Community Column: A Living Library & Think Park Gardens

The Roosevelt Island Living Library & Think Park Gardens, adjacent to 504 Main Street, continues to thrive and grow and YOU are invited to participate!

Bonnie Ora Sherk
Bonnie Ora Sherk
Life Frames, Inc. & A Living Library
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Life Frames, Inc. works with schools and communities around the world to transform unused or underused public places into magical, ecological learning landscapes of wonder and delight, each called A Living Library (ALL). One of Life Frames’ goals is to create place-based Branch Living Library & Think Parks in communities, both locally and globally. These Branches will be linked through sculptural, multi-functional, green-powered digital gateways so we can share and learn about cultures and ecologies near and far. Life Frames currently has a Branch on Roosevelt Island, and several Branches are underway in San Francisco. There is great interest in bringing ALL to Mexico City, Mexico; Udaipur, India; Chengdu, China; Sierra Leone, Africa; San Antonio, Texas; and other cities around the world.

Everyone and everything, on earth and in space, is part of A Living Library of diversity: people, birds, trees, air, water, and all the things we create, such as parks, gardens, schools, libraries, curricula, artworks, networks, and communities. ALL brings multiple subjects to life through hands-on learning for students of all ages, while greatly improving and transforming public spaces. It also provides a way for us to learn that culture and technology are a part of nature. What is necessary is for us, as humans, to become more sensitive, conscious, and in better balance with diverse life systems and our environment. ALL provides a framework for understanding linked systems: biological, cultural, and technological, and incorporates local resources (human, ecological, economic, historic, technological, and aesthetic) as seen through the lens of time (past, present, future) in its research, planning, design, implementation, use, maintenance, management, and communications.

The Roosevelt Island Living Library & Think Park was first developed in 2002 with the students at PS/IS 217. Each year the children planted in their schoolyard during the school day, after school, and over the summer. They also planted a beautiful orchard and organic vegetable, flower, and herb garden on the river side of the school, and native New York oaks on Main Street. They planted hundreds of asclepias, or common milkweed, for monarch butterflies to lay their eggs as they travel to spend the winter in Michoacan, Mexico. Since 2002, we’ve taught thousands of PS/IS 217, Child School, and Beacon students, incorporating hands-on, interdisciplinary, standards-based lessons to bring math, science, history, language arts, multi-arts, technology, nutrition, health, and youth stewardship to life.

When PS/IS 217 was under construction several years ago, Life Frames, Inc. was generously invited by RIOC to develop new Living Library Gardens in the unused open spaces behind 504 Main Street (soon to be the home of the new Island Library.) This new site is fantastic, as it’s centrally located and much easier to access for all residents, including the disabled. Now in its sixth year at the new site, the Roosevelt Island Living Library & Think Park has grown into a gorgeous place for the entire community.

In addition to working with the Beacon children after school and every summer, we are excited to continue our free program for parents and children, hosted in conjunction with the Island Library. It will begin on May 26 and continue through the summer and fall, led again by Premilla Dixit Nag.

This free program, the ALL Gardening/Literacy/Science/Multi-Arts/Nutrition/Local History Program for Parents & Children, provides a great way for caregivers and children to learn together in diverse hands-on activities in the lush garden setting. Planned activities include planting diverse heritage heirloom seeds donated by Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, tending them as they grow, and preparing delicious foods from the harvest. They will do this while writing in their garden journals and making observational drawings of the bountiful, growing plants.

The spring session of this program will be held on Thursdays from May 26 to June 29 from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. It is open to 25 families (children ages 4-14 with their parent, guardian, or caregiver.) The summer session will be on Wednesdays from July 6-August 31 (time to be confirmed). The flyer and application will be available at the library and online. Come and grow with us!

Nicole Nelson, Branch Manager of the Roosevelt Island Public Library, says, “Please join this exciting RI Living Library Program! Children and parents learn together, and it is a great way to support literacy, science, and the ABCs of gardening, while also making Roosevelt Island more beautiful. ALL also supports our Island’s diversity through learning about international cultures, customs, nutrition, and plants from diverse parts of the world. The RI Library and A Living Library have forged a great partnership and we invite your participation.”

Another important upcoming green community event with A Living Library is on Roosevelt Island Day, Saturday, June 11. In 2002, Life Frames inaugurated what has become our Annual Roosevelt Island Community Planting of the Living Library & Think Park Gardens in conjunction with Doryne Isley, the Youth Center, and the community. We have done this every RI Day since, and this year we will celebrate our 15th Annual Living Library Planting Day! Please join us on June 11 from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. in front of Good Shepherd Church. We will carry the plants to the RI Living Library & Think Park Garden adjacent to 504 Main Street.

For more information go to See an overview of ALL at . For an an early visual history of A Living Library, go to . Contact Bonnie Ora Sherk directly at 212-242-1700.

Tags: Community Column A Living Library and Life Frames

Contact Info

The Main Street WIRE
531 Main Street #413
New York, NY 10044
Tel: 212-826-9056