Tag Archives: media center

Full #STEAM Ahead!


Back in the summer, when I was mapping out my curriculum for my library media center classes this school year, I really wanted STEAM to be the foundation of everything we do.  For those of you not in the know with this trending educational acronym, STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (and was formerly known as STEM).  The first big project that I did with my fourth, fifth, and sixth graders was Designing Your Own Dream Playground.  Students had to first sketch out a blueprint for their designs and placement of their playgrounds.  Then, they needed to build a small model of their designs using recyclable materials (see left photo above).  The entire process was fun and I was rather impressed with the finished products.  The sky was the limit in terms of their imaginations, and many of my students pushed themselves to create amazing playgrounds.

I also implemented Free Time Activities this year.  Because most of my curriculum relies heavily on project-based learning, my students work at their own pace.  And, as anyone who’s ever worked with children knows, kids work at various speeds and abilities.  I wanted my students to be productive from the minute they walk into the library media center, to the minute they walk out.  So, Free Time Activities seemed like the perfect solution!  I created a chart in the corner of my room that colorfully displayed the various tasks that a student could choose from once they’ve completed their required assignments and/or work for that day.  These activities range from blogging and reading to building with Legos and K’nex.  Additionally, I implemented a makerspace area to help make many of these tasks available.  It is simply a shelving unit filled with any item that could possibly help create, such as yarn, pipe cleaners, tape, markers, and paper tubes.  Certain Free Time Activities are also supported by “challenge cards.”  For example, the Lego station and K’nex kit come with baskets filled with cards with a number of challenges written on them; and the makerspace area has a basket of STEAM challenges.  The students have really enjoyed having the right to choose and navigate how they want to explore and learn (see right photos above).

So far I’ve loved the changes I’ve implemented this year, and I can’t wait to see how it evolves with time.  I recommend giving it a try in your own classrooms and seeing how you can make room for activities like these.  Take that risk!  I’m sure you’ll be amazed with the wonderful results!


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Banned Books Week is coming to a close…

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am only a month into my first ever position as an ELEMENTARY educator.  And as most educators know, at least in the literacy realm, this week is Banned Books Week.  I really wanted to make sure I included this “holiday” into at least some of my classes’ curriculum, so I decided to test the waters with my fourth and six graders (about 200 students), and it went wonderfully!  We started off using Mentimeter, which is a wonderful online instant survey tool–I highly recommend it!  I laid out various banned books onto the tables, but did not tell them why they were there and that they were banned.  My Mentimeter question was “What do all of these books have in common?”  Of course, all of them at once gave me and each other puzzled looks because they couldn’t see a connection between a picture book like And Tango Makes Three and a very popular series like Harry Potter.  I encouraged them to discuss with their groups and get creative with their answers.  The end product was interesting to see because they stated things such as “fiction,” “hard cover,” and “illustrations.”

Once we did that I told them their answers were great, but unfortunately none of them was the one answer I was looking for.  And once again, I got puzzled looks across the board.  When I explained to them that the one major commonality of all of these books was that they were banned, the students immediately started calling out questions and groaning.  I loved it!  This meant they were questioning that idea, and were curious to learn more.

We then segued into it being Banned Books Week and the celebration of literacy and the First Amendment.  Some may think that free speech may be too complicated of an issue for children that are only no more than eleven or twelve years old, but it most certainly was not.  Some classes sparked debates about the validity of banning a book, while others wanted to learn the reasoning behind each banning.  It was such a spectacular moment as an educator to witness.  And I truly couldn’t have been more pleased by how the lessons played out!

To wrap up the lesson, I allowed my students to take “mugshots” to celebrate Banned Books Week, and I had more than enough volunteers.  As you can see (below), they got very creative and had a fun time producing their own representation of what banning a book means to them.  It has been a wonderful week, and I plan on spreading the wealth to the third and fifth graders next year!


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