Supporting and Scaffolding

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Life is a journey and there are many different paths to get to the location you want to go. I often hear scholars come into the library and say how much they hate school. They say it is boring and no fun. Or they talk about what they cannot do. Learning needs to be personalized, fresh and cutting edge. Gone are the days of studying and recalling information on a test. Today, education is about authentic and meaningful experiences. Anybody can do anything if he or she sets their mind to it. The adage “practice makes perfect” is so true.

Many middle school scholars are more open to new experiences than those in high school. They often come in and are willing to try new things and help a school librarian figure things out. My go to line is for them to help me learn more about something. By doing that, they are learning, becoming experts and becoming empowered through their learning experiences.

Pictured below, a scholar is learning what a Playground Express circuit is and how it works. He insisted on explaining its full functionality to me. And please believe, I did learn a great deal on the spot.

Last week’s library lunch and learn for the middle school was on making LED cards. Scholars used copper tape, LED lights and batteries while following a  YouTube tutorial. They were so excited to be able to make their cards light up! A 7th grader came in and enjoyed the activity so much, she came back at Activity Period and insisted on teaching her cohorts. Learning is contagious! 

While some students initially encountered minor obstacles in getting their card to light, I assigned one girl to help her friend and they were able to figure out what went wrong and how to correct it. In doing that, the stage was set for further scaffolding as the group began to work more collaboratively.  Scholars became so engrossed that they did not want to go to lunch.

Many children find themselves in the library at lunch because they do not have anyone to hang out with or are learning the ropes to the social scene. Pre-teen and teenage years can be difficult. I actually forgot how painful cliques and teen years are until I started watching the dynamics up close and first hand this year.

One of the beautiful things about the library is that it brings groups of children together that would not normally interact. The library is a safe, common ground of exploration, curiosity and uncharted territories. Here, scholars are learning all about Microsoft’s Micro-bits so they can Skype and give advice to 4th and 5th graders in Pennsylvania also learning.

Coming back from lunch one day, my heart skipped a beat. I saw two boys creating at the circulation desk.  Were scholars actually making self initiated? They were using cardboard we spared from the recycle bin and had cut into small manageable pieces. The cardboard was actually from hundreds of Chromebooks the school had gotten in the fall and were perfect for the library’s makerspace. Of course we had no idea what they would be used for, but that in itself is the beauty of makerspaces – creating something from nothing and letting your imagination rule.

I asked them what they were doing and the boys replied, ” We’re making a coin sorter. We always wanted to have one.”

So I asked, “How did you know what to do?”

And they answered, ” We researched it, Ms. Wong. We are in the library!”

I strongly disagree that listening to lectures and taking tests is where learning is at. I do not think learning has to be dull, structured, routine and rote. People learn best in collaborative settings. Learning is a social activity and when you promote learning that is supported and scaffolded by peers, learning that is driven by interest and stimulation then and only then will  scholars enjoy what they are doing, be able to retain more and be able to internalize and build upon their new knowledge.

What are you doing to make a difference in the education scene today? How do you actively foster learning and make it interesting?

 

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Eating A Rainbow

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While St. Patrick’s Day typically means parties, parades, floats, alcohol and  feasts of food like corned beef, cabbage and shepherd’s pie, for this school library media center it was all about fostering healthy lifestyles.

Since scholars are required to sign in each library visit, a nutrition and wellness station was placed at the sign in desk. An educational display was placed that was student created. Both groups of students, those making the edible rainbow display and the students that signed in were able to read how a healthy human should ideally eat every color of the rainbow each and every day.

When you make education and healthy options readily available for scholars, it is fun, easy and seamless.

Student Created @craftedbynick Video

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With anything library I always take a lot of pictures. My mentor suggested that rather than  just uploading them to the library blog, I should have a student create a video that can be emailed home to parents. Many parents are unaware of the national movement in school library media centers in supporting makerspaces, innovation and creativity.

Please see the video below created by Josh Brown. He did an amazing job making the pictures come to life!

 

#MakingADifference

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Through the leadership and collaboration with the Family & Consumer Science teacher, scholars participated in wellness week. If you do not know, Wellness Week is a week where students are introduced to and made aware of healthy practices. The school had special speakers in and special super healthy options available in the cafeteria.

On Tuesday, all day in the library, youths were given the opportunity to make paper colored construction baskets. The baskets were to be filled with candy for a psychiatric children’s hospital.

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The day started out with recruiting regular library kids to “help” make a basket. They happily complied as they were playing on their cell phones waiting for school to start. Groups of high school girls and boys were thrilled to be able to contribute and help children less fortunate than them.

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In the spirit of giving back and doing for others, many scholars, both  hanging out in the library and in classes that were brought in specifically for this event,  participated in this giving and making opportunity.

The art teacher had made templates to make the basket construction process easier and  the library assistant cut size specific paper.

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At some point it was discovered that since the baskets held two little staples, they could not be donated as children at the hospital could harm themselves with the staples if removed.

So instead, the baskets were donated to a nearby senior facility. As an FYI, many seniors are lonely near holidays or crave conversation and companionship in general.

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The baskets were a big hit since someone they didn’t even know thought of them. People always like to be considered and when a complete stranger is doing it, it warms your heart like a big hug.

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Even though the baskets were empty since the candy was donated to the children’s hospital, you should have seen how happy the seniors were!

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Student service learning is always a great way to support the curriculum and develop citizenship while building community and collaboration within the school library.

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Creativity And Learning Without Walls

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In collaboration with the art class and the engineering class, the library brought in Nick Sciciliano of @craftedbynick to teach life and design lessons in the beauty of repurposing reclaimed wood.

Nick made the wood table in the library that is from a tree that he once removed as part of his tree removal service. Several years ago when he removed a large and old tree, he thought, ” What a waste for a tree that has lived so long to be dead and useless.”

After hours of soul searching, he decided it did not have to be thrown away and life for the tree could continue since wood has many uses. That spark of inspiration was the beginning of his journey into wood crafting.

Nick came to to our school to teach about design, tree life, the environment and trade. He also taught the scholars hands skills, patience and persistence as they drilled, sanded and oiled their own wood cutting boards. Along with the nationwide movement, the library is a strong advocate for makerspaces, creativity and innovation. Many scholars are so stressed out from traditional means of studying, testing and the likes, that they often do not know how to be free and have choice to create.

All boards were either black walnut or mahogany, both extremely desirable and pricey. They were obtained from a felled tree and had to be sliced lengthwise. Nick pointed out the black on the outer edges of the wood  were from various factors like rain, temperature, sunlight, disease, etc. Noticeably, when scholars complete physical projects, they often have a better understanding on follow through, working beyond mistakes and overcoming obstacles.

Scholars were excited to be working with their hands and to have a project that could be completed in one period for Valentine’s Day and double as a super dandy gift for mom. Additionally, girls had a chance to use power tools and create their boards as well.

Upon return the next day, I asked scholars what their moms thought of the gift. One scholar told me his dad took it since he does all the meat cutting. Another said mom told him it was too nice for a cutting board and would be used as a serving board. The cutest response came from a student who does not often sit still or complete work. He was thoroughly engaged in the project and even came in the library the next day to tell me the gift was a hit. Beaming from ear to ear, he stated, “My mom said it was the nicest thing I have ever given her!”

Building Ownership

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Friday was literally FRIYAY! It was a great day since first thing in the morning there was a delivery of several boxes. Now boxes for a school librarian can mean much more work as they often signify books that need to be input into the system, which can be quite tedious. However, that was not the case Friday.

I opened up the packages and left them exposed as I was busy with other tasks and did not have time to unpack them. At first, scholars walked around them not noticing or paying attention to the boxes. The library’s resident maker, an 11th grade scholar, decided to unpack and group them in preparation of building.

Some scholars were so excited to see Everblocks ( everblock.com )  in the library. They exclaimed, ” Legos!” upon sight.  Everblocks are giant blocks that at first glance look like a lego. They are used to create temporary walls or partition off spaces. They come in various colors and the full size lock is approximately six pounds in weight. Other sizes included 1/2 size and 1/4 size block. They are patented and have holes in the middle that allow for LED lighting to be threaded if users so desire. Everblock is the brainchild of Arnon Rosan, a serial entrepenuer. The company is based in downtown New York City and ships from upstate New York. To see a full gallery of inspirational builds, please visit the website at everblocksystems.com . But take caution when ordering! I was told I needed something in my order and it was not accurately described. They would not process my order with out it and it was unnecessary. It turned out I did not need it and the company would not allow a return and  then an exchange for more Everblocks.

Two high school girls, who had nothing to do, approached me for something to keep them occupied. I handed them the blueprint to the new sign-in desk and they happily started planning and building.

As the girls determined color and size layout in relationship to the pattern, many other scholars became interested and stopped over to see what they were holding. Some scholars seem perplexed by the whole concept of building with such huge blocks and others found simple joy in that fact that creation was being done. And some were just plain amazed at the size of the block and that they could be stacked to hold human weight.

Additionally, the Everblocks were used to construct a green screen room. Scholars will be doing PSAs and video projects. Hearing teachers’ concerns for a need for hands on and meaningful projects to implement in their courses, a green screen was purchased and an area partitioned off for production. Scholars love being given choices and when their voice is heard, they are empowered to love the work they are doing and work much harder.

Two different groups of scholars started the green screen walls. And a third group restarted and finished it. They worked diligently and quickly.  As a team of three, they were able to finish it collaborating and working together.

Later in the day, one of the prior groups returned and were so sad and disappointed it was done.  However, one of the many positives about Everblocks is that they are not permanent. They are temporary structures that can be taken down and planned again, rebuilt and organized in different patterns.

For a really fun view, watch the time lapse video !

Everblock Collaboration

 

 

Breakout Edu Excites And Challenges Scholars

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In collaboration with a middle school ELA teacher, the library taught six classes of  Breakout Edu around a previously competed dysophia literacy unit. For those of you that are not aware, the game, Breakout Edu, allows children a chance to use clues from any subject area to solve a virtual escape room. On the game’s box, there are four heavy locks located on the outside of the box. The combinations to unlock them are either dates, significant numbers, up / down arrows or key words.

Since the games and whole Breakout Edu boxes  can be quite challenging, scholars are placed as teams in order to best support and scaffold learning. Having once played while I was learning with a group of teachers and being super frustrated, I recall being comforted and learning since the others led the way.

Playing Breakout Edu is very similar to having to breakout of an escape room. The only difference is it is not an actual room, but a box the children must breakout of. The questions are not straight forward asking a date or a key word, but rather drawing the player in to prompt them towards the answer.

The  key learning involved may seem like just reinforcement of content area knowledge. However, scholars are learning to work as a team, communicate, problem solve and think critically and analytically.

Learning does not always have to be in a traditional form. When you make school stimulating, engaging and fun, children will learn and retain more than if they are just lectured at and tested. Try Breakout Edu and let me know what you think of it.

Google Doodle Coding

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So last week my former colleague and recent winner of the NYSCATE Technology Leader of the Year Award, Rocco Varuolo, asked me what the high school was doing for Hour of Code.  I started to lamely answer that I don’t really get the classes to come for that since I’m on a flexible schedule and teachers that sign up and come are doing research projects and on a tight timeline. But then I caught myself and asked, ” Why can’t  I get the kids to code? I can if I really try.”

So this week my mission has been to implement a quick Google Doodle coding fun. Scholars come in and watch a quick tutorial how to and then begin to drop, drag and rotate until they come up with their own Google Doodle.

Now I did have some kids that as soon as I said the word “code” they almost immediately shut down and flatly said they couldn’t do it. But with a little urging and some impromptu support from other scholars, they quickly tried it and succeeded.

After viewing the finished products, I think we have some super coders and graphic artists here!

 

 

 

 

Library Happenings

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The month of November has quickly come and gone. Many things have happened in the library and much too quickly to keep up with blogging. Tiffany (pictured below) is our resident book folding artist. She took up the project of using a weeded book to create book art, or a folded turkey.

Just in time for the holidays, other middle schoolers watched as she dedicated each free minute , lunch and activity period, to folding and curling turkey tails. Tiffany was inspired to splatter some water color paint on it as well. Her dedication made book art popular. Suddenly lots of middle schoolers wanted to go to the library and “tear up books.” A teacher in the hallway heard a student shouting this and came running to ensure there was not chaos occurring in the library.

Now I know many librarians weed books and secretly throw them out at night. They fear the backlash of stakeholders that  do not understand the concept of weeding. Weeding books that are unused, outdated or just plain worn out makes rooms for new books patrons request and read. Astutely, we are repurposing weeded books for our makerspace.

The digital arts teacher, Andre Soto, scheduled and came into the library with three classes. The classes played games of Mystery Skype with other schools. The students did not know who they were playing against. The object of the game was to guess where the other team was from by asking yes or no questions. Each student had a specific job like researching, communicating, documenting, questioning, etc. Children used maps, computers, whiteboard markers to collaborate. In the end, our classes both lost and won. However, the true winning was in online collaboration with other youth. One opposing team used their phone to video and walk our kids through their schools as they discussed the differences in education.

The LMC has been working on making the space more collaborative and youth friendly. An unused area was cleared out  of technology boxes. The boxes were put away under a computer table and chairs from Chairigami were purchased. If you do not know, Chairigami is an amazing company from Connecticut. They construct furniture out of three ply cardboard.

Students read and assembled the chairs, thus taking  ownership of their space. Additionally, a reclaimed table was obtained specifically for the space. This area facilitates a different feel and since food is not allowed in the library, scholars are able to sit in the lounge chairs and quickly eat before heading to their studies.

Several design students used the chairs as a template to recreate another one from big pieces of cardboard that were sitting around. As they assembled it in the library, many other students were interested in what they were making. As the library has evolved into makerspace heaven, it is also beginning to inspire others.

For Focus, the school’s newspaper, a guest speaker was brought in to teach scholars how to interview. After discovering many of our journalists do not feel comfortable or know the protocol for conducting interviews, the library asked a guest in that had attended and graduated from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism to provide tips, techniques and tricks for interview procedures.

To spark creativity, the LMC asked our custodian, Luis, to build a Lego wall. He graciously assisted us and is an excellent example of how makerspaces build community and bring experts into the fold for others to rely upon as a resource.

The Lego wall fosters a reprieve from all the stress and studying for scholars. A few kids were shy about using it until they saw others were on board. But one high school scholar was so excited that he was not bashful at all. He flatly stated, ” I love legos. I will be in here everyday!”

Recently, the LMC obtained chess sets, puzzle cubes and robots. With the idea of encouraging learning through stimulation , scholars are being engaged through non-traditional methods.  To the untrained eye, they appear to be just remote controlled gizmos. However, the robots are an entry way into coding. I have quite frequently heard students remark that they are “not that smart” or the laser printer is not for everyone, but special kids. Scholars are just getting familiar with them and little do they know it, but they will soon be moving the robots through coding. Coding is not just an activity done during the month of December, but a skill that can open many doors for them. And they will also see that they really are “that smart!”

Naysayers may think these are games or toys, but that is far from the truth. Children , like adults, learn best through play and by doing. Noticing scholars playing on their phones or watching their snaps and reading IG posts, the LMC decided to promote critical thinking and problem solving through active learning. Scholars were not actually interacting with each other, but were instead playing with their phones. Another adult in the library remarked it is great to see the camaraderie and kids socializing in a constructive way, rather than just in their own worlds on their phones. They now are becoming more collaborative, communicative and creative. Taking risks and failing are some of the best things people can do to learn and grow.

Student Service Learning Through Earrings

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The second week in October the school library hosted Joan Lylod, a retired teacher and a lifetime Yorktown resident. Joan spends all her time teaching kids how to make earrings from scratch with wires, beads and small hand tools. She goes to scouts, public libraries and schools with a mission. The earring creation is not just the basis of a maker activity or to promote design, creativity and time away from electronic devices, but a means to instill student service learning.

Scholars are asked to make earrings to donate to My Sister’s Place. The earrings specially created for total strangers in need truly do put a smile on someone’s face. While participants are able to  keep a pair for every pair they make and donate, many people instead opt to donate all the pairs they make.

In the Library Media Center, both middle school and high school students participated. Many boys demonstrated a great deal of patience as they quickly mastered the art of construction with quick twists, turns and created beautiful little, wearable art masterpieces.

Look for Joan and book a workshop! You will be glad you did as scholars  learn to better understand service learning when they are able to be active contributors.