The Award-Winning 5th Grade Little Free Library Project


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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Painting our Little Free Libraries

Paint generously donated by the Athens Oconee Home Depot

Paint generously donated by the Athens Oconee Home Depot

It’s been awhile since I’ve done an update on our 2 Little Free Libraries.  We’ve had so many end-of-the-year events that it has slowed us down a bit.  Mrs. Foretich, our art teacher, and I sat down and looked at the designs that student groups submitted and narrowed it down to the 2 designs.  One will feature things that show “where I am in the world”.  It will include GA & US symbols as well as some Athens symbols.  The other design features a sun shine with a red color that resembles the bricks of Barrow school.  Ms. Foretich worked with Kenneth Sims and other employees at the Athens-Oconee Home Depot to select paints, and once again Home Depot generously donated these items.  I can’t say “Thank You” enough to this business.  They have been a huge supporter of this project.

While the 5th grade is practicing for the Moving On Ceremony and making music videos in music class, Mrs. Foretich is pulling small groups to paint.  Students primed both libraries first.  Then, designs were drawn on in pencil before beginning the painting process.  Students repeatedly went back to the paper designs and also talked with the designers to make sure the design was staying true to the vision.  Students even worked on mixing paints to get various shades of colors that were needed on the libraries.IMG_0715

Next week, Mrs. Foretich and I will travel to Lay Park and meet with Randy Haygood to discuss the exact location of our second library.  KenDarius, a Barrow 5th grader, is working on a plan for some rising 4th & 5th graders to deliver books to this library throughout next year as it needs to be filled.  He will join us next week when we meet with Randy.

Throughout this project, we’ve tried to keep students at the center.  They have been a part of almost every decision in the project and were instrumental in getting us the supplies that we needed through their carefully written letters.  Of course, this student involvement has stretched this project to a year-long project, but I think it just shows how when you take time to allow students to participate in the process, rich and rewarding experiences and learning occur.

Same, Same but Different: Skyping with Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

IMG_0605What an exciting day!  Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Ramseyer’s class had the chance to Skype with incredible author/illustrator Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw.  She was simply amazing!  Today’s Skype came about because a few months ago, Shannon Miller and I began a blogging project with our second graders.  The whole project was started with the book Same, Same but Different.  Our classes skyped with one another and began writing blog posts about our world to share with one another.  Shannon and I both shared this work on our blogs and shared the project on Jenny Sue’s Facebook page.  Jenny Sue reached out to us and wanted to connect with our students to share her work and talk about their work.  We had a few email exchanges and test call to prepare for today’s session.

For today’s skype, students wrote some questions in advance.  I went through and selected about 10 of them to have ready for today, but I let the students know that I would remove any questions that she answered during her talk.  Students in both classes also drew pictures of “their world” just like Kailash and Elliot do in the book.  They added a sentence to describe what was in the picture just like in the book.  The teachers and I selected about 10 of these for students to share during the Skype.

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We also took time to look at a Google map to see how far it was to Taos, New Mexico from Athens, GA.  (1,491 miles & 22 hours 47 minutes in a car)

FireShot Screen Capture #023 - '280 Gaines School Rd, Athens, GA 30605 to Taos, NM - Google Maps' - maps_google_com

IMG_0613 IMG_0612 IMG_0611Our session started with Jenny Sue sharing her process for making Same, Same but Different.  We heard about her travels to Nepal.  She reached over and pulled out her journals to show the kids how she collected ideas, sketches, and research in her journals.  After collecting all of these thoughts and sketches, she started working on the story.  She said she probably made at least a hundred different versions of the story before she had the idea that she really wanted.  Jenny Sue showed the students the book with the rough sketches of the illustrations as well as how those rough sketches changed in the final book.  She even pulled out an original painting from the book and shared it with us.  I loved how we felt like we were sitting in Jenny Sue’s living room and every time she thought of something to share with us she could just reach right out and get it.  I also loved that she was sitting on a bouncy ball while she Skyped!  We learned how her publisher didn’t really like the ending of the book that she sent to them and how she tweaked it just a bit to satisfy what they wanted in the book.  She shared that even the smallest change can make a world of difference.

Next was one of my favorite parts, students came up to the rocking chair that my dad made and shared their own art with Jenny Sue.  I loved how she took time to look at each piece of art, considering what it had to offer and what story it told.  She gave each student an acknowledgement of their hard work and pointed out a special quality of each piece.  She even took pictures of some of the artwork to remember.


We used a similar format for students to come up and ask questions.  I really liked having students sit in the rocking chair right in front of the camera so that they could be seen and heard.  It felt like they were having a 1 on 1 conversation, even though 2 whole classes were watching.

This will be a day I will cherish.  Same, Same but Different  has become a book that I love to use when connecting with other schools and in my lessons about culture.  I am so grateful to Jenny Sue for taking time out of her day and busy writing life and family life to share the love of reading, writing, and illustrating with our students.  If you haven’t read this book, please take some time to check it out from your library or better yet, purchase several copies from your local book stores!  You won’t be disappointed.

Listen to a snippet of our visit!