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?