By Sabrina Petroski
For several weeks now, visitors to Sachem Public Library in Holbrook have noticed a flurry of activity outside of the children’s wing. Now the state-of-the-art award-winning library is finally ready to unveil its latest offering, Discovery Grove, with an official ribbon cutting ceremony on July 27.
The new outdoor nature classroom will be a place for children from birth through sixth grade to experience the great outdoors in a safe environment. The fenced-in area will be open year round during daylight hours for the community to enjoy.
According to the head of Children’s Services, Amy Johnston, she and her colleague Lisa Stevens came up with the idea in response to the movement by author Richard Louv called No Child Left Inside. Louv coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder, stating that the younger generations spend too much time indoors on electronic devices and lack a connection with the outside world.
Both Johnston and Stevens felt a duty to their community to help more children get “down and dirty” while exploring the beauty of nature and the world around them.
“We both have a passion for getting children outside,” said Johnston in a recent phone interview. “We grew up being outside all the time, and we’ve noticed that kids are not going outside as much.”
Discovery Grove will feature an area with a cascading water table, a digging area, an art area, large building blocks, sticks and logs, a stage where kids can use outdoor musical instruments to put on shows, as well as a community garden.
According to Neely McCahey, the library director, the board of trustees is hoping this will be a way for the library to extend the services it offers the community.
There will be programs available exclusively in the grove, including one titled Dig In. Facilitated by Stevens, 4- and 5-year olds will receive nature experience through art, movement and free play, which will lay a foundation for environmental literacy for the children of the Sachem district.
“We hope to show children that it’s okay to get wet and we will have boots and rain ponchos on hand for kids to use during inclement weather,” said Johnston. “It’s okay to be slightly uncomfortable being cold,” she explained, adding, “these are all learning moments that children aren’t often exposed to.”
McCahey agreed, saying, “We want parents to let [their children] experience things, to fall down, bump their knees, and get dirty. I think parents nowadays think dirt is not good, but kids need to get their hands in the dirt and take some calculated risks. Safe risks like climbing and jumping are good things,” she said. “I hope Discovery Grove will be a place where parents feel comfortable letting their children run free.”
The community is invited to the ribbon cutting on Friday, July 27, from 4 to 6 p.m. with a rain date of Aug. 3. The event will be attended by elected officials, chamber of commerce members, civic groups, the board of trustees and other library colleagues who have made donations to the creation of Discovery Grove.
“We are excited to bring this to our patrons as another extension of what we do here at the library,” said Johnston. “We’re not just books anymore, we are a community center where parents and children can come and experience all different things. We will be working closely with parents and caregivers, encouraging them to embrace new ideas and behaviors while experiencing Discovery Grove with their children. It is here for them, created for them, and we hope that they will take full advantage of this opportunity to explore and grow together!”
Sachem Public Library is located at 150 Holbrook Road in Holbrook. For more information, visit www.sachemlibrary.org or call 631-588-5024.