The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) recently awarded a $10,000 grant to the public libraries in Rochester, Marion, and Mattapoisett to serve students in grades 3 through 8 and their families. The grant is one of 46 awarded across the state funded by the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). Only one other collaborative grant was offered as part of the LSTA program.
The Elizabeth Taber Library, the Plumb Memorial Library, and the Mattapoisett Free Public Library worked together on a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) program, along with science educator Michelle Cusolito. The grant, “My Own Backyard,” introduces children to the natural resources in their respective towns and allows them to explore, experiment and record data, with the help of local professionals. Library resources and Explorer Backpacks, created by the library staff, will enable the young “citizen scientists” to learn more about the environment, weather, plants, and animals. The materials and programs will also expose them to a variety of careers and professionals. The backpacks can be checked out by families and caregivers and shared among the libraries.
“I’m especially excited to be a part of this grant because it combines two of my passions: nature and books! I’ve worked as a naturalist, classroom teacher, and now writer of nature books for children,” said science educator and author Michelle Cusolito. “My family makes heavy use of our local libraries. I’m thrilled to be able to give back to my community in this way.”
“This grant and its programs will allow children to explore the outdoors and engage in their own area’s natural resources. It will also provide the opportunity for students to meet and learn from a variety of science professionals in the Tri-Town area, and become stewards of their land,” said Elizabeth Taber Library Director Elisabeth O’Neill.
“We are particularly pleased to be working together on this project because we serve many of the same families, and our students enter the same schools once they reach the junior high grades. Complementing what is offered in the schools by promoting outside exploration will be enriching for everyone involved,” said Mattapoisett Free Public Library Director Susan Pizzolato. “This builds on the exciting visit to our area by nature educator Richard Louv of The Children and Nature Network a few years ago.”
A number of local organizations, agencies and businesses partnered with the libraries, and will be offering their expertise as the project develops over the year. The local land trusts, conservation commissions, and cranberry businesses, among others, will be assisting with site-specific adventures for students during all four seasons.
The project will begin in October and run for one year. The funds will enable each library to purchase books and materials for the grade levels, create the backpacks, and offer programs in all three towns for children and adults. More information will be posted soon on each library’s website and Facebook page.