GREENFIELD — Imagine children being able to see a caterpillar turn into a real butterfly or watch a deer graze through a field, all from the comfort and warmth of the Hancock County Public Library.
Library officials recently opened a new Nature Nook designed to teach children about science and the great outdoors. The $6,500 project is in the north section of the children’s room and was created in part with a $5,000 grant from the Indiana State Library for children’s spaces. Local library officials funded the remainder of the project.
Cathrine Riley, youth services manager, was the project director. She worked with Kristine Gilbertson, reference librarian, and Kevin Gioe, building manager, to make the idea a reality.
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Library officials said they are always looking for fun opportunities to make learning enjoyable and to educate children in innovative ways, and the Nature Nook is designed for that.
The space was created to generate interest in the sciences. Library officials intend to use the Nature Nook as a springboard from observation of nature to increased exposure to the nonfiction materials to active participation outdoors. Officials hope the outcome will be a resurgence of children in nature, with benefits in increased interest in science, technology, engineering and math, along with exercise.
“We really wanted to make this interactive,” Riley said.
The nook in the Children’s Room, which once held a study table, magazines and online library catalog, now houses an Empire State Building viewer overlooking a field and pond, a 3-D tree with a low tree-house deck, a seating area of log-styled table and stumps, and an interactive wall covered with textured plaques of ten animals children might see through either the viewer or from the little deck. The nook will also host a butterfly exhibit in the spring and fall. The space is defined by artificial grass.
Gilbertson painted the walls with nature scenes, while Gioe, who came up with the idea for the Nature Nook, built the tree top table and chairs and the large oak tree on the back wall.
Gilbertson said the idea of painting a mural with grass and trees on the wall gave the room some depth and brought nature inside.
“We really wanted to do something that would catch peoples’ eyes because it is such a neat space,” Gilbertson said. “We wanted people to see the same things they would see outside.”
Gioe came up with an idea for a nature nook about six years ago and tucked it in his binder of ideas. He said the Nature Nook was at the top of his list, and he was thrilled when library officials agreed to make it.
“Now that we’ve finished things up, I’m thinking about some other things we can add,” he said. “It will be one of those projects we will keep adding to.”
Riley said they plan to have programming associated with the Nature Nook about leaves and other items associated with the outdoors. They will also hold preschool story time in the Nook, reading books associated with nature.
Dave Gray, library director, said it’s great to work with a staff capable of creating cool learning opportunities for young patrons.
“We’ve been able to make things that bring people into the library,” Gray said. “When they come here they have a lot of different options.”