Prior to the pandemic, the Allegheny County Library Association launched the Nature Explorer Program with the Allegheny County Parks, Allegheny Land Trust and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. While the nature backpacks are not currently circulating, the four organizations have been able to maintain the partnership through 2020 and into 2021 – offering virtual programming, curated nature content for social media and even presenting at two virtual conferences. These partners have provided invaluable resources to ACLA during a time when many returned to nature as a safe place to escape.
Here is a little more about the organizations and how they work with ACLA beyond the backpacks.
Allegheny County Park Rangers
The Allegheny County Park Rangers are ambassadors for the Allegheny County Parks. The Rangers offer educational programming and outreach to schools and communities, including libraries regarding conservation and stewardship of the natural resources present in the county parks.
ACLA works with Elise Cupps, Education and Outreach Coordinator, to create and maintain the nature backpacks. Elise also works directly with the libraries to provide Parks to Schools/Schools to Parks programming to help children and adults gain a greater appreciation for the parks.
For more information about the Rangers, visit www.alleghenycounty.us/parks.
Allegheny Land Trust
The Allegheny Land Trust (ALT) saves and protects land in the local region to improve quality of life and maintain the region’s unique landscape. The organization currently protects more than 2,700 acres of green space in Allegheny and Washington Counties.
ACLA works with Julie Travaglini, Senior Director of Education and Curriculum, to create and maintain the nature backpacks. Julie also works directly with the libraries to provide environmental education programming. In addition, Julie and ALT collaborated with the organization’s neighbor, Sewickley Public Library, to provide multiple storywalks in greenspaces throughout the Sewickley community.
For more information about the ALT, visit www.alleghenylandtrust.org.
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) is dedicated to the protection of the region’s natural places. The Conservancy preserves the land, restores rivers and streams, studies wildlife and habitats, plants trees and gardens, as well as maintains Fallingwater.
The nature backpack project would not have been possible without the initial conversations regarding potential collaboration opportunities between ACLA and WPC. ACLA works with Danielle Forchette, Educator Coordinator to create and maintain the nature backpacks. ACLA has also worked with Danielle to develop a storymap to guide families to local greenspaces and create a booklist of nature books. The books were vetted by WPC experts to ensure that the nature present in the books is what children and families would see in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
For more information about WPC, visit www.waterlandlife.org.
Stay tuned for more projects from this collaboration, including virtual programming this summer!