Friday, February 14, 2020

Opening Minds with 3D Printing

We have been on a year-long mission to load our media center with MakerSpace tools and technology. While that may seem non-traditional to some, I think it is the future of libraries. We get validation for our decisions everyday when we see the kids' faces and hear their questions.

The other day, we had a 3D print going and a few kids passed by. Immediately, they asked, "What is that?" As I started explaining what it is and what it does, their eyes popped open. "You mean, you printed a dog? What else can you print?" I told them they could print anything that they could imagine and design. They were quiet for a bit. "You mean, anything?" they asked. "Yep!" I told them. 

The whole idea behind the media center here at Lely Elementary is to get kids to think, imagine, and wonder about ideas they may not have thought of yet. We want to open their minds, through their reading, through our conversations, and through the technology that we are bringing into the library. Once their minds open up to new possibilities, they can think about things they had never considered before. Since every person thinks differently, we are accessing some thinking that no one has ever done before. Each child had genius, and when every child sees that there are many more possibilities than they had thought, then those kiddos can apply their genius differently than they did before. This is the mission of our media center at Lely Elementary. 

We will continue to load our media center with ways for kids to think and imagine. The more robust our environment is, the more kids' minds can be opened and the more of their genius we can access. This symbiotic relationship between materials and thinking will snowball into some amazing successes for us this year.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Butterflies of Hope

Every elementary school tries to work with community institutions as much as possible to give the kiddos some new experiences. We are incredibly fortunate to be right next door to the South Regional Collier County Public Library. They have a beautiful building, huge collection, and plethora of special programs. One program that we were able to see was the "Butterflies of Hope" event. This was open to all of our fifth graders and we took advantage of the opportunity.

We rotated kids through the program, taking one fifth grade class after another. The kids heard a talk from two volunteers who spearheaded the program. They spoke to the kids about the symbolism of butterflies and how they related to the ghettos of Europe during the prelude to WWII. Kids also heard about how butterflies can represent kindness and that we all try to be a bit kinder to each other, making the world a better place.

The kids were very insightful during the discussion with the presenters and after the presentation, the kids walked through the gallery of butterfly art. Some of the art was created by professional artists and some was created by middle school artists from Oak Ridge Middle School. The kiddos were soaking in the meaning as well as the beauty.

Any time we have the opportunity to give kids these experiences, we take them. Experiential learning sticks. While the students may not remember everything that they do in the course of a school day, they will definitely remember the "Butterflies of Hope" project and the impact that it had on them. We are already lining up other opportunities to collaborate with the public library next door. It is an amazing resource and we plan to take full advantage of it.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Reading Champions!

Yesterday, our principal, Tammy Brown, and I got a chance to visit a fourth grade classroom. With trophy in hand, we celebrated Mrs. Hall's class for having the greatest percentage of kids who achieved their reading goals for the second quarter of school. They will keep the traveling trophy in their room all quarter and will get a banner to hang permanently to remind them of their accomplishment. They worked especially hard this quarter because another class won the trophy for the first quarter of the year and they were determined to work a bit harder this quarter.

Our competition is a fun aspect of our school environment. It is a positive, teamwork-oriented slice of life here at Lely Elementary because everyone has to help everyone in order to achieve our goals. We are having a rollicking good time this year and little things like the reading goals competition lend a little fun to our school year.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Podcast: Learning at Lely - Episode 5

In this episode, two teachers who are new to Lely Elementary, talk about the challenges of being a first year teacher, or being a first year teacher in a new school, and the ebbs and flows of the first semester. They talk philosophy and learning and have many valuable observations to share.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Math and Muffins

Another day, another triumph at Lely Elementary School. Earlier this year, we had an amazing standing-room-only turnout for our morning program, Books and Bagels. A couple of weeks ago, we put on another morning program, Math and Muffins. Now, early morning programs are not all that well-attended in general, especially considering the work responsibilities of our students' parents. We thought that the Books and Bagels success may just be a fluke. Well, we could not have been more wrong.

The media center was packed again. Parents streamed into the library with their kiddos, grabbed a bite to eat, and then settled in for some math pointers from Patti Jones-Ragusa, our math coach. For the second time in two months, we had a standing-room-only crowd in the media center, finding out ways to help their kids and support our school. It was awesome to witness.

I've talked a lot about a rejuvenated spirit here at Lely Elementary this year. When we have successes like Math and Muffins, it breeds success. Suddenly, we expect more. When we expect more, we work a little harder to meet those expectations. The hard work pays off by snowballing into a series of positive events.

We have higher aspirations now. We know we can turn out a crowd for our morning programs and can elicit parent participation at school events. As our community involvement increases, so too will our achievement. We cannot wait to see what successes lie ahead for our kids. We know that our positive attitude toward our school is contagious. This is an awesome year to be at Lely Elementary.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Podcast: Learning at Lely - Episode 4

In this episode, Lely Elementary Academic Coaches Karen Pelletier (Reading) and Patti Jones Ragusa (Math) talk about their roles in the school, special programs they put on, and the challenges of implementing effective reading and math programs in an elementary school. Contact us on Twitter (Don @dayankee or Karen @karenpell13) to collaborate!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Incentivizing Reading

Like any teacher or librarian, I want kids to read for the same reasons that adults read - to grow as people and to have fulfilling reading experiences. Sometimes kids read for those reasons, but a lot of times they don't. In school, kids read for assignments, to take reading tests, or to complete readings assigned by the teachers. This is reading not of their choosing. Often they consider reading a chore that they would rather not do. So how do we get them in the habit of reading? How do we convince them that reading can be fun? How do we show them that reading is fulfilling if they find the right books to read?

One way that we help kids develop the habit of reading is to incentivize reading. Now, we do this because we want to hook kids into reading and, after kids find the books they love, let them read and read and read. So often, kids will not even give reading a shot unless we can somehow hook them. Our incentives often provide that hook. A student may not want to read just to read or complete an assignment, but if there is an incentive or a competition, they often will give it a try.

We have developed a fun incentive program here in the Lely Elementary Media Center in order to encourage more kids to reach their reading goals. First, I got a huge reading trophy that will travel from quarter to quarter to the class that has the most kids reach their reading goals. This quarter, it went to Mrs. Knudsen's class. In addition to keeping the trophy for the quarter, they also received a banner proclaiming them Reading Champions that they will keep forever in the classroom.

Mrs. Knudsen's kids had no idea that they were the reading champions. Principal Tammy Brown and I unlocked their classroom door one morning and were greeted by a stunned group of faces. Mrs. Brown held the trophy high in the air and announced that they were the Quarter 1 Reading Champions. I unfurled their banner to show them. Then, we took a few pictures to commemorate the moment and made the appropriate school announcement. While this class is proud of what they have accomplished, other classes are now vowing to take that trophy away. I think we have started a fun little competition.

We have also incentivized reading individually. Any student who has reached their reading goals is brought to the media center to spin our big wheel. When they spin the wheel, they land on a space that tells them how many prize box items they can pick. Everyone wants to spin the wheel!

While we know that we want kids to read for pleasure and fulfillment, sometimes we have to incentivize them to develop the habit. That's what we're doing here and it seems to be working. Circulation is way up in the media center, kids are reading more, and they are feeling better about their reading. They are seeing reading more and more as something they want to do. Some are doing it only for the incentives, but more of them are figuring out that they really like reading, especially when they find the books they love.