Woonsocket's homeschool community has noticeably grown over the past several years. As more families came to the Woonsocket Harris Public Library during school hours, Library staff realized there was a need for programming.
In March 2019, the homeschool outreach coordinator, Solitaire Frisby, and Chris Goldstein, the Children’s Librarian, met with Sarah Carr, Assistant Director at the Museum of Work and Culture. What started in May as a small, one-time program developed into a well-attended, free, bimonthly educational program for all ages. This partnership is ideal in meeting the specific needs of Woonsocket residents, as many are challenged with a lack of finances and/or transportation. Melissa Robb, of ENRICHri, reached out and helped invite homeschoolers beyond the Woonsocket area. The program had visitors from Worcester, Cumberland, Pawtucket, and other communities.
Homeschool families register with the Museum of Work and Culture, and the program starts at the Museum at 10am. A volunteer from the Museum leads families on a tour of specific parts of the Museum related to the topic of the day. Families then leave the Museum and travel to the Library nearby to continue in an immersive educational experience, which may include snacks, a craft, a hands-on STEAM activity, and green screen and other technology from the library's 2017 Studio Rhode Grant.
Each program has a different topic. In May, they focused on the French-Canadians' journey to America and how they established roots in Woonsocket, predominately by working in the mills; they had 23 participants. October's topic focused on mill work and the ecology of the Blackstone River; they had roughly 45 participants.
December’s program was entitled, “Global Holiday Traditions.” The museum offered four fantastic speakers from Dorcas International who shared their personal experiences having grown up in Quebec, The Congo, Israel, and Portugal; there were 68 participants. While the Museum provides area-specific tours of its facility and provides volunteers to lead discussions, the Library followed up with a slew of activities, including: a stamp-as-you-go holiday scavenger hunt, a holiday card-writing station for residents of a local nursing home, green screen photos, and the opportunity to taste new foods at the refreshment station. They had various displays, including a Chinese New Year dragon, as well as a functional 'German Christmas Market' in which homeschool students took turns as the vendor, selling donated children's books. It was a big hit, enjoyed by all, with lots of great feedback.
The Library's homeschool program collaboration with the Museum will continue into 2020 with two more events already scheduled for February and April.