Clinton Hill’s raised bed community garden was a four-month program which enabled young adults to connect with nature, engage with science in a hands-on way, and gain confidence by making them feel like a valuable part of the community. The Clinton Hill branch is a small building, and we were inspired to create an outdoor garden to help alleviate some of the tensions between all the children, adults, and teens who are trying to share the library.
The main goals for the project were to engage teens in hands-on activities that boost their understanding, familiarity, and interest in science and nature, foster confidence and civic participation in teens, and deepen the Library’s engagement with the teens in Clinton Hill. However, my overarching goal was to create a welcoming space for teens within the Clinton Hill library. It had been a few years since there was a dedicated young adult librarian working in the branch, and there were very few teen-focused activities happening, so we wanted to create a community of local teens who felt like they belonged at their neighborhood library.
While I’m not sure if I succeeded with increasing teens’ interest and understanding of science and nature, I was able to observe increased engagement with the library: more teens came to library programs, the semi-regular crowd of teens who were hanging out in the library after school increasingly began to approach us with questions, ideas for programs, and suggestions for books and other resources that they wanted to see in the library. As they realized that their suggestions and ideas were being taken seriously (for example, we purchased craft supplies and materials that they were interested in, and we put their mosaic paving stones in the exterior beds outside of the library), they continued to make their opinions known and they frequently volunteered to help set up and clean up for teen programs and other programs within the library.
Even after the grant period ended in June, we continued to develop garden-centered programming at Clinton Hill. We used leaves, seeds, and flower pods for a number of arts & crafts activities throughout the summer, and one of the adult librarians held a program for adults to create concrete mosaics which are now a beautiful part of our landscaping. We’re fast approaching the end of the outdoor season, but we fully intend to start up the garden again next spring with a new crop of kids. Since we already have the beds and the space allocated, renewal costs are pretty minimal—basically, we’ll need to buy seeds and seed pots, and that’s about it! There’s a wealth of resources out there on running library garden programs, but I’d also be happy to serve as a resource for other librarians thinking about starting their own programs.
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