READFIELD — When Librarian Melissa Small called Kents Hill School teacher Jordan Gehman in the fall asking if his students could help with a community project, it felt like fate.

Gehman was in the middle of developing “Community Design Build,” a woodworking art class, and was searching for a community project for his students to work on during the spring. And Small wanted the community to help bring a new StoryWalk to life.

“This opportunity fell into his lap,” Small joked.

Small called upon Gehman’s class and a woodshop class at Maranacook Community High School — each school was in charge of creating a StoryWalk.

A StoryWalk is an outdoor “reading experience” where a young-aged picture book is placed along a trail to encourage both reading and physical exercise. The StoryWalk at Readfield Community Library, which was the one created by Kents Hill students, has 18 posts and stretches behind the library on about a quarter-mile path, leading to the Readfield Union Meeting House.

The StoryWalk produced by Maranacook students will be installed at Readfield Elementary School in September.


‘They are a new thing and became more popular during COVID-19 to get people outside,” Small said.

A ceremony, featuring a local musician and children who were encouraged to play along with borrowed instruments, took place Wednesday to reveal the library’s StoryWalk. The theme was “I’m Going on a Bear Hunt” in conjunction with the first StoryWalk book.

Kents Hill Woodshop Teacher Jordan Gehman helps third-year student Naomi McGadney with her work. The class was creating special StoryWalk posts. Photo by Gillian Barnes

Once Gehmen received the call from Small, his class got to work. The class, which was split into two groups, worked on the project during the spring semester. Each group developed its own blueprint and built a cardboard model before getting the OK from Small to go forward with wood structures.

The final design used the “best parts” of the individual models. On Wednesday night, four Kents Hill students who worked on the project saw their work on display for the first time.

“It taught me a lot about working for others,” said senior DJ Niang, who said the long process that started with the students learning how to use the woodshop tools and brainstorming ideas.

Gehmen said it taught students how to “represent themselves” in a design, while working with a consumer to accomplish what they want.


Senior Jack Power said they had to consider aspects like the height of an average child so they could easily see the StoryWalk, but also what the height of an average adult is so they wouldn’t have to bend over too much.

“We had to make it accessible to change, waterproof, calculate a good angle,” he said. “We didn’t want a toddler to be on their tippy toes or an adult to bend over.”

Monroe Gehman, 4, left, takes a picture of his friend Dolev Rabinovich, 4, right, as Dolev’s mother, Anya Davidson, watches Wednesday during a StoryWalk event at Readfield Community Library. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Gehmen said  students worked hard on the posts. He attended the ceremony with his family and was happy to see his students’ hard work laid out. He brought his 4-year-old son, Monroe, who also helped with the process by putting the gravel down after the posts were installed.

Materials for the structures included lumber from By the Board Lumber in Readfield and Plexiglas from Portland Glass in Augusta. Small said she wanted the project to be a community effort and to make the grant that paid for the effort stretch as much as it could.

Small learned of a national Let’s Go! program grant from Nan Bell of Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, who told her about it after a borrowed StoryWalk set up along Readfield Beach last year got a good response from the community.

In order to apply for the Let’s Go! grant, Small said, the StoryWalk would be required to be placed at a Let’s Go! site and Readfield Elementary School is designated as one.


So the librarian contacted Jada Clark, Readfield Elementary School’s nurse, and the pair applied for an $800 grant. The funding was awarded in November 2020.

After straightening and flattening the pages, Brenda Lake puts one of the display cases back together before the StoryWalk grand opening Wednesday at Readfield Community Library. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The posts for the Readfield school StoryWalk have been completed, but have yet to be placed in the ground. With high temperatures and abundant rain this summer, Small said both projects were delayed and opened later than planned; the goal is to have the school one open by the end of September.

In addition to the posts, a successful StoryWalk also requires books. Small asked people to donate to sponsor a story, which requires two copies of each picture to put it page-by-page inside the post. A total of 23 sponsors stepped forward to support the program, and books will be changed on a monthly basis. The books also will be able to be used at both StoryWalk locations.

“With the books we chose, we reached out to the elementary school and the younger grades and asked them for suggestions,” Small said. “When we were choosing the books for the first two years of the StoryWalk, we wanted books that encouraged physical movement.”

Small hopes it will be an activity all ages can do in all types of weather. The library has snowshoes for people to rent, which she suggested could be used to walk the StoryWalk trail in the winter. Small also said the StoryWalk could be used for other aspects, like an art show at the elementary school.

Instructor Jordan Gehman brainstorms ideas for StoryWalk designs with students at Kents Hill School. The class was tasked with creating special StoryWalk posts. Photo by Gillian Barnes

Like Small, Gehmen and the students who created on the posts said they were excited to be out in the community and working on a project “that matters.” Most of the Kents Hill students who worked on the project are from out of state and board at the school.

They all said they wanted to do something similar again within the community.

“It helps us explore the community and helps other people,” said senior Naomi Balon, who is from Canada. “It bridges the community together, it’s not just a selective community.”

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