Two Chilliwack librarians have taken their teachings outside the walls of the library and into the great outdoors as a result of the pandemic.
For the past few months, Julie Penner and Janet Woyke with the Fraser Valley Regional Library have been making videos based on STEAM learning (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics).
The virtual program is called Explorytime (a combination of ‘explore’ and ‘story time’) and they’re currently filming episodes entitled It’s Tree-rrific, a series of forest-based educational videos for preschool- and elementary school-aged children.
“We talk about trees as community – how they communicate with each other, how they find out if they’re part of the same family,” Woyke said while filming one of the episodes with Penner at the Chilliwack Community Forest recently.
Kids will learn about biodiversity, dendrology (the scientific study of trees), different kinds of trees and how they reproduce. They will also hear about how trees “go to school” where they learn how to grow straight and tall instead of crooked, Woyke added.
The two have taken a lot of their knowledge from ‘Can you hear the trees talking?’ a children’s book by Peter Wohlleben.
“We’re taking the book but we’re personalizing it to where we are,” Penner said, gesturing to the red cedars and western hemlocks towering above her.
They also offer simple experiments for kids to try at home. One has to do with animals that live in holes in trees and the sounds they hear.
They use that space as a “security sound system,” Penner said. “[The sound] vibrates up through the tree. They can hear if someone is coming up through the bottom.”
In one of the videos Penner and Woyke will show kids an experiment, using a fallen log, that mimics the tiny sounds those animals hear as sound travels through the tree.
Not only are kids learning, but so too are the librarians.
“We certainly didn’t know everything about trees when we first started this,” Woyke said, adding that she initially misidentified the hemlocks.
They carry a tree reference guide with them as there is no cell service in many spots where they are filming.
In addition to the videos being educational, it’s all “super simple stuff,” Woyke said.
Everything that’s shown are things children can do out in the community for free. Or if it involves making projects, Penner and Woyke use common items that are easily found around the house.
“We want kids to know that there’s a whole world of learning right at their fingertips… like in their backyard,” Penner said.
Before they even started filming the first It’s Tree-rrific episode, they knew they had picked the right spot at the Chilliwack Community Forest.
|Chilliwack librarian Julie Penner appears inside a rainbow-shaped lens flare while filming at Chilliwack Community Forest on Aug. 27, 2020. (Janet Woyke/ Submitted to The Chilliwack Progress)|
As Woyke was setting up the camera, sunlight was coming through the lens at just the right angle to create a spectacular lens flare in the shape of a colourful rainbow, arcing over Penner.
“It was like the forest was welcoming us,” Penner said smiling.
They both agree that offering programming outside of the library has been an advantage for them. Had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, their Explorytime videos may never have seen the light of day.
The program could have still been offered inside the library but to a “much lesser degree,” Woyke said.
“It’s an unintended wonderful thing that has come out of an unfortunate time,” Penner added. “It’s definitely a silver lining.”
Explorytime is just one of many online programs currently being offered by the FVRL in the wake of the pandemic. The virtual programming is for people of all ages and topics range from baby story times to puppet shows, black holes to container gardening, and mindfulness to eco-friendly living.