Rubiks Cube Mosaic Makerspace

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We love trying new things in our makerspace, so this February we decided to leap into Rubiks cubes. At AASL in Louisville, I visited the You Can Do the Cube booth and checked out their Rubiks cube lending program. You can check out sets of Rubiks cubes to create Rubiks cubes mosaics and simply pay for the shipping and handling each way.

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I shared this idea for our makerspace with Gretchen Thomas at UGA and she was excited to give it a try.  We collaborate with Gretchen and her students every Tuesday and Thursday in our open makerspace time. Instead of waiting on an available kit in the lending program, she decided she could use some funds to purchase some inexpensive cubes on Amazon. She ordered 120 3×3 cubes and 50 2×2 cubes.

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In class at UGA, Gretchen’s students watched multiple videos on how to solve Rubiks cubes and worked to learn some strategies that would be helpful to our Barrow students. They also practiced designing their own small mosaics using the 3×3 cubes.

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At Barrow, we selected some prepared mosaics from the You Can Do the Cube site. We chose Rosa Parks for our 3×3 and a flower for our 2×2. I measured out a grid on a piece of butcher paper and taped the individual mosaic pieces into the grid and numbered them.  I made a second set of pieces that we numbered and cut out and put into an envelope. Students could select a picture out of the envelope, solve that picture, and place it onto the correct square in the grid.

For our open makerspace, teachers sign up students for a 30-minute slot on a Google document. They are signing up for all 6 Tuesday/Thursday sessions of Rubiks Cube. For this first session, students spent time exploring the cubes.  I made a QR code for students to scan to watch tutorial videos about solving. Some followed these videos, while others learned from the strategies of friends and UGA students.

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It was amazing to see how many students already knew some tips about solving Rubiks cubes because of their own practicing at home.  We also downloaded an app on the iPads called Cube Solver that allows you to put in the colors on the cube and it shows you all the steps to solve the entire cube. Some students used this as a tool for learning more about the different turns required to solve.

Once students felt comfortable with the cube, they started solving actual pieces of the mosaic and adding it to our grid located on a large table in the back corner of the library. With so many students working on cubes during one makerspace and with so many students already talented in solving cubes, the mosaic started to take shape pretty quickly. By the end of the 2nd day of working on the mosaics, we had the Rosa Parks and flower mosaic done.

I had already prepared additional mosaics to work on: a dinosaur and Mona Lisa.  We celebrated our achievement of solving the first mosaics and took some pictures. Then, it was time to start dismantling the mosaics and solving a new one.

Once we created 2 additional mosaics, I gave the students the option of designing their own small mosaics.  They could do this alone or with a group.  They sketched out their mosaic on grid paper first and then worked to solve and assemble the mosaic at tables.  This would be a great way to extend this experience in future sessions because there wasn’t much time left.

The thing I loved most about this makerspace project was being able to see students bringing in a talent and passion they had outside of school and making it something for school.  There are lots of ways this could be incorporated into grade level curriculum so I hope that this is not the end of the Rubiks cube. We have so many students who enjoyed this that I’m sure we could even just make this a center in the library for people to work on over time.

The Student Book Budget Books Have Arrived!

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After almost two months of working on the 2015-2016 student book budget project, the books are rolling in to the library, and the excitement is brewing. This year’s budget was made possible thanks to a grant from James Patterson. Students had $5,000 to spend on books. They created a survey, surveyed the school, analyzed the results, set goals, met with vendors, compiled wish lists, cut lists to match our budget, and helped order the books.

Now the books are arriving, so students are meeting once again to go through the process of unpacking, inspecting, and marketing the books.

We have many more books than usual, so it is taking a bit longer to unpack the books. So far, we have books from Capstone and Gumdrop. Students came in by grade level for 30-minute shifts. Each company required a different process. This was mainly because we opted to not have full processing on Gumdrop books so that they would ship faster. I’m sort of regretting that decision, but it’s giving students an additional experience.

For Gumdrop, students had to apply the barcode, spine labels, and label protectors. This was tedious work for them to locate the correct labels for the correct books, and they passed this job off as often as they could since it was so time consuming. This process is still not complete, so no Gumdrop books have gone out to readers yet. We need to finish labels and check books off of the packing slip.

For Capstone, our books were already processed and ready to go. All students needed to do was unpack them, check them off the packing slip, and stamp them with the library stamp.

Additionally, Capstone let each book budget member choose one book that was their personal pick. They also sent us labels that could be put into the front of these books so that students could write their names to remind readers who selected those books.

The crew loved locating their books and applying the labels. As an added treat, they were the first to check out these books.

One student took it upon herself to start displaying the books while everyone else worked on all of the other tasks. Ajacea cleared out spaces in  the front of the library and started standing up books. If she didn’t like the way it looked, she took it all down and started over. I saw her do this more than once.

Finally, she had the idea of maximizing display space by putting books in the windows of the library facing out to the hall. There was room to put a top level and bottom level of books. She also used some of our library cushions, tables, and counter space.

It was a prime time for setting up a display because many classes were leaving lunch and walking right by the library. I saw many conversations happening in the hall about the books, and it wasn’t long before those same students were rushing back to the library to checkout what they saw.

There were moments of frantic grabbing when a whole class ended up coming to check out. The books were only on display for a little more than an hour and I would say at least half of the displayed books were checked out.

Students will come once again tomorrow to finish the books we have, and then they will reconvene when our order from Avid Bookshop arrives. I’m always inspired by how proud students are when they see their hard work pay off on unpacking day. They realize that the time they sacrificed was worth it to add more books to the library. They love getting the first look at the books, and they are amazed when the books fly off the shelves.

Ajacea stopped by at the end of the day to see what happened to her display. She had told me earlier in the day that her job would be ongoing because she would need to refill the empty spots. Her mouth dropped when she saw just how empty the windows were at the end of the day.

Our friend Amy Cox with Capstone Press followed along with our day on Twitter, and Ajacea was so proud when Amy said that she would be a great marketing intern.

Ajacea’s response? “Tell her to call me.” I love the real world implications of this project and how many times it has given an opportunity to students to explore their interests and realize that their voice is heard and matters. Bravo student book budget team!

 

Student Book Budgets 2015-16: Getting Started

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For several years, I have dedicated a portion of our library budget to be completely controlled by students.  This project has come to be one of my favorite ways of empowering the voices of the students in our school.  It’s so much more than just asking students what they think I should buy for the library.  It gives students a voice in every aspect of the decision making and purchasing process.  Each year is a bit different, so here’s a look at how we started the project this year.

Where did we get the money?

Some years our budget comes straight from my state budget.  Some years it’s part of book fair profits.  Some years it’s a grant. This past spring, I applied for the James Patterson Partnership grant where he gave $1.75 million dollars to school libraries.  I was one of the lucky libraries to receive this grant in the amount of $5,000.  This will be our budget this year along with rewards dollars that I have collected through Capstone Rewards.

How did I choose students?

This year I created a Google form and emailed it to students.  I primarily pull students from 3rd-5th grade for this project and these students regularly check their email.  I kept the form open for 5 days for students to apply.  The beginning of the form included some details about book budgets followed by a video intro.

For students who marked that they might be willing to give up some recess time to participate, I followed up with individual emails and conversations.  I accepted every student into the group unless they decided they didn’t want to do it.  I created a group of all of the students in my email contacts so that I could easily send messages to them all.  On my initial emails to the group, I included the teachers so that they were in the loop with what they were doing and why they were coming to the library instead of recess.

First Week

On Monday, students came to the library at 11, 11:30, and 12:00 depending on their grade level.  I did a quick overview of the purpose of the book budget group and the steps that we would most likely go through across the course of the project.  They also had a chance to ask questions.  Then, we jumped into the work.

Our first goal was to gather reading interests from every grade level in the school.  We made a copy of last year’s Google form.

Then, students talked about each question and whether or not they wanted to make changes to the wording from last year.  Each grade level added to and revised the form until it was ready.

They made several changes, including asking students about their preferences in types of books such as picture book, chapter book, and informational books.  They added some new categories of books and revised the language to be more clear.

During the 5th grade group, we went ahead and emailed the form out to students to begin collecting responses.  We also created a QR code so that students who were surveying younger grades with iPads could easily pull up the form.

I emailed an update to the entire group to let them know that surveying needed to begin, and they started coming in before school, during lunch, during recess, and during any extra moments of the day to start surveying.  All along the way, we could check our progress.

 

Throughout the week, I emailed updates to the group as well as sent reminders to teachers to let students fill out the survey.  We will meet one more time this week to examine our results so far and decide if we have enough data to set goals or if we need to survey more people.

I’m very proud of this year’s group already and I know they are going to do miraculous things this year!

Cranking Up the Makerspace with Student Voice and Failure

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Since the first day of school, students have been asking me when our makerspace will start up.  Last year, we developed a great collaboration with Gretchen Thomas and her students at UGA to hold an open makerspace that students could visit on a weekly basis.  UGA is now in full swing, so we are finally ready to start our collaboration again.

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This year, Gretchen has an eager class of students who will be coming in groups of about 4 every Tuesday and Thursday.  Rather than have every piece of the makerspace available right away, we’ve decided to focus on different aspects so that students develop some knowledge about the parts and gradually move to making choices about what they are really passionate about.  Students signup on an open signup sheet hanging outside the library.  There are 10-12 slots in three 30-minute sessions.  Each day has two choices.

 

Eventually the UGA students will plan activities to bring, but for now, they are introducing things we already have in the space.  For our first session, I was excited to have Carlos and Carlena offer their craft.  Their story has grown so much since my first post about a craft they discovered in a magazine.  Just this week, Carlos and Carlena shared their craft during our Dot Day celebrations by telling Sherry Gick and her 2nd graders how they are making their mark by teaching others how to make this craft that they discovered.  I loved seeing them grow from an uncertainty of their interests to finding something they are excited to read about, make, and share with others.

The UGA students in our makerspace this week brought supplies to do this beading craft with students as one option.  Carlos brought even more beads to use and shared his expertise with students in the makerspace as well as people just visiting the library with their mentors.

This aspect of our makerspace was very successful and calming.

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The other choice was to use the iPads with our Sphero robots.  Students were so excited to try out Sphero this year, but we ran into lots of problems.  First, the Spheros didn’t charge like they were supposed to.  Then, they were all connecting to random iPads instead of the one they were supposed to be connecting to.  Luckily, we had Sterling Bailey with us who had helped in our space last year.  He stay cool and collected through the whole epic failure and continuously thought of things he could try.  He helped the students to push through the frustration and keep trying different things to get their Spheros to connect and work.  While it wasn’t successful on the programming side of things, I think students learned a valuable lesson in maintaining patience in frustration and persevering.

We are ready to try again every Tuesday and Thursday through December!

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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Unpacking Our Student Book Budget Books: Part 1

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Two parts of our 2015 student book budget arrived!  It’s always exciting when I can email the students and tell them that the books are here.  They’ve been asking me almost daily since we placed the order.

All of our books from Avid Bookshop arrived during our author visit with Sarah Weeks.  The first box of Capstone books arrived while our 5th graders were at Skidaway Island.  I emailed the whole book budget group and told them to come today at noon to unpack books.

Our timeline has been a bit crunched this year.  We are almost out of school days and book check out is already coming to an end for the school year.  I need to do a better job next year of making sure this project doesn’t slip too far into the year.  Usually, we put all of the books out when they arrive and let the students start checking them out.  However, with only 8 days of school remaining, I handed this dilemma to the group.  There was a lot of debate about whether or not to have a special checkout of just book budget books or to wait until the opening of the library in the fall.  After a lot of discussion, the students decided that they wanted to wait and have these books be the first new books available to students in the fall.  It’s always nice to start the new school year with some exciting new books.

As we unpacked the books, we checked them off of our packing slips.  I had already cataloged the Avid books and uploaded the MARC records for Capstone, so the books were ready to go into circulation.  Once they were checked off the list.  Capstone sent us some special labels to put inside our books so that students could indicate books that they chose for the order.

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Each student chose a label, wrote his or her name on the label, and added it to the inside cover.  Students also stamped the books with our library stamp.

The excitement was high and it was so much fun to see the students immediately diving into the books.  They all tucked away around the library to read by themselves or with a partner.  Before they left, the book budget students did get to checkout a few of the books to read over the next few days.  They will return these books to the boxes so that they are ready for the next school year.

We are eagerly awaiting our final order from Capstone which should be arriving in the next few days.

2015 Student Book Budgets: First Steps

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We are a little late this year, but our student book budget group has finally started.  Each year, I reserve a portion of our library funding and allow students to make the decisions about how that money is spent.  This is more than just having a wish list for students to contribute to.  This is giving them complete control in every part of the decision making process.

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Each year, the groups are chosen in different ways.  This year, I made a video to show to our 4th and 5th graders to explain the project.

Then, I created a Google form that was shared with all of our 4th and 5th graders to tell why they would want to be in the student book budget group.

Aziz Coleman, 4th grade teacher, really wanted his ELT group of 12 fourth graders to be a part of the project, so all of them filled out the form along with about 30 other students.  After reading through the responses, it really seemed like everyone who signed up was genuinely interested in being in the project, so I took them all!

I created a schedule for our meetings along with a timeline of where we are going.  Over the years, I’ve fine tuned the steps that we go through, but student voice and student choice always stays at the center of what we do.

During our 1st two days together, we have focused on creating our survey about reading interests.  I made a contact group with all of the students in my gmail.  That makes it easy for me to invite the entire group as collaborators on docs that we use.  I made 2 docs.  One was a brainstorm doc for us to brainstorm possible things to ask about on the survey.  I thought it would be easier to brainstorm on a doc rather than try to do it all on the Google form.

It was amazing to see so many students working together toward one common cause.

After some brainstorming started, I gave them editing rights to our 2nd doc which was our Google form survey.  We made a copy of last year’s form, and then started using our brainstorming list to make changes.

This was the 1st time I’ve tried collaborating on the Google form.  Usually we just put it up on the board and work together whole group.  I liked seeing every student involved at once, but it was definitely messy.

I checked in with students periodically and gave them some focus.  At times, we broke the tasks up into groups.  For example, one group worked on fine tuning the brainstorm list.  Another group added questions to the survey.  Another group looked carefully at the checklist on the survey to see what needed to be added or changed.

Students worked during their recess, extended learning time, and even left to get lunch and come back.  They were excited and very focused.  There were a few students who started getting off task, so I offered that they might want to go back to recess if they felt like they had contributed their part for the day.  This was totally in their hands, and some of them took me up on the offer.

We are now in the survey process. We want to survey students at every grade level.  We will email the survey to our 3rd-5th graders since they all have a computer and we will use iPads to survey the lower grades.

 

Click here to view this year’s survey.

Since our meeting time is during a prime lunch time, we have been taking over the lunchroom with iPads to survey students.

Once we have results from the survey we will set goals based on those results and start meeting with our vendors such as Capstone and Avid Bookshop.