PAMELA COTANT For the State Journal
School may be closed for the summer, but the outdoor learning opportunities haven’t stopped at Lake View Elementary School.
Shortly before the end of the school year, Lake View installed StoryWalk – a series of 18 pedestals topped with large frames that can each hold a page from a book or other story. The plinths are spaced out and visitors to the school grounds can stop at each to read a page from a book. The idea is to be outdoors, moving around and enjoying a story at the same time.
David Carlson and Nichole Wittenberg took their daughters to StoryWalk recently afternoon after their eldest, Hailey Carlson, walked it with her fellow freshmen before the end of the school year. Their other daughter, Emma, is 4 years old.
“We took them all to the street – we only live about a block away. We did the StoryWalk as a family,” said David Carlson. “It was a nice, easy pace.”
Carlson said it was a great outing because Emma had engagements at every station.
People also read…
“It seemed like a really fun thing to do as a family, especially with the pandemic. It was just a really good thing to do (and) get out into nature. There were no crowds,” he said.
The story right now is “Jayden’s Impossible Garden”, written by Mélina Mangal and illustrated by Ken Daley. The book won the 2019 African American Voices in Children’s Literature writing competition. It tells the story of a black boy who sees nature everywhere in his urban neighborhood and sets out to convince his mother. He befriends Mr. Curtis, a black man who uses a wheelchair, and the couple start a community garden. Jayden then brings together his neighbors and his mother to make them discover the magic of nature in the heart of the city.
Lake View StoryWalk includes questions to guide story discussion, as well as information about the author, who is a school library teacher in Minnesota, and the illustrator.
Hailey Carlson said the StoryWalk experience with her family was “awesome” and she enjoyed the story.
“I liked the part where the little boy showed mom all of nature,” she said.
Fourth grader Nehcal Voker was one of the students who led the second graders on the StoryWalk before school ended.
“It was kind of fun,” Nehcal said. The second graders “said it was cool”.
Shannon Furman, Lake View librarian, said she and Eve Dietrich, parent liaison at the school at 1802 Tennyson Lane on Madison’s North Side, separately came up with the idea for the StoryWalk and took it. presented to Principal Nkauj Nou Vang-Vue. Furman said his goal was literacy and Diedrich’s was parent involvement.
“It’s a chance for our families to experience the outdoors and literacy,” Furman said.
The idea came to Furman last summer when she saw Story Stroll from the Rhinelander District Library in Hodag Park on the shore of Lake Boom, a flow on the Wisconsin River. It opened last spring and is similar to what Lake View has installed.
After the idea was proposed, Dietrich did much of the research to determine how Lake View’s StoryWalk would be created. The project was funded by the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools, Healthy Kids Collaborative, Tri 4 Schools and the UW Healthy Classrooms Foundation.
A post hole excavator was rented and volunteers from Blackhawk Church joined Lake View staff to install the signs on May 22. The volunteers came as part of the church’s “Love Madison” initiative once each spring to serve as a church fellowship in Dane County.
The school had originally planned to set up the StoryWalk in the school’s forest, which is part of Lake View’s outdoor education space, but tree roots would have made it difficult to dig the holes. The end result features some of the StoryWalk signs visible from the road and parking lot and on flatter terrain, which might attract more people to join the experience.
Rachel Deterding, Lake View Community School Resource Coordinator, said the StoryWalk is intended to be a North Side resource for everyone in the community.
“We invite everyone in the community to experience the StoryWalk even if they don’t have children registered here,” Deterding said.
Student groups will decide what new story will be installed this fall, Furman said, and students could also help come up with accompanying questions. Lake View has a bilingual Hmong program, and a future idea for the StoryWalk is to feature stories about Hmong families.
“The possibilities are out there,” Furman said.