This past Friday I had the wonderful opportunity to chaperone our GATEWAY field trip to Georgia Highlands College in Cartersville, Georgia. GATEWAY is our gifted program and these students have been doing a lot of STEM as part of their "Tinkerlab" theme this school year. The teacher is my co-sponsor for our school STEM club, so it was fun to spend the day helping her. We carried 18 students from our school and had an amazing day of learning! The kids LOVED it!
The day started with a welcome from the Georgia Highlands Science Department Head and that kicked off us getting into groups. These groups were a mix of students, so it was a wonderful way for kids to get outside of their own bubble and make new friends. And I was chaperoning a group of students that did not include a single one from my school, so that was extra fun!!! I made lots of new friends too!
The students in my group all had permission to be photographed, so I wanted to be sure to share that before jumping in to what we did. Basically the day was a rotation of class sessions. Students were guided to each session by some of the college's softball team members who were generous enough to volunteer their time. Our first session was CHEMISTRY and the kids loved it. They learned about pH testing and acids and bases. Tons of fun with real-world application. This class was taught by one of the college instructors, so that made it extra cool to the kids.
Our next session was led by one of our district's GATEWAY teachers and students created Bristle Bots from small toothbrush heads. These were in kits and the students had fun figuring out how to connect the wiring properly to set up the battery powered robots. They then worked on controlling the direction of the bot's movement by the placement of pipe cleaners, paperclips, or rubber bands. It was an activity that got them thinking about distribution of weight and so on...
Our next session was led by another of the college professors and his graduate assistant. Students were stoked when they learned they would be working with a team to build a robotic arm! The task involved students really working as a team and this forced kids to talk to students they didn't know and build a collaborative group. They used awesome tools to complete a multi-step process in design. It took a LOT of teamwork to actually build one of these in the time allotted. Not every group completed the task, but everyone walked away wanting to go home and re-create the task! These arms actually work in picking up objects! So much fun.
After our lunch break, we headed into our final (and longest) session of the day...Battle Bots. More robotics...these kids love it. Students were set up in pairs and were instructed to design a robot cover in about 5 minutes. They were given specific supplies and only 10 minutes to bring their design to life. Then, the pairs had to enter a ring (hula hoops on the floor) and place their cover on a Sphero Spark robot. They had just a minute or so to test out the robot and figure out their speed and controls. Then, they had to battle another team. We went by process of elimination in 4 hoops until we had a champion. The champions from throughout the other sessions battled it out in a grand finale at the close of the day. Can we say LOUD anyone?! The gymnasium was full of cheers as kids watched these teams battle it out. The outcome was a winning team comprised of two students from different schools! Isn't that awesome?!
We loaded the bus and arrived back at school just in time for dismissal. And boy was I exhausted! I must admit that it was fun to step out of my library cocoon for a day. Now to put my feet up.
As the school year comes to a close, so does our Happy Readers Book Club. It is a little bitter sweet, I must admit. These kids have been a joy to work with and read with! They love books!!! For our last selection, the students were all gifted (through a very generous donor) a paperback copy of Kate DiCamillo's Flora & Ulysses. Students enjoyed the book tremendously and of course, loved the scenes with the superhero squirrel.
For the last book club meeting, we started by watching a wonderful interview with Ms. DiCamillo. She speaks about her inspiration for the characters, as well as how the vacuum came to enter the story. Students enjoyed hearing from her and I think they followed most of what she shares. They all loved her laugh.
After watching the video, we talked about the book. I shared photos of an old Electrolux vacuum, the type my mother and Ms. DiCamillo's mother owned. The kids got a real kick out of this. We also talked a lot about Ulysses and his super adventures in comic book form.
I then shared that we would be designing our own comic book pages with original superheroes! The kids were jumping for joy at this idea...which made me feel very pleased. I can't take credit for the idea. My youngest son did a similar activity with his school librarian, Sarah Watson, several years ago. He is the one who reminded me of it and I thought it would be a great choice.
Some students worked alone, while others opted to work with partners. We had superheroes like "The Pig-i-corn" and "Masked Monkey Man". The kids also created some really fun villains....I think "Ringo the Raccoon" was my favorite. The little girl who invented him also had a villainous giggle to match. Although we didn't have enough time for students to complete a full cartoon, they got some great characters and story starters done. I also gave them extra paper to take home so that they could continue to write more adventures!
We all love to hate mandatory testing for students! I am responsible for testing a group of students and the offices of the library space are being used for small group testing, so I had to re-think the library schedule for a two week time frame. The first half of the school day, the library is closed. But once testing is done, we open the doors to our "De-stress from the Test" activities! And it has been a huge hit this first week....students in 5th grade can't wait to come next week! So...what am I doing? Take a look...
You know I just had to advertise with signs made in Buncee, right?!
I had a 1000 piece puzzle out during National Library Week and the reaction from teachers and students was overwhelming. They loved it! But...it didn't get completed. It is a very challenging puzzle that I bought for $4 at a local discount store. I chose to leave it out and add more options!
I purchased four more puzzles from Barnes & Noble. They are 500 piece puzzles of varying difficulty. I knew that the only students working on these puzzles would be 3rd-5th graders, so I didn't have to have anything too primary. I set each puzzle box and pieces out on a library table. I also purchased these really cool Sort & Go puzzle trays! They are awesome!!! You can use them to sort pieces as you work or to gather loose pieces for storage at the end of the day. They are really handy.
The most adorable puzzles I purchased were from Mudpuppy. Everyone loved the designs and the colors. This one called "Little Feminists" was my absolute favorite...and many afternoons I could be caught sitting at the table working on it myself!
The way the schedule has worked this week is that the library has been closed until around 11:30 or so. Once I'm in here to open the doors, teachers write a pass for 2-3 students at a time to come and work. They can work a puzzle of their choosing OR they can opt to sit and read. Most have chosen the puzzles. I think out of novelty. And after reading the state test for three hours, who wants to read a book? Very few...and that's okay.
I marked the time students arrived and when their 20 minutes were up, I just sent them back with a friendly pass. Then, most teachers sent another pair of students. It has worked well because many teachers chose to do centers in their own classrooms and the library visit became one of the centers! Genius!
With close supervision, there haven't been any real issues other than one torn puzzle piece. I still opted to print some guidelines and tape to each table. These just serve as reminders. You can see parts of these signs in the bottom photos in the gallery above. Overall, I am pleased with the effort from students in caring for the puzzles. And I've had a little chuckle over how possessive of certain puzzles the teachers have become...several teachers have come in almost every day to spend 5-10 minutes working on a puzzle! LOVE it! This truly has been one of the best ideas I've had all year!
As National Library Week comes to a close, I wanted to share the few things we did in The Happy Library to celebrate. I chose to keep things simple, as this week was our return from spring break and our week of review prior to state testing. Although I had all sorts of grandiose ideas, I went with the simple things and I think they were just right for us.
Like most of you, I ordered NLW posters that I placed on our library doors and I ordered the matching bookmarks which I placed at the self-check-out for students to pick up as they made book selections this week. I also ordered some adorable stickers that said "Happy Reader" and gave those out during each library lesson. I'm not sure that I have photos of any of this, but these little treasures were well received by students.
I also put the question "Why do you love your library?" up on our Wall of Wonder and the students and teachers took time to write answers all week long. The board looked a bit of a mess by the end of the week, but there were some really touching comments on the board and it was nice to step back and reflect on the community we have created in the library this year. With only 25 days of school remaining, I'm a little nostalgic at this point.
I also put out a 1000 piece puzzle that I tried to use once before. We were not able to finish it the first time, so I thought I would try again this week. The students and teachers LOVED this, but alas, we still didn't get it completed. I think this particular puzzle is simply too challenging for our age groups, so I've been inspired to buy some new puzzles that will be more appropriate for our kiddos and place them all over the library next week...I'm calling that adventure "De-Stress from the Test" and kids can earn a pass to the library to work on puzzles for 20 minutes after testing is done. It's nice to see that a little idea can spark an even better one.
The library lessons this week consisted of a read-aloud for students in K-3 and silent-sustained-reading for students in 4-5. Our PreK students had a fun "beach" themed lesson. I brought in beach towels and put a beach sounds video on my board. We listened to the crashing of the waves, lay on our beach towels, and read all sorts of books about summer fun and water (they've been studying water and rain this past week in class). This beach lesson was such fun. And easy to pull off.
Finally, I celebrated our library workers this week. They had been having a little competition to see who could have the neatest shelving section, so I told them I would tally points and select a winning group to have Krispy Kreme donuts. Little did they know the prize was for everyone! They were so excited! I was shocked to know that many of them had never eaten a KK donut before. I forget sometimes. They relaxed with me, ate donuts, and talked about why they loved working in the library so much...and a few gave me hugs which is always well-received. It was a perfect ending to a very simple, but rewarding, National Library Week.
No, the exclamation point in the word library in my title is not a typographical error. As we begin National Library Week, I wanted to share one of my favorite Ted Talks with you all. This one is titled "How to design a library that makes kids want to read" and is given by Michael Bierut, a graphic designer. This Ted Talk deals with the unexpected...and I love that. Enjoy! And have a great week celebrating your library, the work you do, and the difference you make in the lives of children and teens across our great nation!
Who to follow: