Deerfield Elementary School second-grader Arriyah Stevens has read Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” in standard book form in school, but with the opening of the Storybook Trail on her school’s Edgewood campus, she and her classmates can now read the classic story while walking along an outdoor trail.
“I like how they used the details of the book,” 8-year-old Arriyah said after a grand opening celebration for the Storybook Trail Wednesday afternoon.
She and other Deerfield second-graders walked the trail, which is along the edge of the field behind the school, with eighth-grade students from neighboring Edgewood Middle School. The middle school students built the 16 wooden boxes stationed along the grass, boxes that contain pages from the book.
Trail users can stop at each station and read the next part of the story. Each box, mounted on a wooden stake, contains two pages.
“It’s a nice outside-the-box idea for our students,” said Greg Lane, principal of Deerfield, which has 765 pupils in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.
“A storybook trail offers a unique experience where you can indulge your imagination with colorful pages along a walkway,” according to a news release from Harford County Public Schools. “This trail is sure to inspire a love of reading and sense of adventure in young children.”
Arriyah and fellow second-grader Tadyn Johnson, also 8 years old, both said they like the concept of the trail and that they enjoyed spending time with older students during the grand opening.
“It was good to [get to] know people that we didn’t know,” Tadyn said.
Each Deerfield second-grader was accompanied by a pair of eighth-graders from Edgewood Middle on their walk along the trail. The older students also talked with the children about literacy, did arts-and-craft projects with them and enjoyed freeze pops together.
“It’s great to see the middle school kids share their love of literacy with the elementary school students,” Edgewood Middle principal Melissa Williams said.
The concept was developed by middle school faculty member Ellen Montoya, an eighth-grade science teacher. Her students used a grant of about $900 from the Harford County Education Foundation to purchase supplies. They built the trail boxes with help from Edgewood High School technology students and the high school’s wood shop, according to Montoya and the HCPS news release.
Montoya said one of the best parts about the project was watching the middle-schoolers interact with the second-graders at the grand opening, noting that they are “really excited about sharing this with them.”
Eighth-grader Amirah Ferguson, 13, said she and her classmates “had a lot of fun” with the project, writing letters and obtaining funding, and later working in the EHS wood shop.
“We wanted to bring excitement, something fun to the younger kids,” said Ferguson.
She described “Where The Wild Things” are as “a good story” and “a good movie.” The book, published in 1963, was adapted into a movie directed by Spike Jonze and released in 2009.
“I feel like it was good,” her classmate, 14-year-old Colby Guest, said of the trail. “I feel like we should do more things like this.”
Guest and Ferguson both said they attended Deerfield Elementary as children. Ferguson said the school is “really a piece of my heart.”
Ferguson also discussed how the trail gives children an opportunity to get outside and read a print book, during an era when books can be read on smartphones or other electronic devices — she said she knows kindergartners who have iPhones.
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“I feel like this is their time to be kids and be outside and have fun,” Ferguson said. “I like living in the moment, and I think people should learn to love the moment and be connected to [their] surroundings.”