Friday, March 9, 2018

STEAM + Literature

Katelyn Jernigan
Librarian at Tusculum Elementary School
(@Tusculum_Lib, @tusculumes,

Ever since my library internship, I have been interested in adding Makerspace materials to my library. Last year, we had limited space in the library and I was a brand new librarian, so I decided to wait. This year, we have a brand new building and a large library, so decided it was as good a time as any to implement STEAM learning and a Makerspace to the library.

How did you add STEAM and Makerspaces to your library?
One of the things that got me excited about STEAM in the library was Kelly Bulbulkaya and Laura Calverley’s presentation “Library Lesson with a STEAM Twist” at last May’s librarian professional development meeting. I loved their ideas so much, but I knew I would need some materials to get started. So this past summer, I did some research on materials that we might need, and submitted a Donor’s Choose request (make sure you check with your bookkeeper before doing this). I got Legos, Tinkertoys, straw connectors, K’NEX, playdoh, and many other craft supplies, but I also gathered some recycled things, like cardboard and toilet paper tubes. Most of what I have in my Makerspace are things that my clerk and I had, things we found cheap, or things we found in free boxes at the end of the school year. 

What STEAM lessons have you taught? 
The first lesson I taught came from Kelly and Laura. We read and discussed Iggy Peck, Architect and the students built a bridge that went over “water.” It was a huge success and the students loved it. I started to think of some other books I could read and STEAM-related activities that could go with it. Since Christmas was coming up, I wanted to do a Christmas-themed STEAM lesson. After some Pinteresting and other online research, I came up dry. Nothing was speaking to me. Therefore, I decided to pick a book first and pull an idea from that. While searching catalog for our Christmas books, I found The Night Before Christmas, A Brick Story. All of the pictures throughout the book are scenes made from Legos. I knew it would be the perfect book. Next, I decided that the students were going to build a sleigh for Santa as their STEAM activity. At first, I was not sure what the students were going to come up with, but they exceeded my expectations after the first lesson I taught. They built the most original, creative, and inventive sleighs that I could have imagined and many of the students that did this lesson are in 1st or 2nd grade.

How can I do this lesson in my library?
There are so many STEAM-inspired books out there and they can lend themselves to any activity that you want. I just pick something from the book that the students can create and build the lesson from there. Here are just a few books that I have found for elementary that I either have used, plan to use, or want to use in the future.

The Most Magnificent Thing 
What Do You Do with an Idea? 
Iggy Peck, Architect (build a bridge)
Rosie Revere, Engineer
Ada Twist, Scientist
Monkey with a Toolbelt
What to Do with a Box (create something using a box)
After the Fall (build a wall)
Dreaming Up
The Boy and the Airplane (make an airplane) 
Awesome Dawson

Thursday, March 1, 2018

DuPont Hadley Library’s STEAM Challenge: A Doggy Wheelchair

by Ginger Kirchmyer
Librarian at DuPont Hadley (@GingerKirchmyer @hadleymiddle)

In the Hadley library's 2nd STEAM challenge of the year, student participants were called on to create a doggy wheelchair. The idea originated from a true need: Achilles, the library's official mascot, an English Bulldog, was recently diagnosed with some medical problems which will make use of his hind legs impossible.

After some research, Ms. Kirchmyer learned that a doggy wheelchair will cost somewhere in the ballpark of $500. As she began her search for DIY wheelchairs online, she realized this could potentially be a great opportunity for the students, so she asked Dr. Nathan Clariday, DVM to make a video for the children to explain Achilles’ problems, and she showed it to the class. When asked what they thought, their response was unanimous. They were IN! The school’s principal Dr. Armstrong even allowed the students to meet Achilles and spend some time with him to establish a rapport build empathy, and even Kristen Ives at PermaBound Books sent a free book dedicated to Achilles and the DHMP STEAM Team to help them with their research. Here’s how it worked:

Students formed their own teams. All students in this Enrichment RTI class started the process, but none of the students were required to complete the process. There were 3 teams that made it to the end of the design process. Those students who “dropped out” served instead as collaborators and gave input to the design process of the final teams.

THE PROCESS: (unit plan)

The parameters were as follows:

  • Stay within a budget of $25
  • Design a wheelchair that could carry a 50 pound dog (measurements of Achilles were provided to all students)
  • Design a light-weight and compact end product
  • Keep it attractive and size appropriate
To do this the students first looked up current dog/people wheelchairs that inspired them; then they looked for design elements they felt presented problems (to make sure they steered clear of those). Teams used critical thinking skills to draw out their visions, collaborated and held conferences with one another, with  Ms. Kirchmyer, and even with students outside the project to receive feedback on their design. They made several revisions and finally were able to begin listing materials and creating a cost analysis for the creation of the project.

Once the design stage was complete, students used their technological skills to create a slideshow to present their findings to a panel of judges who would come to Hadley specifically to hear about the engineering design process of these students. Included in the panel of judges were DHMP STEAM Lead Teacher Sonja Clark, Head of Hadley’s Advanced Academics (Encore & Young Scholars) David Vester, and Literacy Coach Ann Glenn, as well as Assistant Principal Gwendolyn Jaskoski and Principal Dr. Kevin Armstrong. Also attending were MNPS STEAM Coach Cara Wade, MNPS Library Services Administrator Connie Sharp, and Discovery Education STEAM Trainer for MNPS Dr. Frances Dunbar.

On presentation day, the teams took turns presenting their ideas and received constructive feedback from the judging panel on everything from speech volume and eye contact to engineering design elements. The students were praised not only for their commitment to such a large project, but also for their resourcefulness in coming up with solutions to the problem.
Originally the plan was to have a “winner,” but the judges encouraged each team to build their own model and see how it works. One of the judges, Ms. Cara Wade, offered to reach out to one of the MNPS STEAM business partners to see about getting some materials for the students to create a final model, taking the best elements from each of the 3 designs and blending them together.

We expect our prototypes to be completed within the month of February, and then students will make decisions on how to design the final model. So far everyone involved has been excited to see how this project turns out. We want to thank Dr. Nathan Clariday from Mt. Juliet Animal Hospital for his donation of scooter wheels, and we also thank Donna Rule, a Hands-On Science Manager with MNPS Instructional Support for assisting us in putting together a kit of supplies to help the students. We expect nothing but the best from this talented group of young engineers. Stay tuned for the finale in March!


Monday, February 12, 2018

Now @ Pearl-Cohn HS Library: Makerspaces

by Christa Cordrey
Pearl-Cohn High School (@LibrarianC1, @PearlCohnHS)

In the Pearl-Cohn High School library, librarian Christa Cordrey has recently added makerspaces to the library offerings. It includes a variety of STEAM  (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) activities. While these additions can be considered “fun”, the purpose of the space goes much deeper than that. Below are listed some of the real benefits of these makerspace activities:

  • Puzzles: Working puzzles releases dopamine (the brain fuel that affects motivation and attitude) into your brain every time you are able to connect a piece and feel that sense of accomplishment. [Psychology Today]

  • Coloring: Some scientists think coloring can reduce stress and increase productivity. [Psychology Today] Cordrey has a community coloring station, in which anyone can contribute to a large poster-sized coloring project, as well as individual coloring pages for students to choose from.

  • Crafting: Crafting can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. [CNN] Cordrey has provided materials for collages, origami, drawing, and more.

  • Legos: Legos inspire creativity and problem solving. Computer programmers at MIT (the creators of the Scratch coding platform) say they got started in the engineering field with Legos. [MIT] Cordrey started with a small set of generic building blocks and hopes to grown the collection as students begin to use the materials.
Cordrey has also created maker stations for audio and video recording, which support the theme of Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School.
This is new initiative for the Pearl-Cohn Library and it will be exciting to see how it progresses!



Thursday, December 14, 2017

Free Access and Leveled Reading: Balancing Library Philosophy with Teacher Expectations

by Stephanie Kraft
Lakeview Design Center (@ldclibrarylions)
I was an elementary classroom teacher for 10 years. It was wonderful, challenging, and rewarding. However, when I became a school librarian, I felt like I had found my people, my niche, and my calling. I love helping students choose books that make them excited; books that they like to show off to their friends, even if they can't read every word. Students will often return books the next day--I know they didn't read them, but they ACCESSED them, they were proud of them, they gave it a shot...that is what matters to me. They will find their way to the books they can read, because they have the access to try and try again.
I am also passionate about helping teachers, and my teacher heart remembers the pressure of reading instruction; how easy it becomes to see reading only as instruction, constantly trying to measure progress in fluency and comprehension. Being on the hook for student reading growth is an overwhelming responsibility, and it is tempting to direct students to read ONLY on one level, even for at home reading. I'm sure we've all experienced students being sent back to the library to choose a different book, because the one they chose didn't meet classroom level requirements.
The school library exists to bridge the gap between school and home; to aid students in discovering reading in a broader sense and to build a foundation for life-long reading. So what do we do as school librarians to meet those seemingly conflicting needs? How do we balance what teachers want (levels, levels, levels) and what we want (choice, choice, choice)?
For the teachers that require levels, I use every opportunity to encourage them to allow students at least one "free choice" book from the library. When students think they are limited to a level, I remind them that they have a free choice option; to look for the books they are excited to try, and then we can check the level if needed. I help teachers understand that there can be value or joy in a book even if "he/she can't read it." Fortunately, my message of student choice has been catching on at our school.
There is value in choice, there is value in instruction, and true learning will happen when students have the chance to use their instructional tools in books they have chosen for themselves.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Hip Hop and Scratch

by Nicole Greer at Antioch High School (@WeareAntiochHS)

Last August, YALSA issued a call to librarians to apply for travel funds to attend a coding summit in Cleveland, OH: Hip-Hop and Scratch. Working at a school with an emerging STEM pathway and a flourishing hip-hop culture, I was intrigued. I flew to Cleveland and joined nearly 50 educators at the Progressive Arts Alliance. I. Wasn’t. Ready. When I opened the email from the summit organizer whose first bullet point read, “Wear clothes you’re comfortable moving around in on Friday—we’ll be dancing,” I should have known then. My inner nerd had applied so that I could work with MIT’s Scratch Team. However, the first half of Day 1 consisted entirely of dance workshops. Once I finished physically stretching and began to mentally stretch beyond what I thought I couldn’t do (i.e., hip-hop dancing), I found my groove (or my pop and lock—and I have the pics to prove it).

Next, we received an introduction to Scratch, a programming language developed by the cool kids at MIT. Previously, my experience with coding literally had been designing “from scratch,” or writing in languages like HTML. I found this simplified or, rather, more accessible form of coding fascinating, and I knew it would be something that my students could learn and enjoy. Instead of using generic avatars to create our Scratch videos, we uploaded and sequenced still images of ourselves performing hip-hop dance moves. To keep us motivated, we had a live DJ who created a vibe that prompted this tweet: “At the Hip-Hop and Scratch Coding Summit wondering why school can’t be this LIT on a daily basis!” To round out THE summit of epic proportions, Eric Rosenbaum, co-inventor of Makey Makey, made an appearance and literally crafted a beatbox out of folks’ hand claps. Check that out:

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Introducing Susan Lapp, Librarian at Amqui Elementary

Hi everyone, I'm Susan Lapp, the new librarian at Amqui Elementary. I've been working in education for the past 20 years, mostly with Kindergarteners. Last fall I moved from Florida to Tennessee and was blessed with an opportunity to work for Metro as an interim librarian. It came at the perfect time when I knew I needed a change in my career path. Now, I'm enjoying this new job and getting kids excited about the library and what it has to offer them. I intend to create a makerspace in our library so that our students can be experimental and creative in positive ways. At the end of this year, I hope my coworkers will feel like I supported them and always went that extra mile to provide for what they needed. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Introducing Edie Whitley, Librarian at Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet

My name is Edie Whitley and I am the school librarian at Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet elementary school.  I have twenty-two years of experience in the district in various grades and the library.  The library is my favorite place to be because I am surrounded by books with beautiful pictures and words that seem to dance off the page.  I never grow tired of sharing books with children and introducing them to new authors or genres. Kids who love reading will do well in all subject areas and I especially hope to instill that love of reading in all of my students!    
At Robert Churchwell, we have a beautiful library with a cozy tree house where classes can go to read! My Principal, Ms. Taylor and Assistant Principal Mrs. Perry are so supportive of the library program! My hopes are to build our collection and to teach strong lesson plans that can support my kindergarten through fourth grade teams so that we can make strong gains.  We’ve really been off to a great start this year with students learning map skills, figurative language, important geographical terms, and how to retell a story! When I see students in the morning, they always ask me if it’s their day to come to the library! They love to check out books, like I do and I try to make learning fun!