The Kingsessing Library’s “play terrain” invites children to play and learn about the natural world around them.
Urban Jungle Book The Free Library adds nature strolls and challenging play by bernard brown terrains to cultivate young learners
pproximately 16 parents and children gather on a June morning for a stroll to the shore. That might conjure images of a summer day at the beach, but in this case, the closest thing to the crashing of waves is traffic rolling by on 49th Street, and the shore is the lower Schuylkill River in Southwest Philadelphia. This is a Saturday Stroll, a nature walk organized by nonprofit play advocate and design organization Studio Ludo in conjunction with the Free Library of Philadelphia, Interpret Green, Roofmeadow and Bartram’s Garden. Meghan Talarowski, Studio Ludo’s founder and director, gives a quick introduction to the walk, first showing off the mesh-sided bug enclosures participants can use to take a closer look at any critters they find, and then cards with images and 8
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facts about bugs, reptiles and amphibians they might see on the walk. With that, the group sets off down the sidewalk. They only make it a few feet before stopping to explore the community garden next to the library. There they discover some brown snakes–small, harmless snakes common in Philadelphia’s green spaces–as well as an assortment of bugs, such as cabbage white butterflies. Nature walks with small children move slowly, but even more so when every discarded piece of trash can hide wonders, and every vacant lot holds more critters (centipedes, isopod-killing spiders, ants). Eventually the group arrives at Bartram’s Garden. With a meadow to one side and the waterfront on the other, they check out a garter snake and conclude the stroll by filling out evaluation forms. “[It] was lovely to be with community
and notice the things in the natural world around us,” says Molly McGlone, who brought her children on the walk. Studio Ludo led three more Saturday Strolls over the spring and summer, exploring natural history, including rocks and birds, and the final walk featured a neighborhood history scavenger hunt, according to Talarowski. Soon library patrons at the Kingsessing and Cecil B. Moore branches in North Philly will be able to take their own nature strolls any day of the week. Studio Ludo and the Free Library are developing “adventure packs,” according to Talarowski, “[T]hat children and families can check out of the library, which will encourage people to go out and discover P HOTO G RAP HY BY RACHAE L WARRI NER