Barrow’s Knot

KNOT 5Now that we have a mobile computer lab for the library, we no longer have a wired lab full of mice, headphones, and power cords.  However, people still need headphones, mice, etc, so we put these in boxes for people to grab as they need it.  Since our students are usually in a rush to clean up and get back to class, they often just toss the mice back into the box rather than wind them up correctly.  This resulted in a very tangled problem.  The cords of the mice became so tangled that you could not get even 1 mouse out of the box to use.  I definitely did not have time to sit down and untangle these, and I felt bad asking a volunteer to do it.  I wasn’t sure how the mice were going to be usable again.

This morning on the way to school I had an idea.  The knot reminded me of Cobble’s Knot in the book Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.  I found that part of the book and prepared an announcement for BTV.  I read an excerpt from the book and then talked about making a connection to our own library (which is a standard we teach).  I introduced Barrow’s Knot by holding up the tangled mess of mice.  I issued a challenge to see who could brave the knot and untangle the mice.  After BTV, I put the knot on a table with the Maniac Magee book.  I also put a sign up sheet for students to sign their name as they attempted the challenge.  If they were successful in getting a mouse untangled, they could highlight their name to earn a prize.  KNOT 3

If you want to see the announcement of Barrow’s Knot, watch our morning broadcast.  Fast forward to 1:23.

I barely got the knot on the table before students were in the library to attempt the challenge.  Our library has been buzzing all day long with kids coming to see the knot, try to untangle it, and asking who was successful.  This is what the knot looked like as people were trying to defeat it.

Only 14 students attempted the challenge before Barrow’s Knot was defeated.  I never imagined it would be done so quickly.  These students put each untangled mouse into an individual ziploc bag to prevent this from happening again.  For the rest of the day, kids came to take the challenge and hear the stories of the students who were successful.  It was so much fun.  I was amazed by how something that was so frustrating to me was suddenly fun when it was turned into a game.  Students were so willing to take on the knot rather than look at it as an impossible time-consuming task.  I was also amazed at how something fun and mysterious brought so many kids to the library.  It makes me wonder about the missed opportunities I may have had with other dilemmas the

I’m taking away so much from this one simple act such as:

  • Gamification is a natural part of us.  Chores are more fun when they are turned into a game.
  • When we work together on a dilemma that frustrates us, great things can happen.
  • Combining expertise and talents can accomplish what seems impossible.
  • Our students hold the answers to many of our dilemmas and frustrations if we just open up the space for them to contribute.
  • The library should be more than a place to come and get books.  It is a place to work together, solve problems, be creative, make connections.
  • We must model what it means to connect to a book through bringing books to life and intentionally connecting them to the real world.  I imagine many students will remember Maniac now that they have participated in a dilemma much like his own.

What do you take away from this?


2 thoughts on “Barrow’s Knot

  1. suebeefoster says:

    I LOVE THIS! What a great and meaningful solution that accomplished so much! Not only did it solve your problem and give the students a great literary connection, but I’m sure it was a confidence booster for them, too! It also helps them take ownership and responsibility for the resources of the Media Center and the school.

    (Of course, I would have been tempted to tackle the Knot myself…I love untangling knots! It’s like solving a puzzle.)

    This actually inspires me to turn pull out the old tangled headphones in my storage closet and let our students have a go at them!!

    Thanks so much for sharing this and for continuing to inspire students, teachers, and your fellow Media Specialists! 🙂

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