Finksburg library uses 'Pokémon Go' to encourage learning, socializing outdoors

The Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library held a 'Pokémon Go' acitvity at Sandymount Park on Thursday, Aug. 18. (Ken Koons / Carroll County Times)

FINKSBURG — After using his cellphone to catch a Jigglypuff in Sandymount Park, 7-year-old Gavin Fawcett — one of several players who met at the Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library on Thursday afternoon for the organization's fifth Po-Go in the Park — explained the appeal of the recent gaming sensation "Pokémon Go."

"I started playing it because my brother does," Gavin said between capture attempts. "I like to play with my brother because it's fun and we ride around town looking for them with our mom."


Gavin's mother, Julie Fawcett, of Finksburg, said she likes the app because it gets the family out of the house and interacting with one another. She said she drives her sons Gavin and Dylan, 12, to the game's Pokéstops — real-world landmarks that can be interacted with in the app — after they run errands.

Peering into phones throughout Carroll are myriad hunters searching for the virtual creatures of the new "Pokemon Go" app.

"It encourages group play. I've noticed that even with their age difference, they talk to each other about the game, and I think it's made them closer," Fawcett said. "It gets them actively thinking and using their brains. It also encourages forward thinking about where they're going to be and what they have to get."


According to Finksburg branch manger Heather Owings, the app has made the library more popular because it's designated in the app as a Pokémon gym, or a specific location where players can battle with their captured creatures.

"It ties in nicely to our summer reading sports theme, Ready, Set, Read," Owings said. "Learning isn't always just reading. There are many ways to learn. 'Pokémon Go' is discovery learning. It is engaging and it teaches you vital learning skills that players sometimes don't realize they're learning because they're enjoying the game."

Circulation manager Anita Crawford said players can find eggs in Sandymount Park that enable them to hatch a new Pokémon after they walk a certain distance.

"Different Pokéstops have different items like potions, revives and eggs, and [players] can also battle in our Poké gym," Crawford said. "One of three teams [Valor, Mystic or Instinct] controls a gym until another team puts in enough effort to overthrow them by battling one creature against another. They use their abilities to battle each other, but no one dies … It breaks the social barrier and encourages them to talk to each other."


And during Po-Go in the Park, Crawford said, safety is paramount.

"We try to keep it as safe as possible, and the app has a pop-up that reminds players to stay aware of their surroundings," Crawford said.

Dylan Fawcett, 12, said he enjoys that the game gets players to be active.

"It encourages people to go outside and walk and get exercise," Dylan said. "I'm not a huge fan of Pokémon, but the game is like geocaching, another app I have. I'll probably play on the bus to school because they'll pass a lot of stops."

Carroll County Public Schools is not taking specific steps to address students playing "Pokémon Go" once classes begin Aug. 29, and "will use the current policies and procedures already in place for the use of technology," spokeswoman Carey Gaddis said.

Currently, the school system allows the use of portable electronic devices owned by adults and students in grades 3 through 12 during the school day when used within established guidelines. Examples of portable electronic devices include laptops, tablets, netbooks, mobile phones, MP3 players and e-readers.

For kids in third through fifth grade, the use of these electronics is allowed on school buses and in classrooms, media centers and field trips unless otherwise dictated by the teacher. Middle school and high school students are allowed to use these devises on the bus, in the classroom, media center and on field trips, in hallways and stairwells and in cafeterias, unless otherwise noted by educators.

Briana Murphy, of Finksburg, looked after her 5-year-old niece Andrea Kohlhepp and her 8-year-old nephew Sammy Kohlhepp during Po-Go in the Park.

"They love the game," Murphy said. "They love that they can play with their friends and share different Pokémon with each other. It encourages them to play with other kids and helps them meet new friends. It's also a good way for them to get out and get exercise. The game keeps them moving."

"I want to evolve them and try to get them to be stronger than other people's," Sammy said. "Whenever I'm not playing, I'm playing video games, but this a good way for me to meet new kids."

Diane Gill, of Finksburg, was visiting the library with her granddaughter Cheyenne Wilson, 9, when they saw a Po-Go sign.

"She wanted to try it, but it turns out you need the app. We're going to go to the cell store and find out how to get it," Gill said. "It's new technology and a game that everyone's playing. It looks like good exercise. I like that it gets everyone out to walk in the park."

After capturing a Squirtle in the park, 10-year-old John Scott described the nuances of the game.

"Squirtle is a Pokémon starter," said John, of Westminster. "I like catching them. It's a water type and each Pokémon has strengths and weaknesses. Water types are strong against fire types. If you watch the anime [TV show], they're good swimmers."

Children's librarian Naomi Keppler has also downloaded the app and plays in her spare time.

"There's potential for educating people about landmarks they didn't know about. While I was playing, I learned there was a law library in Westminster. That's something I didn't know before," Keppler said. "At the last Po-Go in the Park, we found a good-size caterpillar that looked like the Pokémon character Caterpie. It was a teaching moment and when we got back to the library, we looked up what kind of caterpillar it was."

Senior circulations clerk Krista Regester also plays the game. She said she is often surprised by how far in the game many players seem to be, though there's more to it than that.

"It's fun to show each other the different Pokémons we have," Regester said. "I'm really competitive, and when my friends got the app I wanted to be better than they were … It definitely brings a lot of people to the library that wouldn't normally come here. It's helped the library get noticed and when we have programs like this, it also encourages them to check out items."

Times reporter Emily Chappell contributed to this article.



If you go:

What: Po Go in the Park

When: 2 p.m., Thursday, August 25 and the first Saturday of every month after school begins

Where: Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library, 2265 Old Westminster Pike, Finksburg

Open to all ages. Meet in the lobby of the Finksburg library to go with a group over to Sandymount Park. Visit all six of the Pokéstops at the park and place lures on two stops. This will be a great opportunity to catch some Pokémon, talk tips and hatch some Pokémon eggs. Afterward, go back to the library and battle at the gym. Refreshments will be served.


For more information, call 410-386-4505.

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