Albert Lea library offering discovery kits for patrons

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, February 1, 2022

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By Alex Guerrero

At the beginning of the pandemic when everyone was inside and the roads outside were nearly empty, one of the most popular things to do was go outside, whether it was running, bird watching or stargazing.

And with many places still following CDC spacing guidelines, being outside (weather permitting) is still a popular option. But if you’re running out of ideas for what to do, Director Annice Sevett for the Albert Lea Public Library may be able to help with one of her own creations: discovery kits.

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“Discovery kits are kits that have hands-on materials centered around a theme,” she said.

The idea for them came about when the library received the grant for state park passes last June.

“Some libraries that have park passes created kits to go with the park passes …” she said. “A kit that people can check out with the park passes to have a more complete learning experience when using the park passes.”

And because only two park passes can be checked out at a time, she came up with discovery kits for more opportunities for hands-on learning.

“Research shows that hands-on learning activities do a lot, especially for children in terms of remembering, and rather than just reading about something, reading about it and doing an activity just provides … that learning experience and it sticks in their brain more,” she said. “It also can be used as a tool for discovery.

“People can check out the kits if they have some kind of interest in an activity and see if that’s something that they’re really interested in before purchasing equipment or going out and spending time doing it.”

Each kit contains one or two books and items related to that theme that are designed to help provide a more comprehensive learning experience. Kits vary by subject and age, with most designed for those 5 to 12, though she said there were some for teenagers and adults.

“We have a bird-watching kit for kids,” she said. “So there’s two to three books about identifying different species of birds geared for children, and then there’s binoculars that come in that kit as well so that kids can get that hands-on learning experience.”

Kits work similar to physical materials in that patrons can check them out for two weeks and then return them.

The library has 11 discovery kits, and besides bird-watching, there are kits for science that come with a microscope and prepared slides, a hiking kit with a compass and books on how to identify plants and animals, knitting/crocheting kits for both children and adults, a board games kit (without any books) and a card games kit.

“We went with classic board games,” she said, “Guess Who, Candy Land, Sorry!”

Besides a standard deck of playing cards, the card games kits include RACK-O, Sequence, Cribbage, Five Crowns and UNO.

“Those can be used for all ages and are translatable,” she said. “Adults can have just as much fun with the classic board games as kids can.”   

This is the first time Albert Lea Public Library has offered discovery kits, and each kit was put together individually.

“We did all the research and picked out a couple books that went with a theme and decided on items that would provide a learning experience that went along with the kits,” she said.

Besides discovery kits, the library also has six memory kits designed for caregivers and those with dementia. Those kits provide activities designed to spark memories and stimulate minds of those with dementia.

Each of those kits has a themed book and are typically touch-and-feel in order to provide a sensory experience.

“For people with dementia, that sensory experience is really important and it tends to trigger a lot of memories,” she said.

The kits also contain memory games and felt parts to create stories.