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Westside Learning Habitat

The Kansas City Public Library - Ruiz Branch

Problem Statement

The Westside of Kansas City, Missouri has a high dropout rate and a low literacy rate combined with a large low-income population. Many students are not able to read at grade level.


We are turning the Westside into a learning habitat. The Ruiz Branch is part of the Westside Action for Youth (WAY) Coalition, which comprises of youth-serving agencies. We created a butterfly garden, a rain garden and a community garden. A fifth-grade science summer camp tagged Monarch butterflies and released them back into the wild. The first-grade class at the local elementary school hatched eggs and brought the chicks to the community garden. An eighth-grade summer school class researched cold frames and greenhouses as part of their curriculum. The Friends of the Library donated books to be housed at the garden for children and adults. We are working on signage that will have English and Spanish and photographs to explain what is growing. In addition the Friends of the Library donated books to the Westside Community Action Network for distribution to children visiting the center with their parents. Future plans include signs on the trees, benches and other items along the major street in English and Spanish. We also plan have the fifty states with capitals painted on the sidewalks from the library to the local elementary school.


The chickens have become a focal point of the community with people stopping to “talk” to them or just watch them. The research done by the summer school class resulted in a greenhouse being built at the local charter high school. Garden plots were used by community members, the Ruiz Branch, and an eigth-grade summer school class. The books at the Westside Community Action Center are being given to children without limit on how many they can take, which is getting books into the homes. Those same books have spurred some of the day-labor population at the center to begin to read. Many of these men were unable to attend school in their home countries.