I met Nicole Vachon recently and we quickly “got” each other. She wanted to get out the word about the StoryWalk®s she had created locally. I wanted her to share “lessons learned”. So here we have a Guest Post from Nicole, with lots of links to more information. Here’s hoping this will encourage you to go out to create your own StoryWalk®! (Marjorie)
By Nicole Vachon
“Endangered Species: Fish, Birds, and Reading”
When I saw a StoryWalk® at the Burrell Elementary School in Foxborough, MA, where my children attended school, I loved the innovative and delightful way children—and adults!—could enjoy reading and the outdoors at the same time. Igo and Taylor elementary schools in Foxborough also have Story Walk®s, newly installed this summer! Laminated pages from a children’s book are attached to wooden stakes, which are installed along an outdoor path. StoryWalks® have been installed in 50 states and 11 countries including, Germany, Canada, England, Bermuda, Russia, Malaysia and Pakistan! “The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. StoryWalk® is a registered service mark owned by Ms. Ferguson.” http://kellogghubbard.org/storywalk
At a time when spending time in nature and reading books is becoming more rare, I was moved to create this outdoor literacy and fitness opportunity. As a Foxborough artist and educator, I had the vision to partner with Foxborough Cultural Council, North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery and Moose Hill Massachusetts Audubon Wildlife Conservation Center in Sharon to provide two new StoryWalk®s for Foxborough, Sharon, North Attleboro and other area students and residents.
As a kick-off in June 2017 to the Massachusetts Library summer reading program, we installed StoryWalk®s in two locations. At the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery we featured the book, Trout are Made from Trees by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Kate Endle, which puts an ecosystem spin on “you are what you eat”. At Audubon’s Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon we placed the book She’s Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by David Catrow. It tells the tale of the origin of the Audubon Society. These two new StoryWalk®s provide additional opportunities for school children who attend Foxborough Elementary Schools (and other children as well!) to connect their ongoing literary experiences to the conservation centers at Moose Hill and the North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery.
Would you like to create a StoryWalk®? Ten key lessons learned:
1: If you want to host your own StoryWalk®, before you get started be sure to secure funding and work with the stakeholders who oversee the locations where you wish to place your StoryWalk® to see what in-kind donations they can provide. Foxborough Cultural Council provided a seed grant for materials, books, and my coordination time. By my working together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Mass Audubon Society, they were each able to provide support for the other’s sites. Cooperatively, we completed the two StoryWalk®s. Mass Audubon provided the mounting boards and lamination of the story pages while U.S. Fish and Wildlife provided posts and paint plus volunteer support to help cut the posts and paint the sign mounting boards.
2: Sign mounting board preparation is important to ensure longer durability. Paint the mounting boards for the signs. Make sure they are dry before they are stacked and moved. When doing this in hot weather, make sure they dry in a cooler area. Some of our signs didn’t cure before we moved them and will need a touch up paint job.
3: Take care with sign positioning and securing the posts. Position the signs so that they are angled for easy viewing. Make sure posts have gravel or some rocky substrate to ensure stability. In some of the spots we found this to be difficult, and we had to bring in gravel to the trail at the North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery. At Moose Hill we went rock hunting and had a supply available that we wheel barrowed around to make sure the sign was wedged upright before filling in with dirt.
4: Provide a good experience for volunteers.
a) Allow for ownership for the volunteers. I coordinated a work day at each site. At the North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery some of our volunteers were special needs adults and needed support to install the walk. They were very excited about the project and I made sure each one of them was responsible for one sign going in, with the idea that they could come back and visit “their sign”.
b) Arrange both food and celebration. This is always a good way to keep volunteers coming back. Be sure to feed them and thank them for what they have provided.
5: Be creative in choosing trail accessibility. Pick a place you would like to highlight that has a trail that is accessible for many ages and capabilities.
a)With She’s Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head by Kathryn Lasky at Moose Hill, I worked with the director to set up part of the book near the visitor’s center on their ADA trail access and gave the option for completing the story in the center with the actual book or to continue on the nearby Woodthrush trail.
b)With Trout are Made from Trees by April Sayre at the North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery, we placed one copy of the book around the fish viewing pool and another around the nature trail.
6: Position signs to allow for space to gather. I worked with the volunteers to make sure the signs were positioned in places visitors could comfortably gather around the sign and view it. If other visitors came by, these were spots visitors could easily get past those reading the story.
7: Ensure sign’s positions encourage viewing and enjoyment of the natural space they are visiting. Many of our signs are near pond views or near Bungay Brook, to tie in the message of the story at the North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery. At Moose Hill there are rocks and trees within sight, as well as signs near the Maple Sugar Shack. Our choices helped highlight other aspects of the story and the wildlife sanctuary.
8: Choose a book that is age appropriate for a wide range of audiences both in length, content, and imagery. The book at the North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery is spread out on a longer trail, and it has shorter verbiage to encourage little legs to walk longer and not take too long to read. The Audubon sanctuary story is longer but can be read within a shorter distance.
9: Choose a book that is age appropriate for a wide range of audiences both in length, content, and imagery. The book at the North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery is spread out on a longer trail, and it has shorter verbiage to encourage little legs to walk longer and not take too long to read. The Moosehill story is longer but can be read within a shorter distance.
10: Spread the word! Find partners like Marjorie Turner Hollman and share your experience on a blog site and link it with the partners’ websites.
North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery in North Attleboro https://www.fws.gov/northattleboro/
Moose Hill Mass Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary http://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/moose-hill
Foxborough Public Schools http://www.foxborough.k12.ma.us
Foxborough Cultural Council (I am listed under the funding list) https://www.mass-culture.org/Foxborough
Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) https://everyoneoutdoors.blogspot.com/2015/06/happy-trails-for-everyone-in-south.html
Marjorie’s website: https://marjorieturner.com/category/blog-posts-easy-walks/
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.