Backyard Habitat Research Nook

The Elsie Lynch Backyard Habitat Research Nook, named in memory of longtime library volunteer, Elsie Lynch, is located in a comer of the library. People ask, how did this come to be and the truth is it just evolved out of a collision of all the right things happening at the right time, a perfect storm, one might say.
Between 1999-2001, the Ray school science committee worked diligently on developing a curriculum in response to, “What is essential learning in science for elementary school children?” In the life science unit of the curriculum, each grade was assigned a habitat to study, most of which can be found within the Ray School Natural Area. It was the committee’s hope that each grade level would develop an inquiry unit to study their given habitat. To assist with this the library book collection was expanded to include new reference materials. That’s the first part of the story.
In 2002, JoAnne Cimato, Ray librarian and Ellen Haun, art teacher were also avid students of nature and believed in connecting children to the natural world in day to day learning. At the time the Ray School had a small after school community service club for third-fifth graders focused on stewardship projects benefiting our natural area called the “Out and About” club. Mrs. Haun, Mrs. Cimato, and Mrs. Harvey, second grade teacher, were advisors to the club. And that is the next part of the story because, from these beginnings evolved the Elsie Lynch Habitat Research Nook.
Mrs. Cimato, Mrs. Haun and Mrs. Harvey all knew that the expanded book and reference collection necessary to support the new curriculum needed to be housed somewhere in the library. We knew we wanted to connect outdoor questioning, observation and discovery with library resources. We wanted to make access to the library materials easy for students, teachers, and community members. We also wanted to make a visual statement that learning about our natural world takes place both outdoors and indoors. Joanne designed the library space. Circular tables were chosen to represent cycles, both in nature and our own learning.
Mrs. Haun invited Ray community adults to come forth as artists and paint a table to represent each habitat studied.
The Meadow table was painted by Marlita Viera, Ellen Haun, and Robin Henry .
The Forest Table was painted by Patrick Dunfey.
The Stream table was painted by Amy Dunfey.
The Vernal Pool was painted by Elizabeth Mayor.
The Wetlands table was painted by Margaret Sheehan (who hid her daughter’s Molly’s name in the painting several times!)
The Ocean table was painted by Dough Henry (whose son’s Ian and Taylor helped out with their paintings under the table!)
A reception of staff members, community members, and some from the Elsie Lynch family officially opened the area, a nook with resource books shelved along two walls, beautiful prints taken of children studying nature along the nature trail on the walls, a smart board, and five wonderful tables. It has become a favorite spot in the library for small meetings or large, a wonderful reminder of our need to connect with nature and a beautiful chance to remember Elsie Lynch, a long time Ray School friend and library volunteer.

Judy Harvey, second grade teacher
June, 2008