemble the books, mount the pages on posterboard and laminate them. Then you mount them to stakes/ signs and set them out along a predetermined trail or path. While the original StoryWalk idea didn't necessarily connect the story to the environment in which it would be read, I chose to read a book that would be enriched by our location.

I facilitated this walk on Monday afternoon with Early Childhood Specialist Christina Hallas. It was the first day of school vacation week here in Massachusetts and a hot sunny one at that. Sandwich Partnerships for Families had advertised the event well, so we had a big turn out.

I had chosen Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes as our book. Springtime brings lots of spiraling new growth and the program was to be run in a seaside town where children can easily find swirly seashells, so this book seemed a perfect match. The short, poetic form was also perfect for the young (aged 2-5) participants.

The youngest children enjoyed walking ahead along the trail in Shawme-Crowell State Forest to find the next posted pages of the book while older children helped us locate spirals along the way- young plants poking out of the ground, beech leaves unfurling, spiraling log homes, swirly pinecones, and orb spider webs.
Photos by Christina Hallas
Once the walk was completed, we gathered for a snack and then children used crayons and markers to make their own spiraling artwork. As they worked, we shared examples of other spirals they might find in their town such as a bird nest, a butterfly proboscis, a moon snail shell and whelk shells. We also shared a giant nautilus shell (a highlight in the art on one page) and a basket to demonstrate how humans use items in nature as models for items they design.

Even though the organized event is over, the signs will remain along the trail for a week unless terrible weather is predicted- that way families can enjoy the story at their leisure if they weren't able to attend on Monday. One mother even said she planned to come back so she and her children could read it again and enjoy it without the crowd.

As a naturalist, educator, and writer, I think StoryWalks are a great idea! They combine so many things that I love. I've already been in touch with my local library about facilitating a StoryWalk in my home town.

Have you ever participated in or facilitated a StoryWalk? Please share.