Little Library Trail Houses

BY Annie Dolan-Niles

Cape Cod Regional Technical High School


Goals, objectives, and activities

This project is a collaborative effort between three vocational programs, Early Childhood Education, Carpentry and Horticulture.  These three programs are coming together to support literacy, appreciation of nature and active learning in our community.  The goal is to construct small wooden structures, shaped like wooden houses, which will hold a variety of items from children’s books, nature guides, scavenger hunt items and games.The houses will be placed on a nature trail which surrounds Cape Cod Tech. There will be five houses built in all.  The houses and their posts will be built by the students in the Carpentry program. The Horticulture program is helping to site and install the houses along the trail.  Early Childhood is excited about the prospect of frequently using the houses to engage the children in its laboratory preschool program.   It should also be noted the public is also invited to walk the trail and explore and enjoy the little library trail. This grant application is to specifically support the purchase of materials so that the houses may be constructed.

How will the project be evaluated (e.g. how will you gauge its success)

The goal is to provide active learning experiences for young children in a natural setting to explore literacy, numeracy, science, creativity and other concepts.  Although Early Childhood Education regularly takes laboratory preschool children on nature walks, we don’t typically combine other activities such as those involving literacy or numeracy.  To determine the effectiveness of this approach, Early Childhood teachers plan to do an experiment.  We will read children’s books dealing with similar  learning concepts (i.e. math, language or  life science) in the classroom environment and the outdoor environment using the trail houses.  We will then conduct a child-appropriate assessment to determine if one location contributed to more learning.  In addition, we will invite our preschool families to use the trail houses and ask them to complete a follow-up survey.

Benefit to the students and the school

Research tells us that young children learn best through active play experiences. This project will provide children with opportunities to develop literacy, numeracy, creativity and science skills through positive interactions with a natural wooded environment and other people.  Children will be hiking through the woods to visit the little library trail to learn about the treasures that lie hidden within each little house.  Perhaps a picture book will be transformed into a “story walk,” as consecutive pages of the book are placed inside the houses and the children walk from one to another to hear the full story.  Perhaps the children are on a life science scavenger hunt with each house containing a clue of what plant, insect or animal to find.  There are multiple ways to use the houses for the delight and active learning of children.  In these times, when there is increasing concern that children do not spend enough time in nature or too much time in front of a screen, this project will support a child’s developing intellectual and physical skills as well as an appreciation of the natural world .  The project also supports high school students in all three vocational programs.  Building the small houses is an ideal learning activity for Carpentry students.  Siting and installing the houses along the wooded trail is well suited to Horticulture students who are developing landscaping skills. Those students studying to be teachers will learn how young children learn best by engaging in real life learning settings.

Budget (Please detail how funding will be used. Itemize as appropriate.)

Wood: $200.00

Hinge’s & latches:  $100.00

Shingles, nails, glue:  $100.00

Plexi glass pieces: $50.00

4 x 4 posts: $50.00

TOTAL:  $500.00

Timeline of Project (when will you do the project, if applicable.)

Carpentry plans on building the little library houses over the winter months of 2015, when working outside is difficult due to weather.  Horticulture is planning to prep, site and install the houses during the early spring, as soon as the ground is thawed.  Early Childhood’s students and laboratory preschool children are hoping to begin regularly using the houses during the spring of 2015. Once the houses are in place, they can be enjoyed by people throughout the community for many years to come!