There are 20 signs scattered throughout the outdoor area next to Lake View Elementary School that makes up StoryWalk, an exciting and fun way to engage students’ minds … and bodies. Students can move around from place to place as they follow a series of large framed signs along a path that tell an interesting story during Lake View’s Storywalk, stopping at each frame to read a page of the book.
Lake View Principal Nkauj Nou Vang-Vue is very excited about it.
“Early literacy and putting books in the hands of our students have always been priorities here at Lakeview for us as a staff,” Vang-Vue tells Madison365. “In addition to that, taking learning outdoors is also really important to us here at Lakeview. We do believe that our children can learn in multiple ways and it doesn’t always have to happen within the four walls of the classroom.
“So when you combine those two ideas together, our “Green Team,” that’s what they call themselves, which consists of classroom teachers, our parent liaison, our community schools coordinator, our librarian, and our PE [physical education] teacher … they all came together to figure out the question: how can we continue to deepen our work here at Lakeview to do this?” Vang-Vue adds.
A couple of Lake View staff people during a brainstorming session mentioned that they had visited an area where they basically had a book outside and people would walk along a trail on a path and read the book.
“We thought that it would be a great idea here at Lake View because it serves multiple priorities that we are focusing on here at our school,” Vang-Vue says. “As a community school, we want to make sure that we’re creating a school that is inviting and provides opportunities for our larger community to access the services here. So we put together this story walk. It’s been up now for a few weeks. It’s just an amazing opportunity to go outside and be in the outdoors and enjoy a story as you are walking along a path. And it’s all happening right here on our school grounds.”
Lake View students have access to the Storywalk every single day they’re in school.
“Our teachers can take their classrooms though, our families that come on, they can also enjoy it,” emphasizes Vang-Vue. “And we also have community members that walk through our school grounds because we have a school forest, as well. They can also participate and enjoy it as well.
“We’re so lucky here at Lake View that we get to serve a multicultural, diverse student population. And our students and families come from all walks of life,” Vang-Vue adds. “So we want to be very intentional about the stories that we put out. And we want to make sure that our stories reflect the people that come to the school every single day.”
The first book for the StoryWalk features a Black protagonist in Jayden’s Impossible Garden by Mélina Mangal. Future books on display will center on the diverse cultures and languages of Lake View students, families, and the north side of Madison.
“Our first book centers around a young little Black boy who’s all about gardening … so this is the perfect time of the year to talk about gardening and being outside,” Vang-Vue says. “We will be changing out the story periodically and each story will have an emphasis on personal stories that we connect to. We want to highlight our cultural diversity here at Lake View. We want to highlight our linguistic diversity here at Lake View. And we also want to highlight our Northside community as well.
“That’s why our librarian plays such a key role in this is that she’s really intentionally thinking about the best book to highlight during that time of the year as we’re switching the books out,” Vang-Vue says. “The really cool thing is you get to access this story walk all four seasons of the year. It’s not just like you only do it in the summer or it only happens in the fall. During all four seasons – winter, spring, summer, and fall – you get to go outside and walk this path and read a story.”
Lake View Elementary is looking forward to getting the word out to the entire Madison community about the Storywalk and inviting them to come and explore it.
“This is one of those great stories going on on the north side and we are looking forward to having people come out and enjoy it,” Vang-Vue says. “We all have control over the narratives that we talk about and I feel like we need to spend our time and energy talking about good narratives that are out there because they don’t get to be talked about enough.”