Taking books outdoors with StoryWalk®s

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.


First sign and consecutive signs at Moose Hill’s StoryWalk trail; note the closeness of the signs

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.

volunteers helped install

Moose Hill Celebration with the volunteers. After we had the installation and pizza we got a picture!

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.


Nicole showing where the book will go at the fish viewing pool

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.


Second page at North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery walk shows space around sign for gathering

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.


Sign placed at Bungay Brook edge is intended to excite visitors about stream exploration!

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.

the walk

At Mass Audubon’s Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, near the Visitor’s Center

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/

*****Nicole Vachon is an artist, environmental educator, therapeutic activity coordinator and avid literacy enthusiast! She currently lives in Foxborough with her three children and husband where she gives hope, joy, love and possibility to communities to creatively live healthier lives!


Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionEasy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.


Filed under Blog posts--Easy Walks

7 responses to “Taking books outdoors with StoryWalk®s

  1. Anne Ferguson

    Thank you for helping to spread the word about the StoryWalk® Project. As I celebrate its 10th birthday this fall, I marvel at how adaptable it is to a wide range of settings but particularly how it draws people of all ages outdoors to walk and read together.

    • marjorie561

      You are so welcome, Anne– simple in concept, but adaptable–my definition of brilliant! Fun to be part of it in a small way. We had a great time exploring what Nicole and her crew put together. And getting families outdoors together, encouraging spending time exploring on so many levels–simply wonderful.

  2. Pingback: StoryWalks® | One Writer's Journey

  3. envirolibrarian

    Any suggestions for adult storywalks?

    • marjorie561

      Apologies in the delay responding. Hmm, it sounds like you’re asking for books that adults might enjoy along the trail. Jean Craighead George comes to mind, perhaps a chapter from one of her books, (The books of hers I’m familiar with focus on the Everglades.) Check with your librarian books written by oral storytellers for adult audiences. Another suggestion is to talk to your local librarian about ideas. It’s what I would do if I was charged with creating a story walk for adults.

      • Suzy Grindrod

        I am in the middle of reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and there are chapters there that would be amazing for an adult storywalk! Or a chapter from Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac. (And so many more!)

      • marjorie561

        Yes, a lot of books lend themselves to these installations. Most are aimed at children as audiences. YOur idea would take the concept to a whole other level.

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