Letters for Justice: Empowering Young Voices on Topics that Matter

There’s a lot going on in the world right now and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many current issues being debated and decided on in our country and around the world.  As a teacher librarian, it’s challenging because I want to support all students and families knowing that I might not personally agree with their perspectives.  I make sure that I step back and listen to the students, support their research and perspectives, and check my own beliefs.

Recently, Ms. Olin, 5th grade social studies teacher, came to me with an idea. She wanted to get students thinking about current US & World issues and considering what their own perspectives were based on the facts of the issues. She also wanted them to know that their voices mattered in the world and that they could get their thoughts out to local, state, and national representatives as well as the general public to have an influence on decisions being made.

Ms. Olin started this project in her classroom by sharing the book I Have  a Right to Be a Child by Alain Serres. This sparked discussion about basic human rights and current issues in the world. She also shared news sites with them so that they could start reading current articles about various trending topics, especially if they weren’t familiar with the current topics being debated. Through these sites, students began to choose a topic that they were interested in, curious about, or passionate for. Sites included Newsela, CNN Student News, PBS News Hour, and Time for Kids.

After two days of exploring, students selected their topic.

In the library, we focused on the importance of raising our voices when we have concerns. I read excerpts from Be A Changemaker by Laurie Ann Thompson.

“Don’t wait. Don’t wait to be powerful, to change the lives and communities around you significantly.”

I also read excerpts from It’s Your World by Chelsea Clinton.

“We can–and should–respectfully disagree with others who have reached different answers from ours” and “Even if we disagree with one another, it’s important to recognize what the facts are”.

Ms. Olin and I both encouraged students to look at issues from all sides and to gather as many facts as possible. With those facts, they could form their own opinions on the issues and brainstorm some possible actions they hope are taken.

We took some time to look at the Letters to the Next President project to see letters that were written by students from many location about a variety of topics. Students could sort the letters by their own topic and see what other students were saying.

As students looked at example opinions and continued to gather facts, they started filling out organizers to get their own thoughts together.  In class, they began writing letters, protest signs, and editorial cartoons to express the facts and their own views.

5th grader's editorial cartoon #editorialcartoon #cartoon #politicalcartoon #studentvoice

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5th grader's editorial cartoon. #studentvoice #politicalcartoon #cartoon #editorialcartoon

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Finally, students came to the library to begin sharing their voice.  We spent some time talking about how we can make our voice visible. We could of course mail the letters and artwork to their intended recipients, but how else could we share our voice? I was able to talk to the students about my recent recognition as an AASL Social Media Superstar for Sensational Student Voice and how social media and collaborative tools like Flipgrid allow us to spread our voices to an even larger audience.

We hope our voices are heard by our local, state, and national representatives, but even if they aren’t, we can share our voices with others and offer perspectives and actions that might encourage them to support our cause or make the world a better place.  As students finished their work, they recorded their voices in a Flipgrid so that others can consider their perspectives and possibly join their collective voice.

We hope you will take time to listen to each student. If one of the voices speaks to you, give them a response.  Better yet, if they inspire you, consider writing your own letter and adding your voice to our grid.  We invite your students to join our voices as well.

As we were closing our time in the library, some of the students spoke up and said, “I bet Mr. Trump won’t even read our letters.” This was a great opportunity for Ms Olin and I to repeatedly say to the students, “Your voice matters”. We talked about collective voice, and how sometimes a single voice isn’t heard by someone like the president. However, that single voice can inspire other voices who come together collectively around a common cause. This was a great closing because even as an adult I sometimes wonder why I should even take time to call or write my representatives. However, I was reminded that our individual voices do matter and collectively they make impact.

 

Barrow & CCSD Maker Faire

A goal I’ve been trying to achieve for awhile in our makerspace is to have ongoing individualized projects.  In the fall of this year, the media specialists started brainstorming having a district maker faire to showcase projects from all of our schools.  In the spring, Gretchen Thomas, had over 30 students in her UGA class that collaborates with our makerspace.  Normally, 4 students from Gretchen’s class come to our makerspace on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but with 30 students, it would be hard for her students to make it to our school multiple times.  We started pondering this new dilemma and realized that Gretchen’s dilemma aligned with my long-term goal.

Gretchen divided her class in half.  Half of her students continued Tuesday/Thursday makerspace times, and the other half became maker faire mentors on either Tuesdays or Thursday.  I gathered students who were interested in making something for maker faire and put them into a Tuesday or Thursday group.  Gretchen did the same with her students.

Maker faire projects and leprechaun traps #makerspace #ccsdmaker #librariesofinstagram

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At the first meeting, Gretchen’s students learned more about what students were wanting to make. I supported these conversations too, and we started gathering materials students needed for projects.  Each Tuesday and Thursday since February, these maker faire students have worked on an individual project while regular makerspace continued to run simultaneously.  It was loud and chaotic but productive.  Our makerspace storage also became very unorganized and I realized that I have a lot of work to do in order to store multiple on-going projects.

Maker faire is in full swing #makerfaire #makerspace #ccsdmaker #librariesofinstagram

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During our very first school maker faire, we setup tables around the library to showcase projects. I created a schedule for teachers to signup to bring their class.  Some times classes came and walked through to look.  Later in the day, the maker students were at their tables to demonstrate their products and answer questions.  Again, this was loud and chaotic, but it was organized and productive.

Welcome to maker faire #ccsdmaker #makerfaire #librariesofinstagram

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Many kids found ideas that they were excited about and wanted to try out.  Many kids got to test some of the products that were made.  Gretchen’s entire class also came during the day to listen to students talk about their projects, keep tables organized, and introduce students to Ozobots and Cubelets.  As usual, miraculous moments happened throughout the day.

 

Here are a few:

Dominique developed her leadership skills as she ran the robotics table for most of the day.  Two students who had made robots were unable to come, so she stepped up and demonstrated their robots for them and kept the table orderly and made sure people had a turn to try out driving a Finch robot.

Speaking of robots, one of the robots had a name: Bob Jello.

Throughout the day, his personality seemed to develop on its own as kids began to talk about Bob Jello rather than just talking about a robot.  Before we knew it, the other robots had been deemed the “evil kitties” and a battle ensued between Bob Jello and the kitties.  Students were huddled up cheering on the robots and it had me thinking about how much we could do with storytelling and robotics.

Evil cats vs Bob Jello #battlebots #ccsdmaker #makerfaire #makerspace

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My daughter, Alora, made a butterfly sculpture with a 3Doodler pen.  She taught group after group about how the pens worked and managed kids taking turns and making very small sculptures. It was fun to see her as a 1st grader teaching kids in much older grades.

Several students made projects with their dads, and it was fun to watch the students share about their work with others. Patrick’s dad came and presented alongside him to talk about catapult gliders.  They had a tri-board, video, and several models.  It was a popular table that many students were interested in exploring.

Father and son sharing glider catapults at our maker faire. #makerspace #makerfaire #ccsdmaker #librariesofinstagram

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Linden had a freestyle Tic Tac Toe game he made with his dad, and we loved learning the story of how the game originated at a restaurant table using sugar and sweet n low packets.

Finally, Forrest made  documentary with his dad about Zepplins.  This is a topic that many kindergarten students might not take on, but Forrest was super knowledgeable and shared his expertise along with playing his video.

Kindergarten film maker chatting about Zepplins. #makerfaire #ccsdmaker #librariesofinstagram #documentary

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Josie had made a robot from carboard and duct tape, and she really wanted to make it move.  She used littebits and fishing line to make its arms move up and down. Rather than just sit at the table the whole time talking, Josie worked!  She continuously made improvements to her design so that the arms would move more and more.  Students started giving her ideas of what she might do next, and she may even attempt that soon.

Cardboard robot using @littlebits #makerspace #ccsdmaker #makerfaire #librariesofinstagram

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Our intern, Jen Berry, worked with four 1st graders to submit maker projects, and all four of them had projects that were of high interest to visitors.  Many students wanted to make their own terrarium after seeing Zarema’s 2-liter bottle terrarium.

Prepping for tomorrow's maker faire #ccsdmaker #terrarium #makerfaire #makerspace

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Students made art with Shanti’s scribble bot.  Parachutes were launching and being dreamed up thanks to Eric and Kaden’s garbage bag parachutes.

Scribble bot #makerfaire #ccsdmaker #librariesofinstagram #makerspace

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Last minute entries rolled in like Aley’s handmade wooden guitar he is using for his music project.

It was so hard to capture every moment.  It was so exhausting, and I’m already thinking about how I will organize it differently next year to involve more students and more classes touring the projects, while also calling on more volunteers to give me a bit more sanity.

Many of these projects will now be showcased at our district maker faire which will take place on Saturday April 1 from 2-4:30PM at Clarke Central High School.  I highly encourage you to attend if you can.  There will be over 100 makers featured from Prek-12th grade. It’s a great opportunity to see the amazing creativity we have in our district.

I’m so thankful for Gretchen and her students for supporting our students. It is a great collaboration that benefits many student voices.  Thank you Gretchen for staying most of the day to help and to Jen Berry for jumping in the chaos and helping the day be a success.

 

March Madness Global Book Talk Challenge (Final)

Many votes have been cast in our global book talk challenge and we are down to our final 2 students.  Will it be Evin?  Will it be Adaline?

Take a moment to watch (or rewatch) their videos and vote on your favorite.  Share with friends, family, and your own networks.  Voting will end on April 2.

 

Vote Here!

Be sure to take time to visit the full grid of videos to watch many other incredible book talks from around the world.  The competition is fun, but the real reward is hearing from so many student voices sharing their love of books.

 

The 2017 Student Book Budget Books Have Arrived!

Every year a volunteer group of students give their time to spend a budget on books for the library. This budget comes from grants, book fair profits, and rewards points and it is completely in their control. They create a survey, interview students throughout the school, analyze the results, set goals, meet with vendors, create consideration lists, narrow the lists to the final order, unpack the books, and display them for checkout.

This year’s book budget group purchased over 150 new books for our library from Capstone and Avid Bookshop.

When the books arrived, this year’s crew had a big additional step that previous crews didn’t have.

Student book budget unpacking in progress #studentvoice #librariesofinstagram @capstone_pub

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They had to sort the books into genre categories, label the books with their new genres, and scan them into those subcategories in Destiny.

Student book budget group is scanning books into genres. #librariesofinstagram #studentvoice #genre #collectiondevelopment

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Once the books were all ready, the students put them on display all over the tables of the library, and the excitement of check out began.

Because there were so many books, it was hard to put them all out at once. As books got checked out, we refilled the tables with new books.  Within the day that the books were put on display, almost all of them had been checked out.

Student book budget team with their personal picks #studentvoice #collectiondevelopment #librariesofinstagram

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Once again, the amazing Amy Cox at Capstone allowed our committee members to choose 1 book that was their personal choice for the library and these books were donated to us as a thank you.  Students got to put a personalized label on the inside cover to show that they were the selector of the book.

Student voice matters in the library, and every year I value this process of seeing students BE the process of collection development instead of just requesting books to be purchased.  When they take part in every step of the collection development process, they see the thought that goes into each book on our library shelves.

They see that their interests and requests matter because they immediately see those represented in the books on our shelves.  If the library is to be a true community, then I feel like one person can’t decide on all of the books in the collection. I certainly have a major role in collection development, but when my students work alongside me in this process, we all become members of our library rather than just a consumer.

Happy reading!

 

March Madness Global Book Talk Challenge (Round 2)

The past week has been so much fun watching the votes roll in for round 1 of our global book talk challenge. The results have been very close all along the way.

If you missed the first posts about this project, students have been recording 30-second book talks about favorite books using Flipgrid.  We narrowed our videos down to 16 and voting began.

It was fun to see tweets from people viewing and voting on the videos.

 

Some of our book talks were even featured during the 1st Flipgrid Unplugged Webinar.

Now, we are down to a top 4 and voting is once again open.  You have until March 25 to cast your votes! Watch, vote, and share!

 

LINK TO VIEW & VOTE

2017 Student Book Budgets: Surveys and Vendors

capstone-7

Our 2017 student book budget group is hard at work making purchasing decisions for the 2016-17 school year.  This year’s group is made up of 4th & 5th graders who applied to be in the group, and they meet during lunch and/or recess time a few times per week to spend a budget on books requested by students.  This money sometimes comes from grants, but this year’s budget is from profits at our fall book fair.

capstone-16

The money is completely under the control of students, but they must base their decisions on what the rest of the school wants to read.  To determine this, the students work together to create a Google form survey.  This year, they added pictures of all of the new genre sections in our library.  We emailed the form to upper grades, but for lower grades, each book budget student chose a class to go and survey with an iPad.

Once we surveyed almost half the school, students analyzed their results to see what the top categories were.

They also looked at text responses from students to look for commonly requested specific books or series.

After some analysis, they decided to focus on the following categories in their purchases:

Genres

  • Humor
  • Animals
  • Scary
  • Sports
  • Graphic novels
  • Adventure/fantasy
  • Historical fiction (high interest)

I sent these categories to a couple of vendors: Avid Bookshop and Capstone Press.  We’ve worked with both of these vendors for years, and it’s great to continue this project with them.  Jim Boon from Capstone brought in a selection of books and catalogs for students to look at.  He broke the book samples into fiction and nonfiction to help students sort through a variety of books.  If they found a book of interest, he helped them find the book in the catalog by using the index.

We setup a scanning station for students to scan the barcode in the catalog and add the specific titles they wanted into a consideration list.  For this first step, we don’t worry about price.  We simply add every book that looks good to our consideration list.  Later, we’ll look at our budget and start to narrow our decisions.

capstone-8 capstone-9

Jim also talked to the kids about incentives from Capstone such as Capstone rewards.  These incentives help students stretch their budget even more, so we have some great life-skill discussions about saving money and stretching budgets.

capstone-15

Before he left, Jim gave every student a Capstone pen and a poster.  There are always special moments in these sessions and one of those was when one of  our students asked if Capstone has a World War II poster.  Jim told her that if she composed an email, we could send it to Amy Cox at Capstone for consideration.

capstone-1

This student wasted no time and went straight to her room to compose a professional email.

Amy wasted no time in responding, and I can’t wait to see where this conversation takes us.

I love that Capstone truly does listen to their customers.  Even if it doesn’t happen, just taking time to respond to a request in a genuine way means so much to our students.

Our next steps will be to continue looking at Capstone catalogs and take a walking field trip to Avid Bookshop before narrowing our lists for ordering.

Closing Out Fall with a Makerspace Recess

makerspace-recess-1

The fall semester is coming to a close at UGA, which means our open makerspace times on Tuesdays and Thursdays is about to take a small break until January.  To close out the semester, the entire Maker Dawgs class returned to Barrow to host a makerspace recess.

makerspace-recess-14

Setting this time up take a little more work than having makerspace in the library, but each time we take our makerspace beyond the library, I’m reminded about how it makes the opportunity visible to students.

makerspace-recess-4

Gretchen Thomas arrived early and started setting up tables under our pavilion on the playground. Each table featured something we’ve done in makerspace across the semester.

  1.  Duct tape bows and bow ties
  2. Kindness pins and necklaces
  3. Buttons
  4. Popsicle kazoos
  5. Strawbee architecture
  6. Cubelets

makerspace-recess-7

 

Since we were outside, we could also have stations that are more difficult to do inside like sidewalk chalk art.  As UGA students arrived, they each took a station to facilitate any students who wanted to try that activity.  When students arrived at recess, they immediately gravitated toward the makerspace to see what was going on. One of the most common things I heard was: “I didn’t sign up”.  It was so fun to say that the makerspace was open to all.  Since we had numerous helpers and could spread out, it didn’t matter how many students wanted to participate or how loud they were.  Because of this, we saw students who had never been to makerspace suddenly get to experience what we do.

I know that I can’t do the scale of makerspace that we did today by myself, but I do want to think about how I can offer small opportunities to tinker with our makerspace tools in spaces where students are already gathered.  The tricky piece comes with managing the library while I’m in another space. Without a helper, I have to think about the best times I can do this while I have a volunteer or our computer technician in the library.

A great day for making at recess. #worldkindnessday #choosekind #makerspace

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As typically happens in makerspace, we saw big groups of students who might not play together on the playground suddenly crowded around the same table sharing materials, collaborating, chatting, and sharing their creations. There’s something magical about the atmosphere of a makerspace and the community it builds among makers.

makerspace-recess-30 makerspace-recess-31

I need to keep this thought at the front of my mind as I move into the 2nd half of the year. How can I maintain the makerspace opportunities we have as well as expand the opportunities to students who haven’t had a chance to participate?

As always, thank you to Gretchen Thomas, her Maker Dawgs students, and UGA for exploring this complex topic with me each semester. We’re doing great work together.