WHEATON – Girl Scout Troop 368 at St. Michael Parish School in Wheaton spent this school year hard at work.
As the first step to eventually earning their Gold Awards, which is the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive, the fifth-graders brought a “Little Free Library” to Cosley Zoo in Wheaton.
The library contains children’s books about animals that visitors to the zoo will be able to read in the new Nature Play Area or take home with them. The next time they visit, they can either return the book or bring a different one to donate to the library.
When the Girl Scouts were deciding on a project to earn their Bronze Award, the Little Free Library made sense for the group, as the girls love to read and grew up visiting Cosley Zoo, said Lora Vires, one of the troop leaders.
“It seemed like a logical choice, and we let them take it from there,” Vires said.
First, the fifth-graders had to present their idea to Cosley Zoo leaders.
The zoo was planning to create a Nature Play Area near its entrance and the proposed library seemed to fit with that idea.
“We thought, why not pair a couple good ideas?” Cosley Zoo Director Sue Wahlgren said.
The Nature Play Area provides a space for children to get down in the dirt and learn about nature in a hands-on way. Parents and children can sit on tree stumps in the area and read books from the Little Free Library.
The library was installed May 8 and the play area is expected to open by the end of this week.
After presenting their idea to the zoo and getting approval, the Girl Scouts raised the necessary funds, collecting books and helping to spread the word about their project. Through a book drive at their school, they gathered about 600 books. A bake sale raised $1,500, more than enough for project materials.
The troop worked with local contractor Frank Carter to build the Little Free Library with materials purchased from Lowe’s in Carol Stream, which provided the troop with a 50 percent discount.
Vires and troop leader Karen Zeller said they’re proud of the Girl Scouts and the work they put into every step of the project.
“They take whatever project they start, and they just take it to the next level,” Zeller said.