Computers in Libraries 2017 – Washington D.C.

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My cohort and school librarian partner in crime, Stony Evans, met me in Washington D.C. to present our collaborative piece, Game Design As A Catalyst For Learning. Sometime back in September, we discussed how our libraries were building upon student choice and student voice to empower and propel their learning. At the MIE Expert Conference in Colorado Summer 2016, we learned how to use Minecraft as a tool to not only engage scholars, but also to create transdisciplinary learning opportunities in all subject areas.

In my school library, scholars research nonfiction – people, places and artifacts – to place within their games. Sometimes they use storyboards and they always have a learning objective. Though the objective may appear to be creative, during Minecraft creation children are actively learning, unbeknownst to them, things like area, perimeter, science and social studies , as well as citizenship, social activism and environmentalism.

Librarians in public libraries, colleges and K-12th grades came to listen and learn. And there was even a child who was presenting in a makerspace session that came to ensure we knew what we were talking about as he informed us he was a Minecraft expert. At various points, he took keen interest and volunteered to come test out the virtual reality goggles we brought along.

Minecraft is an incredible Future Ready resource that stimulates children and excites learners of all ages. Minecraft is a unique way to marry curriculum and creation, while  building communication, collaboration and curiosity in scholars. These are all skills they need to be college and career ready. In addition, by problem solving through failures and building resilience, persistence and the ability to follow things through to completion, scholars are being set up for success in academics and in life. So many librarians came up to us afterwards indicating how interested they are in bringing game design to their libraries. They were inspired by our session.

Microsoft is truly a key player and partner in education. Unlike other tech giants who bestow educators with the title of being certified, Microsoft puts a great deal of resources, time and commitment into authentically growing educators and providing them with professional development and learning opportunities to expand their professional learning network. Thank you, Microsoft Education for this amazing opportunity to teach others about the power of learning when you use Minecraft and reach children in their world on their terms.

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Imagination

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With the exception of the two snow days we were closed and not in school, this week I have been reading to the children a book titled on St. Patrick’s Day – A Day of Irish Pride. Before almost every holiday or special day,  I like to give scholars the history behind why we do what we do.

As I was conducting the read aloud Thursday, a little girl from a Monday class came up behind me and left a small gift. Two pictures of the gift are below. The first is a front view and the second is a side view.  I will let you digest these photos before I continue. What do you think it is?

Now being the unimaginative adult I am, I thought the student was just inspired by St. Patrick’s Day coming and had extra time at home from the snow days. So I left it on the entry library table where I do my lessons from and didn’t give it much thought.

Yesterday as two 2nd grade boys were looking for books ,I hear a squeal and turn as the boys come running over to me.

“Ms. Wong! Ms. Wong, did you catch it,” they ask excitedly.

“Catch what,” I reply.

“The leprachaun – did you catch the leprachaun? We saw your leprachaun trap,” the boys answer.

“Leprachaun trap?” I say rather feebly as I look over at the gift. “Oh, a student made that for me.”

Later, as I was cleaning the library for the weekend, I studied this self initiated project. It is very cleverly done and has makerspace screaming all over it. The child decorated a tissue box, used straws to make a ladder up towards the rainbow and has a trap to capture a leprchaun right in front of a pot of gold (bottle cap filled with pennies and gold pipe cleaners). Over the pot of gold, she has straws recreating scenes typical of holders above a pot used for fires.

Slowly, it dawns on me how I prompted the accountable talk with the discussion of my niece and nephew finding leprachaun evidence ( green milk and green footsteps) all over their house last year. Students were fascinated with the talk of fairies and leprachauns. They asked each other if leprachauns were real. As I picked up the project and really looked at it,  I suddenly felt this child’s energy and a strong sense of how teachers can really inspire or dampen a child’s curiosity.

Children have an incredible power to think outside of the box. Their imaginations are strong and desire opportunities to be innovative. Be sure that you provide them learning experiences that are unparalleled. Give them the power to create, explore and do not ignore the wonder and excitement through which they see life. So many teachers dominate the classroom, assign the same projects year after year and do not yield, change or grow.  Though school is an institution, you do not have to institutionalize your teaching. If you want to truly improve your practice, then you need to give scholars choice and voice, which will ultimately empower them to be the next inventor, artist, creator, designer and the list goes on. When people ask me what I do for a living, I always tell them I am grooming the next Steve Jobs.

Read Across America

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Read Across American was celebrated by inviting five classes into the library to hear a special guest reader. The Westchester County Executive, Rob Astorino, came into the library for an inspirational read aloud. Mr. Astorino emphasized the importance of working hard in school and reading  in the library.He indicated his successes in life are due to being diligent, reading and listening well.

When asked what exactly it is he does, he replied he helps take care of the county and Mr. Astorino told the crowd the most enjoyable part of his job was being able to interact with the public and spend time with kids.

After the read aloud and a bunch of questions, Mr. Astorino took time to speak with individuals that approached him and take pictures with classes.

There is something special and truly valuable to the learning community when community heroes take the time to give back. This was a happy. inspirational and fun day at Highview School.

 

Play Time Is Important For Growth

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Having gotten a grant from BOCES to help start a makerspace, I decided to further expand the concept and focus on one class of 2nd graders. Eight children were selected to come into the library once or twice a week to tinker, play and explore in the makerspace. The children were not given any directives or an assignment. Instead,  I just explained the concept of makerspace and told the children they could do whatever they wanted to as long as they clean up.

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With an abundance of boxes, cardboard and toilet paper rolls, children were quick to look on Microsoft’s Bing search engine for ideas of what to do. The boys focused on making parking garages for their matchbox racing cars. Carter focused on making a driveway and scenery. He used duct tape to decorate.

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Meanwhile, Justin and Carlos stacked lots and lots of toilet paper rolls from the top to bottom of their shoe boxes so they could get as many car into their garage as possible.

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The girls made abstract art structures as they learned to fine tune the art of duct tape. One roll at a time, the girls began to work with each other to hold and tape rather they try to cut off long strips. They quickly found that collaboration makes the work so much faster and fluid.

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After a couple of sessions, all participants had a chance to take home their projects born of ingenuity and repurposed products.

 

Read Your Heart Out Day – February 14th

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In honor of Valentine’s Day and fostering love of literacy, several classes supported the school library’s endeavors to create the first annual Read Your Heart Out Day. Several local community heroes were invited to share their favorite book with 2nd and 3rd graders early in the morning. Many classes had community heroes from the Hartsdale Fire Department. Ms. Maldonado’s 2nd grade and Ms. D’Ariano’s 3rd grade classes were able to meet and hear Commissioner Chong from the White Plains Department of Public Safety.

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Commissioner Chong read his favorite book aloud which happened to be about a police dog. After the reading, Ms. D’Ariano’s children were thrilled to be given their own book as a class gift. Highview was so honored to be the recipient of this experience. There is nothing better than when real life community heroes give back to their communities.

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#LearnMakeGive Creates Community Giving

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In collaboration with Rocco Varuolo, Greenburgh’s Director of Digital Learning, Systems and Accountability, the Highview School Library Media Center received two 3D Dremel printers for its makerspace to implement a project where scholars could #LearnMakeGive to the community. Through Dremel’s generous contribution to education, scholars will be able to create molds to cast limbs for pets without limbs in animal shelters. Children will be working and learning in conjunction with a vet to better understand how science, technology and citizenship can transform lives and the greater community.

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Hope’s House And The Makerspace

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The library was very fortunate to have sponsored a local retired teacher, Joan, who conducts earring workshops. Joan keeps active and like to continue teaching others in service learning projects that build citizenship and community. She conducts workshops with the Boy Scouts, local libraries and also does birthday parties and local events.

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Children not only learned how to make earrings using creativity, dexterity, and fine motor skills, but more importantly scholars learned the significance of giving back to the community.Scholars had fun, were given a chance to be creative and learned through a hands on project that they have the ability to help others and have a positive impact on the world.

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For every pair of earrings that students made, they were required to make another pair to donate. It was so adorable to hear 2nd and 3rd grader talking among themselves saying they were “donating” their work. This service learning project made the word donate come alive and children accurately grasped the sense of the word.

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Hope’s House is a local domestic violence shelter for battered and abused women. By donating earrings, scholars help put a smile on someone’s face. Who would have thought that something so simple could be rewarding to all the participants involved.

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Ending 2016 With A Blast

Scholars were given several opportunities to learn, make and create in the school library media center. They were able to connect a reading of How The Grinch Stole Christmas by determining the three different connections readers make to books: 1. text to text, 2. text to self, 3. text to world.  After, scholars then cut, decorated and glued their own Grinch faces and each face looked very different from the others.

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While it may seem like a simple activity, there are so few times during the course of the day when children are actually using motor skills and being creative.

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As an introduction into the makerspace that is officially launching in January to the whole school, children used straws and connectors in teams to create standing structures. It was interesting to observe the more successful teams were able to communicate, collaborate and create best by working and listening to one another. Some children had difficulty working in teams and this exercise in other STEM activities will serve to strengthen their people skills.

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STEM is  state of mind. STEM is about thinking outside of the box, being critical and analytical. STEM is a way of life.

Scholars Present to the Board of Education

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At the November Board of Education meeting, two library superstars presented to a room of 50 adults. 3rd grader, Henry , and 2nd grader, Melanie, came out at night to read their Storybird e-book creations and advocate for all the digital learning occurring at Highview School. Both children focused on International Baccalaureate (IB) character traits.

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Henry was quite at ease speaking to a room of educators, board members, parents and administrators. The audience loved his s e-book, Ways to Communicate .

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Melanie created her e-book titled  Helping People on the IB character trait of caring. Special thanks to both families for supporting education and bringing their children out for the meeting and presentation!!!

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STEM In The Library’s Makerspace

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Thanks to the encouragement of Mr. M, the school’s principal, and a grant from BOCES, the school library received several supplies to foster and promote STEM in the library’s new makerspace.

The makerspace team solictied one high flyer from each class. Each teacher sent a child for the first makerspace class and a challenge was issued.

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Children were split up into 2nd and 3rd grade teams. They read the challenge and the rest was up to them. One group disagreed on how to best solve the problem. Teachers did not intervene,  but rather let them solve their issues on their own. The group that had the highest tower was the group that worked best collaboratively. They respected each others’ opinions, discussed rather than dominated among themselves and worked well as a team. And it was a 2nd grade group!. See the highlights below!

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