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Sun Ray Natural Library Project Launches June 12 and 13 at Sun Ray Library and Conway Park

Sun Ray Natural Library Project Launches June 12 and 13 at Sun Ray Library and Conway Park
em>Tree and garden planting and celebration events welcome community members to get outdoors

Saint Paul, MN – On June 12 and June 13, the new Sun Ray Natural Library project launches at Saint Paul's Sun Ray Library and Conway Park. This highly visible demonstration project serves as a model for other libraries and communities across the U.S. of how libraries can be a nexus for nature connections for children and families.

On June 13, the Children & Nature Network will launch its new Natural Library initiative during a community celebration at the Sun Ray Library and Conway Park. A partnership between the Children & Nature Network, Sun Ray Library and Saint Paul Parks and Recreation, the Sun Ray Natural Library project is a national demonstration project designed to showcase what is possible for integrating community participation in urban green spaces around and near public libraries. Connecting the greater community, library programs, and urban land conservation is innovative and important for these community centers.

“Creating connections between the library and the park provides a tremendous opportunity for children and families to get more out of their library and for libraries to connect families to the natural world outside library walls,” said Rebecca Ryan, Branch Manager at Sun Ray Library. “Our natural library is making it possible for people to experience aspects of nature rather than just reading about nature in books. In this way, nature comes alive for young people and infuses a curiosity about both literacy and our natural world.”

With funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Wells Fargo Environmental Solutions for Communities grant program, the Children & Nature Network is creating a replicable model based on helping libraries support urban greening efforts, the creation of library resources and activities, and youth leadership development.

June 12, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, Community Tree Planting Project

On June 12, Wells Fargo’s Green Team is initiating the first of many urban greening events to enhance Conway Park, as part of the demonstration project. Green Team volunteers are planting over 40 trees provided by City of Saint Paul Department of Parks and Recreation and preparing the soil for a pollinator garden next to the Sun Ray Library.

June 13, 10:30 am – 1:00 pm, Community Summer Kick-Off Celebration (Speaking Program at 11:00 am)

At the June 13 summer kick-off celebration, in conjunction with National Get Outdoors Day, local children are planting native species that will attract butterflies, bees and other pollinators to the areas near the library and throughout Conway Park. The community is being invited to bring a picnic to the celebration event and enjoy new outdoor games and activities, explore new library programs such as gardening projects, pollinator investigation, and culturally-based storytelling at the library, and experience the newly planted trees throughout Conway Park, and watch the creation of the new pollinator garden.

During a brief program on June 13 at 11:00 am, Wells Fargo Area President Seun Aiyese is presenting a check to the Sun Ray Library representing its funding support for Children & Nature Network’s Sun Ray Natural Library project. Also attending the program are Saint Paul Deputy Mayor Kristin Beckmann, Saint Paul Public Library Director Kit Hadley, Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Kathy Korum, Saint Paul City Councilman Bill Finney, and Children & Nature Network Executive Director Sarah Milligan-Toffler.

In addition to park greening, Sun Ray Library staff and volunteers are offering a new collection of activities that promote literacy and environmental education through fun, hands-on activities for children, youth, and families. These include ‘Nature Backpacks’ that can be checked out from the library, Family Storytime in a variety of languages with accompanying nature-based activities, and a Family Nature Club to engage residents in outdoor experiences.

Youth leadership development is another primary aspect of the Sun Ray Natural Library project. Working in partnership with YouthCare Minnesota’s Camp Sunrise, District 1’s Young Mentor’s Group, Urban Roots, St. Paul Youth Services, and The Sanneh Foundation, young people are being selected to participate in the ‘Natural Leaders’ training program where they will gain skills to lead outdoor experiences that engage the community in hands-on environmental experiences and conservation activities. An important outcome of this project is to provide community-based internship and job opportunities for youth and young adults in District 1 neighborhoods.

“Children today are spending over 90% of their time indoors,” commented Sarah Milligan-Toffler, Executive Director of the Children & Nature Network. “They are increasingly growing less aware of nature; however, this is happening at the same time that the stewardship of our planet has never been more critical. The Sun Ray Natural Library is a tremendous opportunity to help people, especially children, learn about nature and become accustomed to playing outdoors. We are very excited about using the Sun Ray Natural Library as a model for other libraries across the country to demonstrate ways to integrate nature into the community.”

“By enhancing libraries with integrated natural spaces, we create a center for developing kids’ intelligence, curiosity and imagination,” comments Richard Louv, co-founder of Children & Nature Network and best-selling author of Last Child in the Woods. “Books nurture learning and inner imagination, while play in nature engages the sense of curiosity and exploration critical to healthy brain development. Putting both of these essential childhood experiences in one place is a simple idea, but one that could have profound effects on whole neighborhoods.”

Since its founding in 2006, the Children & Nature Network has been advocating for children, families and communities to enhance health and well-being through direct experiences in nature. C&NN’s vision is a world in which all children play, learn and grow with nature in their everyday lives. The Children & Nature Network is leading a movement to connect all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership. C&NN provides a wide range of research and user-friendly tools, including those to enhance positive family bonding and access to fun, friendly nature-based activities. For more information, see www.childrenandnature.org.

Saint Paul Public Library connects people in Saint Paul with the imperative and the joy of learning through a lifetime. Saint Paul residents can enjoy free access to technology, books, movies, music, classes and more. We are at 12 neighborhood libraries, George Latimer Central Library, the Bookmobile, and online at sppl.org.

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