Urban Ecology Remix for Drop-In Style Programs

I wanted to share a few ways to take the structured activities from the PLIX Urban Ecology series and remix them them for more flexible, drop-in style events.

The examples below were created with an amazing team of librarians as part of our PLIX@Akron Workshop, which concluded with a Spooky Maker Night (hence the Halloween spin!). These drop-in activities can be tailored to other happenings in your library, like a climate week or a maker faire!

Urban Nature Sketching

Lay out some materials for sketching, and encourage patrons capture life (or non-life) through drawing!

Prep Time: 15 Minutes (including time to objects)


  • Objects collected from outdoors: leaves; bark; rocks; litter
  • Colored pencils and crayons
  • Sketch paper

Soil Shake Station

Allow patrons to perform soil shakes with samples from around the library grounds! It’s useful to have a number of jars that have already-settled soil layers as examples for demonstrating sand, silt, and clay. I suggest also having the Feeling & Soils zines on display, so patrons can learn a bit more about soils and the separation they are observing!

An optional addition: we put together a cardboard box with small LED flashlights inserted so that the soil shakes could be illuminated (showcased in the photo above)!

Prep Time: 20 Minutes (including time to collect soils)


  • Small jars with tight-fitting lids
  • Various soil samples
  • Optional: flashlights

Community Sorting

Perform an interactive group sort! In our Spooky Maker Workshop, we had one table FILLED with a wide array of abiotic (nonliving) and biotic (living) components, and another nearby table where those components could be placed with a category of the patron’s choosing (written directly on the butcher paper or on a sticky note). Over two hours, we had a ton of different categories to sort our found objects into (ranging from “fluffy” to “has seeds that disperse” to “high degradation time”).

Prep Time: 20 Minutes (including time to collect)


  • Table outfitted with butcher paper
  • Markers
  • Sticky notes
  • Wide range of objects collected from outside

Feel Boxes

Have patrons play a guessing game! We made three “mystery feel boxes”. One full of soil, another housing a large, dried hydrangea, and one with a skeleton hand :ghost:

Prep Time: 15 Minutes (including time to collect)


  • Cardboard boxes
  • Butcher paper
  • Markers
  • Collected objects or artifacts

I’d love to hear any thoughts or feedback you have on these remixed drop-in activities for Urban Ecology! How would remix these activities? I’d also love to hear about how you envision these drop-ins fitting into your library’s programming or offerings. Let’s discuss!


I love the idea of transforming some of the existing workshops into drop-in activities. This looks like a fun evening! I think with current precautions a lot of activities that would normally be shared use of materials will need to be creatively rethought. However, I could imagine us offering drop-in stations to browsing patrons before in-person workshops as we’ve had in the past.

I’ve been thinking more about Urban Ecology programs as we’re getting close to Earth Day. I love these ideas for drop-in style programs, and I think these could even work well outside when the weather’s nice since we still cannot gather inside.

One thing I’d add is a book display to go along with the theme of Urban Ecology. I came across this beautiful picture book today while shelving:
Crossings: Extraordinary Structures for Extraordinary Animals by Katy Duffield.

The author researched all the fascinating ways engineers have designed bridges, tunnels and other creative structures to allow animals to safely cross busy roads when their habitats have been encroached upon.