With all the cancellations of children’s literature festivals, we might want to think about alternative ways to reach kids when they cannot attend an event in person. In 2007 I had written CAVE DETECTIVES, UNRAVELING THE MYSTERIES OF AN ICE AGE CAVE, and was looking for ways to introduce young people to the world of caves — Riverbluff Cave in Springfield specifically.
Thanks to my visionary friend, Annie Busch, who was then head of the Springfield-Greene County Library District, I was introduced to Bill Giddings, at MOREnet, the state’s provider of Internet connectivity to educational organizations. A collaboration was formed to get a fiber optic cable system run into the cave. It involved the cooperation of the library district, Ozarks Technical Community College, Missouri State University, Greene County Commission, the City of Springfield, and the Springfield-Greene County Parks Department.
The evening of the event Matt Forir, the paleontologist who led the explorations of Riverbluff Cave, was positioned inside the cave. These pictures show a group of us after spending eight hours in the cave. I moderated the program from an auditorium in The Library Center. Viewers could see and hear us both as we visited back and forth and Matt answered questions I passed along to him as they were emailed in.
That evening we had viewers in North Dakota, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Dakota over 200 separate video-streaming connections. I’ve forgotten how many students were involved but it was a big number. As the library’s Community Relations Director Jeanne Duffey reported in her column afterward, “Students were able to ask questions and experience the excitement of getting as close as you can to being there without placing a foot in the fragile cave.”
Technology may have moved a few light years beyond what it was in 2007. So how now, when the chips are down, do we reach out to kids wherever they may be and involve them in fun activities like the one we had in 2007?
I have a feeling I’m about to get an education from some of you. So bring it on.