“Growing” Up at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

By Melissa Heintz
Public Affairs Specialist, IMLS

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden was one of 10 winners of the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor for libraries and museums that are serving their communities in exceptional ways. Community member Chidi Duke traveled with Brooklyn Botanic Garden President Scot Medbury to Washington D.C.  this past May to accept the award.

Chidi Duke was only 11 years old when he first arrived at The Children’s Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Tending to his own plot in the garden brought a sense of responsibility to his life.  He started at the garden through Project Green Reach, a science enrichment program led by BBG in his Brooklyn elementary school. His teacher recommended him for the Children’s Garden program, where Chidi became captivated with the plant world. His role in the Children’s Garden grew progressively, and eventually he became a leader and mentor to younger participants. He enrolled in the Brooklyn Academy of Science and Environment (BASE), the public high school co-founded by Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Prospect Park Alliance with the Department of Education, and is now a student of environmental law at The City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He continues to be a part of BBG as an instructor with the Garden Apprentice Program for teens.

Do you know of a museum or library that has made a difference? Nominations are now being accepted for the 2015 National Medal. Nomination Forms must be mailed and postmarked by October 15, 2014.

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Education Support, Environment and Energy, Health, National Medal for Museum and Library Service | Comments Off

Poets on Poets: Louis Lafair

Ed note: This is a cross-post from the AYAW Blog.  You can find the original blog post here

Photo of Louis Lafair

Inaugural National Student Poet and Northeast Representative, Claire Lee, returns to the AYAW blog to interview the 2013 Class of National Student Poets for her “Poets on Poets” series.

This week’s interview is with National Student Poet and Southwast Representative, Louis Lafair!

Claire Lee: Hey Louis! How’s your summer been? What have you been up to this summer, in terms of NSPP summer events?

Louis Lafair: Hi Claire! I’ve had a great summer! It’s been a nice transitional period between high school and college, a chance to hang out with friends before we head in different directions, and an awesome way to wrap up my NSPP year. It’s been full of poetry—I actually just released a website called poetry2point0.com that compiles all sorts of “new ways to experience poetry in the 21st century.” Coinciding with the site’s launch, I did a webinar with National Writing Project, along with Lisa New, Jeremy Dean, and Sarah Kay! And I recently returned from two workshops in Arizona.

CL: Wow, that sounds like a lot of cool things going on this summer! Speaking of which, what were some of the major NSPP events you participated in? Which was your favorite, and why?

LL: One of the many amazing elements of the program is the mix of local and national events. On the local level, we got to design our own service projects, reaching communities close to home. (I loved, for instance, speaking at the Texas Council for Teachers of English and Language Arts, where I was able to share how much teachers have meant to me on my own journey.) On top of that, we got to participate in events like the National Book Festival in D.C. and the Poets Forum in NYC, becoming part of a national poetry-loving and poetry-spreading community. Each event was so special in its own way, but I’ll go ahead and talk about the Aspen Ideas Festival, our last national event (in June). Along with Todd Breyfogle, Damian Woetzel, and some incredible slam poets from Young Chicago Authors, we read texts by a range of individuals (from Aristotle to Adichie to MLK) and participated in a series of seminars discussing what it means to be poets, what it means to be humans, and what our roles are as members of society. The conversations were fascinating, and in many ways were the perfect culmination of all of our events, workshops, and service projects up to that point. We delved into “the danger of a single story,” and into how part of poetry’s beauty is its ability to tell so many stories from so many different perspectives, helping people pause and consider the complex, varied nature of the stories of everyone they pass by on a given day.

CL: What was the highlight of your year as a National Student Poet?

LL: The highlight was definitely the people. Everyone from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers has been so supportive throughout the journey. Feels almost as though we’re one large family (can’t wait for the next class of poets to join!). And of course, Sojourner, Michaela, Nathan, and Aline are absolutely amazing—I love them all. Rarely have I seen such strong friendships establish so quickly from such a distance… But we’ve managed to keep our year-long conversations going from five corners of the country. I’m so lucky to know each of them.

CL: What was one way in which your year as a National Student Poet changed you? In other words, what was the biggest takeaway for you?

LL: At the beginning of the year, I spent a lot of time wondering how to reach as many people as possible, which this program definitely helps do with a poet from each region. I’ve also come to terms with the fact, though, that it’s impossible to reach everyone. I’ve realized that what matters is reaching individuals. If, over the course of the past year, I’ve helped at least one person fall in love with poetry, then I can call the year a success. That mindset has made me look at poetry itself differently. A given poem isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but hopefully each poem I write will mean a lot to at least one person out there who needs it, and that’s all that matters.

CL: That can definitely be a challenge, and speaking of challenges—what was the biggest challenge for you this year?

LL: Managing time was somewhat challenging (especially during April, National Poetry Month) since I wanted to do as much as possible, but also had to balance between school and other obligations. Then again, I like being busy, so the limited time was a nice challenge.

CL: If you could go back and change or do-over one thing about your year as a National Student Poet, what would it be and why?

LL: I don’t know if I would change anything. It was such an incredible experience. I like to think that it’s not actually over—I’m looking forward to seeing all of the ways poetry stays in my life in the years to come.

CL: Last, but not least—it’s summer! What are you currently reading? Do you have any fun summer recommendation books?

LL: I recently finished My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. I’m currently reading No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay. And I also just started S., a cool, metafictional book conceived by J.J. Abrams and written by Doug Dorst. (Check that one out!)

CL: Hmm, any last thoughts you want to share?

LL: Life takes you on crazy journeys. (I never expected a poetry submission would lead to all of this. Any high school student should definitely submit to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. You never know what will happen!) Ultimately, though, it’s the people that are the most important element of any journey, and that have made this one so special. I’d love to take a moment to thank them—fellow poets, partners, supporters, family members—one more time.


The President’s Committee on the Arts and the HumanitiesInstitute of Museum and Library Services and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers partner to present the National Students Poets Program, the country’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work. Each year, five National Student Poets are selected through the prestigious Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for a year of service as poetry ambassadors, each representing a different region of the country.

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Cultural Heritage/Sustainability, Education Support, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), Meet the National Student Poets | Comments Off

Interview: West Virginia Library Commission

Karen Goff, Director/State Librarian, West Virginia Library Commission

IMLS staff interviewed state librarians to discuss how their new five-year plans for LSTA Grants to States funds (2013-2017) differ from their past plans (2008-2012), and how they see the needs of library users in their states changing and evolving. This post is part of a series and features IMLS Senior Library Program Officer Timothy Owens interviewing Secretary Karen Goff and then-Director of Library Development Services John Paul Myrick. Read more about the West Virginia Library Commission’s priorities in IMLS’ state profile for West Virginia.


Timothy:  Looking back at the prior five‑year plan, what did you see as the three most important community needs that you wanted to address with library services?

Karen: The community needs that we were trying to address related to lifelong learning. We used funds to enhance the capacity of the library to meet those needs through connectivity and development of the statewide library network. This involved establishing automation consortia, which ultimately met about 90 percent of the needs through shared materials. The consortia, the database subscription, and the library network consume over 80 percent of our LSTA allotment, but on a statewide level we see that we can have the most effect there. Our training has been focused on library staff, and without a library school in the state, we need to take a leadership role in providing continuing education. Another thing that we’ve done toward meeting the lifelong learning goal is the development of our Book Discussion Group collections, which are basically adult programs in a box.

John Paul:  It has taken off and grown phenomenally. People want to get together with others in the community and talk about ideas, and it’s also opened venues for other types of public discourse programs. The public is starting to recognize that libraries are the place where the community comes together.

Karen:  The other big community issue in West Virginia is health. Heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are all high, and we think libraries have a key role to play in disseminating information about healthy lifestyles.


Timothy:  The second question is, looking at the evaluation, how did that affect the development of your new plan?

Karen: The insistence on an outside evaluator was a very good thing. There weren’t any big revelations from it, but the evaluator had a chance to hear from library directors without us standing there. It reinforced our perceptions of the high impact programs including the consortia support, the network support, and the databases.

John Paul:  The evaluation was a good guidance tool for developing the new plan. We addressed the things mentioned in the evaluation, such as competencies for library workers and training for trustees. As a result, there is so much emphasis on continuing education in the new document.


Timothy: The final question is, looking ahead at your new plan, what do you see as the three most important community needs?

John Paul:  Supporting the network consortia going forward, as well as job and career development, community economic development, and health education. The continued education component will also be important over the next five years.

Karen: Basically, it’s continuing what we have done and emphasizing that libraries have a key role to play in addressing community issues. We have a real responsibility to support the library directors and their staff. A lot of them do amazing things in 1,400 square foot libraries with one person. Others struggle. And I think that’s a big role that we have to play; we have to be the cheerleader and the educator to give them the capability.

John Paul: Collaborating with other states is another priority. We’re learning to quit reinventing the wheel, particularly among the Continuing Education coordinators. We’re working very hard to share programs and training opportunities among one another, and we’ve even jointly come together to provide training for state library workers.

Karen:  IMLS is to us like we are to the local library. With IMLS, I can say, “They’re really doing this well. We do that too. How could we gear it up a little bit and do it as well as IMLS?”

Posted in Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), Lifelong learning/ Intergenerational | Comments Off

Children’s Museum Birthday Bash Keeps Kids Fit

By Mary Murphy
Marketing Associate, The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast

The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast continues in its quest to keep kids active and fit. On August 2nd, we celebrated our 6th birthday with a bang. Along with bounce houses and balloons, we wanted to incorporate an activity where kids would associate physical activity with fun. We collaborated once again with Nancy Erlick and her Spiffy’s Once Upon a Farm series, and used her “banana jump ropes” to have a jump roping contest during the party. These fabulous jump ropes have faux bananas as handles to get kids to start thinking about wise food choices, all while having a blast jump roping!

Kids jump roping

Our birthday party would not have been complete without birthday cake. We make it a point to ask the kids, “Can you have birthday cake at a party?” Our answer is, “Of course you can!”

The Children’s Museum makes it a point to teach kids about making good choices when it comes to what they eat, but that they can also enjoy themselves and eat fun foods in moderation.

Teens showing off cucumbers from the garden

The museum’s interactive garden has been busy this summer as well. This summer’s garden included cucumbers, scallions, rosemary, and basil that were harvested by summer campers and museum staff. Kids got to make homemade pizzas, salsa, and salads from these wonderful ingredients, which came fresh from our garden. We strive to find ways to keep children active, healthy, and educated, and we’re excited to be bringing it to our community in Florida.

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Early Learning, Health, Let's Move! Museums & Gardens | Comments Off