We are Honored to Receive a James Patterson Partnership Grant!

Back in March, James Patterson and Scholastic announced an incredible opportunity for school libraries around the country.  From the official press release:

March 9, 2015 — New York, NY — As part of an ongoing effort to keep books and reading a number one priority in the United States, James Patterson has announced that he will donate $1.25 million to school libraries this year. In the first-ever partnership of its kind, Patterson is joining forces with Scholastic Reading Club to administer funding applications to their network of 62,000 schools and 800,000 teachers. Scholastic will match each dollar with “Bonus Points,” which teachers can use to acquire books and other materials for their classrooms, at every school that receives an award. Applications to nominate a school library for a donation can be found here: www.scholastic.com/pattersonpartnership.

James Patterson is donating this money because he believes that fewer children are growing up in a household full of books – and that the effects of this absence could have a profound impact on a child’s future, and on the future of our country. Every child in America should have access to books and a functioning school library, and he believes that improvements in school libraries will foster children’s love of reading and boost their academic achievement overall.
I immediately took advantage of this opportunity by writing a 300 word or less application for our library. My hope was to get a $10,000 grant to support our student book budget project.  Here’s what I wrote:
Each year, I reserve $1000 in the library budget for a project called “Student Book Budgets”. This money is completely controlled by students to purchase books for the library that matches the reading interests of the entire school. Over time, we have developed a dependable process.  A group of students is chosen based on a variety of criteria, including students who have trouble finding books.They create a survey in Google forms and use iPads to survey all grades.  The students analyze the data to see what the top reading interests are. They establish goals and divide the budget among these goals. We send our goals to library vendors who bring in matching book samples and catalogs. Students make wish lists that exceed our budget. Students narrow the list to match our budget. Tough decisions are made about which books to keep and eliminate. I order the finalized lists. While we wait, students come up with a marketing plan. The students unpack the books and get the honors of the first checkouts. Within hours of putting the books out, they are all checked out and remain among the most popular books.I have shared this process on the national level and many libraries have benefited from the idea. The problem with this process is that we obtain an entire school’s reading interests, but our limited budget only allows us to honor a few of them. If we have $10,000, we could expand our reach to include more student interests and not feel that all of our work creating lists of books is whittled away during the budget process. I am confident that we could spend the money in a way that values the reading interests of our entire school.
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In May, I received an email letting me know that I was a finalist for the grant, but I of course had to keep that a secret, which was very hard to do!  I submitted some additional info and waited some more. Then, in late May, my principal received the call.  Our library was award a $5000 grant from James Patterson with a $5000 matching grant from Scholastic Book Clubs, so we essentially have $10,000 between vendors of our choice and Scholastic Book Club to support our student book budget for the 2015-2016 school year.
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I plan to start this project very early in the school year and involve as many students as possible so that students can enjoy the books that we purchase throughout the school year.  Thank you James Patterson for believing in the power of libraries.  Thank you Scholastic for amplifying this opportunity and matching it with your own resources.  Congratulations to all of the libraries who received grants in this first round of announcements!  I can’t wait to share the news with this year’s book budget students and blog about our process in selecting books.
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The Award-Winning 5th Grade Little Free Library Project

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Our Little Free Library was presented to the school during the 5th Grade Moving On Ceremony

Today was our 5th grade Moving On Ceremony.  This is a very special day where every 5th grader is honored for their time at our school. Our teachers worked together to write tweets about each student to highlight some of their great qualities.  Another portion of the ceremony is awards.  Again, this is a very special time because so many students are honored for their many gifts:  academics, citizenship, service, creativity, and more.  Among the awards are some memorial awards which honor Barrow Buddies who were taken from our world way too soon.  The Eve Carson Service Learning Award is one of those awards.  The award is described in this way.

Eve Carson

Several ideas are important at Barrow School—learning, service and fun. Service-Learning—the intentional connection of service and learning is something we are growing here. Service-Learning adds the very important part of self-reflection to a project. Through Service-Learning you come to understand yourself and your world in a different way.Well, when we put together service, learning and fun we quite naturally thought of Eve Carson. Eve was an outstanding Barrow Buddy who continued to lead an outstanding academic and personal life. As difficult as it is today to not have Eve here, we are so thankful for her example of living a meaningful life and for the inspiration she will continue to give Barrow Buddies through the years. Each year hereafter, an award in her name will be given in honor of a service learning project completed by a class or group at Barrow Pre-K-5th Grade.

This year, I nominated the 5th grade Little Free Library Project for this award.  It exemplifies service learning because every Barrow 5th grader was involved in the project in multiple ways.  Students learned so much about a commitment to serving their community and thinking beyond just ourselves.  Today, we learned that our project was chosen as this year’s recipient of the Eve Carson Service Learning Memorial Award.  I am honored that our project will be listed on the memorial plaque among so many other inspiring projects that have served our Barrow community and beyond.  Sarah James, Barrow 5th grader, presented one of the Little Free Libraries as the gift to our school during the ceremony.  Our 5th graders should be very proud of their accomplishment that will provide more access to free books for our community for years to come.

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New Media Center Coming Soon!

On Friday, I visited our new media center at the new Barrow Elementary that should be done sometime in July.  We are busy packing boxes at our temporary home, and it was very helpful to see the space to consider what to pack and what to leave behind.  I can’t wait to see the innovative projects, ideas, conversations, and stories that take place in this new location.  One of the key features of the space is its flexibility.  Almost every single piece of furniture in the new space moves easily and quickly in order to change the function of the space in a moment’s notice.  Students have long asked for cozy places to sit and read, talk, collaborate, etc. and they will finally get to say goodbye to the big, clunky tables and hard wooden chairs.  Thinking about where every shelf and table is going to go is a bit intimidating  but at least I know that if it doesn’t work, it can quickly be changed.  I’ll do a much better tour on the blog when we actually move in, but here are a few pictures of the space in progress.

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More Great Little Free Library News

Labels, bumper stickers, ideas, and more were in our package from Little Free Libraries.

Labels, bumper stickers, ideas, and more were in our package from Little Free Libraries.

I love that I get to continue to share great news from our Little Free Library Project.  Here are some more great things that have happened:

  • We were approved to put our library at Lay Park.  This was in response to a student letter and a great phone call with Randy Haygood, facility supervisor
  • Camilla Bracewell, amazing superhero library volunteer & Barrow grandparent, became a supporter of our project through a donation and conversations with people in the community.
  • Our Little Free Libraries are now registered.  We received our signs in the mail!
  • Our libraries are now in art waiting to be painted once we have a design decided.
Our official signs will be mounted on our libraries once they are painted.

Our official signs will be mounted on our libraries once they are painted.

I love that the signs are made from reclaimed wood from Wisconsin's Amish Country.

I love that the signs are made from reclaimed wood from Wisconsin’s Amish Country.

Exciting Little Free Library News

Kenny Sims, Operations Manager with Athens Home Depot, donates the 2 Little Free Libraries to Barrow

Kenny Sims, Operations Manager with Athens Home Depot, donates the 2 Little Free Libraries to Barrow

Two major things happened today with our Little Free Libraries.  I began talks with a possible location for our 2nd library and our 2 libraries were delivered by Home Depot!

I have to say again that we went into this project with a lot of faith in our community and amazing things are happening.  Here are a few recent things:

  • Several students from other grades have come to tell me that they are cleaning out their home libraries to bring us books that they no longer need.
  • Several people have brought in books to fill the libraries already.
  • People donated money during the book fair which was almost enough to register both of our libraries.  The 5th graders are about to each bring in $1, which will help us reach that goal.  Our library numbers will be 5559 and 5560
  • A student who wrote a persuasive letter was beaming when he found out that his letter had been received by the recipient.
  • Home Depot #0129 continues to be a very generous donor to this project.  They have built and donated both libraries and are now working with our art teacher to get supplies for painting the 2 libraries.  They will also help us with the final supplies for installing both libraries.  I can’t thank them enough for their generosity.  They definitely have my future home improvement business!
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5th graders immediately came to see the 2 libraries

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Little Free Library 5th Grade Project

I’ve known about Little Free Libraries for awhile now, and since I learned about them I wanted to help establish one at our school.  I was waiting for just the right moment.  This summer I attended the Decatur Book Festival and saw several creative Little Free Libraries that were being auctioned off and it made me want to establish one even more.  I posted a picture of the libraries on our media center facebook page and immediately Ms. Cross, a 5th grade teacher, said she wanted to help make this happen at our school.  Her comment made me think about the gift that our 5th grade gives to the school at Moving On Ceremony at the end of each year as a way for the 5th graders to make their mark on the school before they leave.  Since our 5th graders won’t get the opportunity to go to school in our brand new building next year, I thought this year’s gift needed to be extra special.  I had found the perfect fit for the idea.

I began talking with people at our school about the project.  As always, our art teacher, Rita Foretich, was on board to help weave this project into an interdisciplinary experience.  Other teachers in the school that don’t even work with our 5th graders began offering ideas too and within a few days our spark of idea was really starting to grow.

I sat down with Mrs. Foretich and we did an initial brainstorming of what our project might look like.  We thought of materials, resources, locations, and also a sequence of events that would need to happen in order for the project to be done by the end of the year.  Our plan consisted of:  an intro to Little Free Libraries for the whole 5th grade, persuasive writing in 5th grade classroom, continued research and conversation in the media center, and little free library designs and artwork in art.  I took our plan to the 5th grade team for feedback and additions.  The teachers brainstormed ways for the students to really take ownership of the project such as donating their own books to stock the libraries and bringing in $1 each to cover the registration for the 2 libraries.

We launched into the first phase right after this session.  I made a short introduction video using screencast-o-matic and uploaded it to Youtube.  Mrs. Foretich showed the video at the beginning of an art class.

As she showed it, the kids immediately began having ideas and wanting to contribute them.  She developed a Google form to share with the students so that they could all submit their feedback without taking up too much of the class time to hold a discussion.  Mrs. Foretich’s student teacher also began contributing her knowledge and connections to UGA.

The next step will be for the student to brainstorm more about the materials, labor, and location so that they can begin writing persuasive letters to individuals and organizations for support.

Our goal is to create 2 Little Free Libraries by the end of the year.  One will be installed at the new Barrow and one will be installed somewhere near downtown so it is accessible to our students and the community on that end of town.  Who knows what this project will develop into, but it is already full of participatory culture as more and more people contribute their ideas, their expertise, and their creativity.

If you have ideas or resources for this project, feel free to leave them in the comments or contact our library.

Destiny Quest Mobile App

Great news!  Now our library catalog can be accessed through your smartphone.  View this video to learn more about the features.  Please note that you will only see “library” and “webpath” in the tabs of your mobile Destiny Quest.

To install the app, visit your smartphone app store and search for Destiny Quest or Follett.

For Android, click here.

For Apple, click here.

Once you download the app, you’ll need to set it up by entering our URL, which is:   destiny.clarke.k12.ga.us

Next, select David C. Barrow Elementary.

Finally, your child can login to his/her account by entering his regular usernameand password from school.

Enjoy!