Making with a Cause: Cardboard Awards

One thing I’ve been very interested in with our makerspace is “making with a cause”. I see so many posts on social media where someone has done something amazing for someone else by using skills and materials often found in makerspaces. From 3D-printed shells for turtles to scarves for the homeless shelter, there are so many ways we can give back to our community through making.

I love that my friend, Gina Seymour, has created a whole book on “making with a cause” and I look forward to my copy arriving in the mail.  Her book, Makers with a Cause: Creative Service Projects For Library Youth, has a whole section on getting started and another section with examples of projects from animal welfare to health/wellness to community service.

For this month’s theme of cardboard, we asked students to think about someone who deserved an award. What would the award be? What would it look like? Why would the person receive the award?  Students designed their awards out of cardboard.  Some made medals to hang around necks.  Others made trophies or even booklets. The only requirement was to use cardboard.

We asked students to start by brainstorming ideas on paper, and then they transferred those ideas onto cardboard. Using Makedo saws, scissors, and canary cardboard cutters, students worked with UGA mentors to cut out their award designs.  They embellished these with duct tape, string, washi tape, and other supplies from our makerspace supply cart.

As students completed their cardboard awards, they came to me at the computer to print a certificate to accompany the award. I found an easy certificate generator called Certificate Magic.

It allows you to choose the type of award you want to print and then fill in the details in a very simple form.  Then, you can download your award as a PDF and print. Students named their award, identified who they were giving it to, and chose a reason for the award. I loved hearing who they were giving the awards to and why.

A few examples included:

  • A T-rex award given to someone’s sister for acting like a dinosaur
  • A Golden Bracelet award given to someone’s sister for being a good sister
  • A Golden Butterfly award given to someone’s whole family for supporting her
  • A Football Trophy given to a dad for being a supporter of the Georgia Bulldogs
  • A Butterfly Necklace award given to a friend for being a good friend

There was even a special surprise award for me.  Somehow this student kept his award details a secret until he gave me the award.  He even asked if he could have privacy while he filled in the Certificate Magic form.  My award was called “Read More Books” for being a great librarian.  He even made the cardboard award look like a book with the award details inside.

I’m loving this component of our makerspace so far this year and I look forward to seeing what people end up creating for others in the coming months.

 

The Story of Our Names: A Grandparent’s Day Experience

Last year, our PTA started hosting a Grandparent’s Day coffee hour at our school. Grandparents gather in the cafeteria for coffee and donuts, chat with their grandchildren, and listen to a short program. Following the program, there are opportunities for photos and school tours.

I love being a part of this special event. Both years, I’ve read a grandparent-related story during the program. Last year, it was Last Stop on Market Street. This year, I read Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal. It is a story of a girl who thinks her name is way too long, but then her dad tells her the story of each part of her name. Alma realizes that she has connections to every part of her name and no longer feels like it doesn’t fit. I loved that when I read this special story about where a name comes from that the cafeteria filled with hundreds of grandparents and grandchildren got silent and attentive.

At the close of the book, I shared the author note at the back which ends with a question: “What is the story of your name? What story would you like to tell?” With that question, I invited grandparents to stop by the library to chat with their grandchild about family names and where they came from. We tried to capture a few of these stories on video, but the more important thing was just having the conversation.

I also selected several books to place on tables for grandparents and grandchildren to read together. It was so special to look around and see families huddled together around books reading. Even though it was crowded an bustling in the library, families were having special moments all around the library.

So many people came up to me to tell me how special the book Alma was to them. I loved that we all made our own connections around this story and the importance of names. I hope this created a spark for many families and they will continue to talk about family traditions and names with even more members of the family.

Fine Tuning Genrefication with Custom Signs

One of the things I’ve loved the most about organizing our library by genre has been the ability to customize the experience for readers. If a section of books isn’t working for how readers find books, then it can be changed. If kids keep asking for a kind of book that is mixed into lots of sections, they you could pull those books into a new section.  I’m always watching and listening to the words I’m having to repeat over and over as well as the questions that readers are asking about where books are located.

One noticing this past year was how I was always having to explain that the “E” section or “Everybody” section is where picture books live.  The “F” or the “Fiction” section is where chapter books live.  Students would search the library catalog and see that something was located in “Sports Fiction”, but that didn’t really translate to the sports chapter book area to them.  I decided to fine tune this in Destiny to make searching more user-friendly for readers.

I simply went into each subcategory in Destiny and changed it so that it specifically said “chapter”, “picture”, or “information” next to each genre category. Now, when a student searches, they will see a book like Ghost by Jason Reynolds is in the “Sports Chapter” section.

I also wanted to improve the signs in the library to help students see which sections of the library are “chapter”, “picture”, and “information”.  I started browsing around online looking for existing signs or even custom signs that would be helpful and appealing in the library, but I didn’t really see anything I liked. Then, I had the idea that some custom signs could be made using fabric designed by illustrators. I looked at Mo Willems, Eric Carle, and other illustrator fabric, but the fabric that I kept coming back to was the fabric designed by illustrator Christian Robinson.

He visited our school a few years ago to celebrate the release of School’s First Day of School, so we have a special connection with him. His fabric also features a diverse group of individuals which represents both our school, our community, and the books we strive to have in our collection.

I reached out on social media to see if anyone had any connections with someone who would be willing to work on custom signs for our library using Christian Robinson’s fabric. Several people gave helpful information to think about in designing the signs, but then I got a wonderful email from Barrow parent, Amy Norris, offering to help.

This began a string of emails and conversations to design the 3 signs. Amy offered her design expertise as well as her sewing talents to create the signs. We met in person and sketched out what the signs might look like as 3 rectangular hanging quilts. Then, she went home and created a mock up of several options.  I was amazed at her attention to detail and thoughts about maximizing the fabric to cut down on cost. I picked out the design that I thought would work best and ordered the fabric.

Amy jumped right into designing the signs. She was so enthusiastic about this project, and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to create our signs. She sent little progress updates all along the way and even helped me think through how the signs would hang. I originally was going to use a quilt or curtain rod, but we decided that it was light enough to just use a wooden dowel.

As soon as Amy had the signs finished, she delivered them to school and they were absolutely beautiful. Each section’s word was created in a different color and the Christian Robinson fabric stood out beautifully. Now it was my turn to get the signs installed. I went to Lowes and purchased eye screws, wooden dowels, chain, and s hooks. I cut down the dowels to the length of each sign, and put each quilt onto its rod using the sleeve on the back.

Now, each sign is flying high in our library to help kids see where our 3 main areas of the library are. Since they hang by a single chain, they freely rotate with the gentle air currents. It’s a simple change that I really should have done much sooner, but the library is always evolving, and sometimes a small change is just the thing that was needed to make the collection easier to navigate for readers. I’m so thankful for the many talents that exist in our community, and this project once again reminded me that so many people are out there waiting to support the work happening in schools, but many times we have to put our work and requests out there to help them connect to those opportunities. A huge “Thank You” goes out to Amy Norris for taking the time to create these beautiful signs that we will enjoy for years to come.

 

The 2018 Barrow Storybook Celebration

This year, I shook things up by moving our annual storybook parade and celebration to the week of Read Across America.  Traditions are hard to change, but it’s fun to try something new every now and then to see what we can learn from it.

The storybook parade has always been a favorite activity at our school.  It’s a day to dress up as a favorite book character and celebrate that book for all to see.

We begin our day with 2 guest readers in every classroom.  These are organized by amazing parent volunteer, Kim Ness.  I pull a variety of books for them to choose from or they are welcome to bring their own. Students escort the readers to classrooms.  We love having these community readers in our school.  Many are parents, athletes, and leaders in our community.

Next, we have our storybook assembly. I try to keep this brief but meaningful.  Sometimes we have a storyteller, skit, or shared reading. This year, I was listening to Matthew Winner’s Children’s Book Podcast, and heard the authors of the book Festival of Colors talk about the Indian celebration of Holi.

I loved the themes of this celebration where hate goes out and love comes in. This year Holi was on the same day as our storybook celebration, so I knew it was the perfect fit for our assembly.  Our ESOL teacher, Ms. Childs, helped me reach out to families in our school who celebrate Holi to see if they would be part of our celebration.  Two families agreed to help.

One family read the book and shared examples of the powders used in Holi. Another family, including a Barrow student, spoke about how they celebrate Holi here in Athens and the many meanings behind the festival.

I loved that we were able to learn from families right here in our school and discover a festival that many of us don’t celebrate or know about.

Following this, we formed into a line and marched down the sidewalk, around the school, and around the UGA practice facilities chanting “Read more books” while we showed off our costumes and books. Our 5th graders enjoyed some lemonade in the Dooley Garden across the street.

Many teachers in the school including gifted, early intervention, and specials all offered literacy-focused sessions for teachers to sign up.

I can’t wait to hear feedback from students, teachers, and families about the new time of year for storybook celebration. We’ll use this feedback to make decisions about next year.

What remained the same was that it was a day filled with celebrating stories in their many forms.  Hooray for books.

Catch the #FlipgridFever

 

It’s no secret if you follow my posts that I’m a huge fan of Flipgrid. It is a tool that has amplified our student voices all around the globe.  It most recently was named a  2017 AASL Best App and AASL Best Website.  The Flipgrid team is constantly listening to the rapidly growing community of users and improving the tool to meet the needs of all users.  As a company, they celebrate the passion of educators, the wisdom of students, and the curiosity of families.  Flipgrid is continuously celebrating the innovative uses of their tool by further amplifying student and educator voices on social media and presentations. They are simply an amazing group of people.

If you’ve never tried Flipgrid or you are already using it, now is the perfect time to get more active with this award-winning tool and supportive community.  Here are some things you should do right now.

  1. Setup a free account.  Create a grid. Post your first topic.
  2. Share your topic link on Twitter with the hashtag #FlipgridFever  You might also add some other hashtags like #studentvoice #k12 #futureready or #edtech  Why hashtags? They are what connect you to communities of conversation and amplify the voices of the people on your topic.  
  3. Continue to work toward being a Flipgrid Certified Educator.  If you did step 1 & 2, you are almost there.  You’ll earn a cool badge, new bragging rights on your resume, and you’ll be a part of an active community of Flipgrid users.
  4. Follow the #FlipgridFever hashtag and participate in the conversations.  This hashtag is on fire.  The last Twitter chat was so active that you could barely keep up.  This hashtag will connect you with a global community of Flipgrid users at all levels of education and beyond. You’ll get countless ideas for how to use Flipgrid in your own work, and you’ll be supported with questions you have.
  5. Look for people who are posting their Flipgrid links and respond to their topics.  You’ll become a better Flipgrid user, hear from many perspectives, and become a support in the Flipgrid community. If you respond to at least 10 topics and keep a spreadsheet of your response links, you’ll get a Flipgrid Community Builder badge.                     
  6. Finally, sign up to view the big Flipgrid announcement coming on August 10 at 7PM CT.  As an ambassador, I’ve seen a teaser of some of the upcoming features, and you don’t want to miss this opportunity to hear about them in detail.  Flipgrid rolls out updates quite often and it’s important to stay in the loop on what is new. Just when you think Flipgrid couldn’t be better, the team comes up with new ways to engage users and amplify voice.  I’m so excited to be heading to Flipgrid HQ to be at the announcement in person, but there are also some viewing parties happening around the country. You could even host one yourself.

During the upcoming school year, I plan to support all of my teachers in using Flipgrid in their classrooms. It’s one of those tools that can apply to so many projects and experiences in education.  Users are continuously coming up with innovative ways to amplify voice with this tool and combine it with other tech tools we are already using. I look forward to connecting with so many inspiring educators through the #FlipgridFever community and probably creating some globally connected projects along the way.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

 

Celebrating Seuss & Read Across America

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Every year, we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss with guest readers reading his words in every classroom in our school.  This year, we had enough readers to send 2 guests to every class.  Many brought their own books, but we also had a big collection to choose from in the library.

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We thank so many members of our Barrow and local community for coming into our school to share stories with kids.  It’s important to see people sharing the power of words at every grade level.  Days like these remind us that you are never too old to enjoy a great picture book, have fun with words, and laugh out loud with friends when you get all tongue-tied.

Some of our readers this year came from UGA’s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.  This was the fraternity that Dr. Seuss was a member of at Dartmouth.

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In addition to being readers, the fraternity brothers brought us some Elephant and Piggie books to add to our collection.  Each copy they donated was a Geisel Honor Book.  What a great way to honor Seuss and support literacy.  Thank you!

In addition to readers and having lots of Seuss books available to kids, I unboxed our latest book order from Bound to Stay Bound.  It was packed with graphic novels and many other fantastic books.  It didn’t take long for our ravenous readers to check out pretty much every graphic novel I ordered.  Some kids even returned a 2nd time to check out more.  Happy Read Across America!