We are delighted to share that the 2022 BC Summer Reading Club Community Story Award goes to Mel Edgar at the Powell River Public Library. While the pandemic has changed the ways libraries share Summer Reading Club with their communities, so many libraries have gone outdoors to ensure that children and families could still find ways to safely connect and participate in the program. Mel’s story exemplifies how PRPL truly ran with the mystery theme and took it to the next level. Through their “Plant Your Undies” program, the PRPL team incorporated Crack the Case! with the outdoors and STEM programming, all with a delightful sense of humour and curiosity to enrich the community’s summer. Through this program, they were able to engage participants throughout the summer and incorporated the local community garden on this entertaining science experiment. We hope you enjoy reading Mel’s story below and get inspired to reach out to local community partners this summer.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a Community Story Award nomination, and congratulations to Mel Edgar and the Powell River Public Library!

About Mel Edgar

Mel Edgar, using her hand to look out in the distance

Mel Edgar is the Teen Services Coordinator at the Powell River Public Library on the traditional territory of the Tla’amin Nation.

Mel has many degrees, including a PhD in archaeology, and soon an MLIS from the University of Alberta.

A life-long learner, Mel is curious about the how and why of things, and looks forward to bringing yet more inventive STEM activities into the library.

Plant Your Undies at the Powell River Public Library

By Mel Edgar, Powell River Public Library

I would hazard a guess that many kids (and adults) think the word “undies” is pretty funny – but did you know underwear could be an important part of scientific discovery, community connection, AND Summer Reading Club fun?!

“Plant Your Undies?”

In 2021, PRPL was still planning for their second remote delivery of SRC. In planning for our program of remote activities, we were searching for something special, something engaging that would set the tone for the entire Summer Reading Club.  We were also looking for a fun AND attainable STEM activity for the wide age range of youth who attend Summer Reading Club. “Plant your Undies” involved more than just underwear – it met so many elements of the 2021 theme Crack the Case!, as well as, the goals of BC Summer Reading Club, which is to get kids excited about books are reading! Not only that, but it incorporated an ACTUAL science experiment inspired by the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC).

A screen shot of Plant Your Undies instructions for participants

Screenshot of PRPL’s Week 1 Activity Sheet for “Plant Your Undies” – We loved using Zoe Si’s artwork & children’s coordinator Sonia Zagwn even designed our own Top Secret Stamp which adorned every participant’s “Top Secret” notebook! (Source: PRPL Website)

Tell Me More About “Plant Your Undies”!
  • STEM: “Plant your Undies” combines patience with science, a necessary component of detective work and science!
  • OUTSIDE & ACTIVE: “Plant your Undies” got kids outside and doing something physical with their families, and in connection with the community–in a safe way. This was a crucial component after so much isolation during the pandemic.
  • FUNNY & AN INSTANT HIT: A humorous first activity also set an energetic tone for Summer Reading Club. Chloe Gruenhage, our Summer Reading Club Assistant, hit it out of the park with her pre-recorded “undie planting” video, which she screened at our Summer Reading Club virtual launch. We had so many positive comments about Chloe’s work and her inclusion of her dog Shiloh as her assistant!
  • MAINTAINING INTEREST: We also found that the introduction of a “bookmark” activity at the beginning of Summer Reading Club that is then revisited seven weeks later at the end of SRC worked fantastically. Interest remained high throughout in what was happening to everyone’s undies!
  • COMMUNITY CONNECTION: Community gardens loved being asked to participate in a library activity, this created fertile ground for further library-garden cooperation. An early response to a first query returned “TOO FUNNY! Of course, we have room at both Commons’ for soiled undies! As one of my colleagues said, ‘If we plant them under a fruit tree then we’d have ‘Fruit of the Loom’.”
  • MARKETABLE & ATTENTION GETTING: The underwear activity attracted some local news attention, with a local community gardener speculating on the possibility of “underwear trees.”

Chloe Gruenhage goes over the soil science with her assistant Shiloh in the final week’s SRC Activity, Dig Up Your Undies! (Source: PRPL YouTube)

Take Note
  • Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC): Jim Tokarchuk, the Executive Director of SCCC and is a FANTASTIC PERSON to connect with.  He is accessible via email or phone and since the activity has corporate sponsorship at the SCCC (Stanfield’s) he can also connect you with size XL Cotton Y-Fronts if needed. He’d also like feedback on how the experiment went!
  • Sourcing Undies: PRPL decided that XL cotton Y-Fronts might not be the right look for SRC, and set about sourcing 100 pairs of (affordable!) 100% cotton undies. What a fun challenge and doable!
  • White Undies for Science: PRPL didn’t succeed on finding all white undies, but the differential rate of decomposition of varying colours proved to be an interesting additional scientific variable.
  • Prepping the Undies: All undies must be washed (unscented laundry detergent) before burial. Fold and count those undies!

Summer Reading Club “Master of Mysteries” Chloe Gruenhage demonstrates how to “Plant Your Undies” (Source: PRPL Instagram)

Seven Weeks Later: Where did the undies go? (Source: Photo Submitted by Children’s Services Coordinator)

Undies were planted at the start of Summer Reading Club, hypotheses developed, and then explored seven weeks later at the end of SRC when the undies were dug up … with intriguing results (see images above)! Side note: PRPL’s teen coordinator Mel Edgar also became known as the “underwear lady” around town for her enthusiastic coordination of community connection in relation to this activity. As official underwear lady, I would like to nominate Powell River Public Library (PRPL) for the SRC Community Story Award for 2022, for their “Plant your Undies” Summer Reading Club activity inspired by the Soil Conservation Council of Canada.