By Cinnamon Moore
At a press conference at the Chapel Hill Public Library (CHPL) on June 8, North Carolina’s First Lady Kristin Cooper announced that the CHPL was among a select few to receive grants from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). IE’s Environmental Resource Program (ERP) is a named partner, as well as UNC’s Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. Both organizations will assist the CHPL in the planning and implementation of experiential, outdoor learning environments for kids and adults.
“We designed this project to address growing community needs for engaging, interactive opportunities to learn and explore the natural world,” said Meeghan Rosen, assistant director at the library.
The grant for the proposed Outdoor Learning Program, totals just under $120,000. Funds for all North Carolina projects totaled $2.3 million and were given to libraries whose plans supported the goals of IMLS.
As an independent library separate from the county, grants and donations play a crucial role in helping the CHPL fund innovative and informative programs.
The library will receive $89,140 to develop and implement outdoor-based science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) experiences within Pritchard Park, a 32-acre public park adjacent to the library.
Sarah Yelton, Environmental Education Coordinator for IE’s Environmental Resource Program, will convene a focus group of environmental educators from across the state to inform the development of this new program.
“By bringing environmental education experts together we can build the library’s capacity to offer high quality and engaging environmental education programming that can serve as a model for libraries across the state and nation,” Yelton said.
The ERP plans to offer teacher workshops to Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School teachers to promote outdoor learning among K-12 teachers and students. By partnering with Nature Explore and NC Watershed Science, teachers will be empowered to bring environmental learning opportunities to kids in Pritchard Park and in their own schoolyards.
IMLS funds will also enable the library to create a Nature Discovery Kit program that will launch in spring of 2018. The ERP will inform the development of these kits, which will be be available for check-out for library patrons to explore the grounds of Pritchard Park and discover the natural environment around them.
“This grant not only enables the library to expand its impact on the local community by taking advantage of learning opportunities in its natural setting but also represents a new community partner for ERP and the IE,” Yelton said.