Top 5 ways that Libraries help during COVID!

Are you bored at home? Having a tough time finding activities for your kids? Or, do you need internet access to WFH or take online classes? 

Here are the top 5 ways the Great Falls Public Library can help!

  1. Watch these interactive Kids’ Place videos with your own kids, your grandkids, nieces or nephews, or even your best friends’ kids. This is a fun activity that you can do in person, or even on Zoom. There are several links to other fun online activities available on the Library’s website at greatfallslibrary.org/kids-place.

2. Sign up for a Library card if you haven’t already done so. It’s quick and easy!

 

3. Subscribe to the Wowbrary newsletter. This newsletter gives you the first pick at new books arriving at the Library each week. Watch your TBR pile grow without spending a dime! The Library also has a great selection of audiobooks and DVDs. After placing your holds, pick them up through the new drive-up window. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own car to visit the Library now!

4. Of course, you can still visit the Library IRL, just remember to wear a mask, and give other patrons some space. This is not too much of an issue for us bibliophiles. In fact, we are naturals at it. You can find the current Library hours here.

5. The Library also offers free access to the Internet.  You can now check out a free hot spot from the Library and take it home with you. Or, if you prefer you may also visit the Library to use the Wi-Fi for free in a quiet space during business hours. Some folks have even parked outside the building to use the Wi-Fi from the safety of their cars, or when the Library is closed to patrons.

One more thing…

Maybe you are happy as can be tucked in at home in your comfy chair. You might have a cup of tea and your Corona puppy at your feet, or your Covid cat on your lap. New books are arriving every few days from your favorite online bookstore. Okay, maybe that’s just me. If you can relate, consider sending a donation to the Library Foundation. And, you don’t even need to leave your warm, comfy home to do so.  Your gift will help support the children, elderly, and other vulnerable folks in the community by providing free books, free internet access, and many other resources.

This year the Library Foundation is fundraising to buy a new Bookmobile to deliver books around Great Falls and the surrounding communities, once it is safe to do so again.  Students at Great Falls High created this great PSA to support the Bookmobile Campaign. They are so creative!  Enjoy!

What are other ways that you have used the Library to help cope during the pandemic? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.

 

4 Fun Activities to Warm the Kids Up to Winter Fun

As the chilly weather and shorter days roll in, spending time outside with the kiddos becomes a bit more challenging, but as important as ever. We’ve all heard someone say something along the lines of, “Come inside…you’ll catch a cold!!” But this common misconception that cold weather brings about illness should be abandoned at the door…leading outside, of course! As long as children bundle up and stay safe, the benefits of outdoor adventures far out way the risks. Getting the blood flowing and soaking up essential vitamins, both supports our immune systems, so we may better fight off such viruses, and excites the senses. However, finding outdoor activities can sometimes be tricky and it is easy to want to curl up in a cozy blanket and hibernate until spring. Here are a few ideas and projects my children and I have done to stay connected to the natural world this winter.

Nature Confetti and Ice Suncatchers

Frozen Ice-suncatchers are a beautiful way to capture the sun and add some splendor to your yard! And they are super easy to make…winter temperatures do most of the work for you!

You will need:

  • Some sort of container: paper plates, aluminum pie crust pan, etc.
  • Natural materials: leaves, twigs, rose hips, feathers, berries, etc.
  • Something to hang the suncatchers: kitchen twin, yarn, ribbon, jute, etc.
  • Freezer or just set outside in freezing temperatures
  • Hole punch to make confetti from dried leaves (optional)

We used compostable paper bowls but you could use any sort of container. Search the yard or go for a walk in the woods or neighborhood to find natural materials and arrange them in your container. Next fill with water. You can even add a couple drops of food coloring to add some vibrant colors. Finally leave outside to freeze!

When they are frozen, you can pop out the ice and drill a hole for your string to hang. Or as an alternative hanging measure, you can wrap the string around the perimeter, with a good length at the top, then fill with some cold water and refreeze. You will then have string that wraps the suncatcher! Hang on a tree where it can catch the light and enjoy the beauty of your creation!

 

Winter Scavenger Hunt

Committing to learning with your children outside, ignites many opportunities to use your senses and connect with your little ones. Who doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt? Winter scavenger hunts are a great way for the kiddos to have fun, while using their senses to understand winter habitat ecology! You can use the list here as an example, but there are certainly more items that could be added, depending on your region or where you intend to do the hunt!

Before the adventure, try talking with your children about how to use their senses for each item. For example, do you “see” the pine trees? Can you “smell” them? What do the bark, pinecones, and pine needles “feel” like?
 
After the search is a great time to talk over the items in your search, as the excitement and chaos of the hunt is often too great whilst in the moment! What items did you find, and which did you not? What was the most exciting winter spotting? Any new discoveries?
 Electronic Wildlife Watchers

This next activity is not one to be done outside, but is great fun to watch wildlife in real time from the cozy comfort of your home. There are numerous wildlife cams, such as Cornell FeederWatch Cam, where we often catch a mongoose snatching fruit at the Panama feeders during the nighttime hours. My children also love to check on Iris the osprey at the University of Montana’s nest camera! https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/hellgate-ospreys/

 
Time to get out the Sibley’s and see how many backyard birds you can identify! This is a great introduction to fascinating bird behaviors and I am always amazed to hear about the children’s “eagle-eyed” observations.

 

Macroinvertebrates Identification

Another fun activity to check out some “bugs” and the health of your local watershed, is to identify macroinvertebrates using a dichotomous key. You can find the one we use here.
 

 

Bring a container so that you can collect specimens, being sure to keep an adequate amount of water for the creatures. Carefully turn over rocks and you should find some critters. Use a net if you have one.

 

Once you’ve collected some species, start at the top of the key, asking questions based on the characteristics you observe. For example, “shell or no shell, legs or no legs,” following your way down to the correct identification!

 

Check out some valuable online resources for more information on your local watershed, what makes a healthy stream, and how macroinvertebrates are bioindicators. A great resource for Butte, Montana is The Clark Fork Watershed Education Program!