Musical petting zoos held monthly at library

Jodi Edstrom leads a music storytime. She will also be leading musical petting zoos each month at the Watertown Library. (Submitted photo)
Jodi Edstrom leads a music storytime. She will also be leading musical petting zoos each month at the Watertown Library. (Submitted photo)

Musical Petting  Zoo Stations are being held every first Tuesday of the month from 3-5 p.m. at the Watertown Library, with upcoming sessions on Oct. 1 and Nov. 5.

Carver County Associate Librarian Jodi Edstrom is known in the library system for her traveling musical storytimes, but the Musical Petting Zoo Stations are a new program being piloted at the Watertown Library. While many libraries and museums host musical petting zoos, when Edstrom began researching pairing the petting zoo with the station concept, she could find no other examples.

“I was excited to think about the possibilities and that Carver County Library could make our musical mark with this new concept,“ she said.

The idea of incorporating music into storytimes is not new, but it is a storytime best practice and is listed as one of the Every Child Ready to Read practices.

Watertown Youth Services librarian Kristin Jones values music for children in Watertown and is very excited about this pilot project.

“Incorporating music into storytime creates a fun bonding experience with your child,” Jones said. “Music (singing) develops memory/listening skills and makes repetition much easier for little ones. Jodi’s new program is a welcome addition to Watertown Children’s programming.”

What happens at a Musical Petting Zoo Station in Watertown?  Four different animals are featured monthly, each at a different station with a different instrument. Each instrument has activities and at least one of the stations will have a song sheet that the children can take home with their parents.

Children can stay as long or as short a time as they wish and enjoy the musical instruments. Plastic copies of instruments were purchased both for their durability and their washability. Wet towelettes will be available to wash off the instruments between individual’s uses and the instruments are thoroughly washed after each session for sanitation.

The use of animals with an instrument that is somehow reminiscent of sounds the animals will make provides a memory device for children to associate sounds. The use of familiar children’s songs with new words to them or “piggybacking” allows children to focus on the words and have success with the melodies. For those songs that are not known by children, it allows them the opportunity to learn these songs.

“We have found that many children have not been exposed to older children’s songs such as ‘Skip to My Lou’ or ‘Pop Goes the Weasel,’’ branch manager Heidi Hoks said. “Additionally, many have not been exposed to old fairy tales like ‘The Three Bears.’ This is unfortunate because these songs and fairy tales contain cadence structure that encourages emergent literacy and provides a basis for understanding other pieces of literature as children grow older. In our Carver County library storytimes, the Youth Services librarians introduce these songs and fairytales to children and the children are delighted.  More importantly, these help provide a literacy base for them.”

Edstrom agrees.

“We hope to not only introduce children to music and instruments, but we are also doing our very best to tie these activities to best literacy practices and making them accessible,” Edstrom said. “We are looking forward to introducing the Musical Petting Zoo Stations to Watertown.”

Edstrom has a degree in Music and has produced original musical compositions. She currently teaches private music in Watertown through Community Ed as well as working in the Carver County library. Her expertise has not gone unnoticed in the state, either. She will be a presenter at this year’s Minnesota Library Association Annual Fall Conference on the topic of incorporating music into storytime.

The first Musical Petting Zoo Stations focused on zoo animals. Coming up this fall are Farm Animals and Sea Creatures. So come to the library every first Tuesday of the month from 3:00-5:00 p.m. and enjoy the fun at the Musical Petting Zoo Stations.