Saturday, June 24, 2017

Professional Development: A Future Ready Library Buffet

Before the end of school, I was super excited to get an email from an Arkansas Educational Cooperative in our state. They wanted to know if I was available to present a summer session on Skype, Makerspaces, and other library leadership topics to teacher librarians in the area served by the cooperative. I was thrilled and nervous at the same time since it would be a six-hour session. I have presented breakout sessions at conferences and even a few keynotes, but never a full day facilitating professional learning. I remember looking at the calendar and programming a date during my summer vacation time. Then came the fun part: planning the event.

I asked my wife Cindy (@CindyRookEvans) to join me on this trip. She is also a teacher librarian at the K-6 level, and I knew that she could share some powerful stories for those attending from elementary schools. We brainstormed and decided to share about our many library collaboration programs, Mystery Skype and Skype Field Trips, Makerspaces, Social Media Presence, and Annual Reports. By the end of school, I was ready for the training date to come around so we could share these topics with new friends.

 The Event

We arrived at the DeQueen-Mena Education Cooperative in plenty of time to set up and prepare for teacher librarians to show up. I started with introductions and a Microsoft Sway I had created to outline the day.

Library Collaborations 

To start our content for the day, we shared about our many library collaboration programs from grades K-6 and 8-12. I enjoyed telling the story of how our first common core collaboration began in 2012 with the book Fearless by Eric Blehm. I also shared about collaborations centered around the Dust Bowl and Great Gatsby. Several teacher librarians began sharing how they would like to do a similar collaboration using the book Fearless around 9/11 or Veterans Day. It was encouraging to see teacher librarians thinking out of the box and considering new ways to collaborate and connect with their learning communities. Cindy shared about some of the collaborations she had done over the past two years with grades 5 and 6, such as Writing in the Dark, Mythology Introduction, and Court in the Library. Again, several teacher librarians seemed interested in knowing more.

The best way to learn Mystery Skype... Do it!
Mystery Skype

For the next event, I shared about Mystery Skype and how we use this engaging activity to collaborate with social studies and geography classes. After a brief introduction, we set up the room and actually connected with Tracey Wong (@TraceyCarayol) and her 3rd-grade students in New York to practice playing Mystery Skype. We connected with them for about 30 minutes. Afterward, we asked her students why they enjoy Mystery Skype. One girl said she liked connecting with other places. It was so good to have our group of 14 teacher librarians hearing student voices share their excitement about connecting! Thank you for playing Mystery Skype with us, Tracey!

Teacher Librarians loved Skype in the Classroom
Skype in the Classroom

Next, we shared the Skype in the Classroom portion of the Microsoft Education website. I had the teacher librarians find virtual field trips that they might want to try this next school year. Several teacher librarians found interesting potential trips! Most of them were not aware of these wonderful resources. I was so glad we could share these tools with them.


Many of the teacher librarians didn't have experience with Makerspace tools. To give them some hands-on opportunities, we set up 5 tables in the classroom with different innovation tools to try out. We had Legos, Makey-Makeys, K'nex, Little Bits, electronic kits, Cublets, Light Up Edison Kit, and Ollies.  We split them into groups and had them change table stations every 10 minutes. We went around and helped if they needed it. The teacher librarians learned that the best way to get comfortable with maker activities is to just give it a try. We also encouraged them to let their students be the experts. Student-led innovations have worked wonderfully for us at our schools. 

Makerspace Stations
Annual Reports

I shared how annual reporting has changed the perception of the school library at both school districts I have served as a teacher librarian. We took a long look at the components that I selected. I also shared my reasons for choosing each component for my annual reports.

Social Media Presence

I ended the day with sessions on how we use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and blogging to share the value of our school library programs. I also shared how these tools were now connecting us to educators all over the nation and world. It was a lot of fun to share a few stories about connecting from this school year.


I felt honored to be invited to share our best practices with educators in a different part of the state. I hope our new friends will take a few of the tools that we shared and try them this school year. In reflection, I think I crammed too much into the day. It was a good introduction to many concepts that have changed the learning communities at both my school and Cindy's. Since there never is enough time for any professional development, perhaps, this "Future Ready Library Buffet" training was just right to give the teacher librarians a small taste of how they can change their schools forever.

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Makerspace resources we are adding to our libraries.

How our students presented innovation spaces in the library.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Makerspace Resources

I've been preparing for a full day session on makerspaces and library innovations. Since spring, I've been collecting books for our students that have additional questions about our maker tools. These are some of the books I'm going to add to our library and share with participants in my upcoming sessions. I'm also sharing books that my wife, Cindy Evans (@CindyRookEvans), has recently purchased for her elementary learners.

Be sure to add your recommendations to the comments below!

High School Level

Chopra, A. (2015). SketchUp 2014 For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons.
Drumm, B. (2016). Make: 3D printing projects: Toys, tools, tools, and contraptions to print and build yourself. San Francisco: Maker Media.
Graves, C., & Graves, A. (2017). The big book of makerspace projects: Inspiring makers to experiment, create, and learn. New York: McGraw Hill Education.
Jelley, C., Bolder, J., & Marsh, R. (2016). Minecraft: Medieval fortress: Exploded builds. New York: Del Rey.
McGrath, M. (2015). Coding for beginners in easy steps:. Leamington Spa,: In Easy Steps.

Smith, N. (2014). The ultimate unofficial guide to MinecraftĂ‚® strategies: Everything you need to know to build, explore, attack, and survive in the world of Minecraft. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing.

Upper Elementary/ Middle School Level
Fontichiaro, K. (2017). Organizing a makerfest. Ann Arbor, MI: Cherry Lake Publishing.
Kopp, M. (2017). Maker projects for kids who love electronics. St. Catharines, Ontario: Crabtree Publishing Company.
Levete, S. (2017). Maker projects for kids who love sports. St. Catharines, Ontario: Crabtree Publishing Company.
Lovett, A. (2017). Littlebits. Ann Arbor, MI: Cherry Lake Publishing.
Ng, S. (2017). Makey Makey. Ann Arbor, MI: Cherry Lake Publishing.
O'Neill, T., & Williams, J. (2013). 3D printing. Ann Arbor, MI: Cherry Lake Publishing.
Roslund, S., & Rodgers, E. P. (2014). Makerspaces. Ann Arbor, MI: Cherry Lake Publishing.
Spence, K. (2017). Maker projects for kids who love photography. St. Catharines, Ontario: Crabtree Publishing Company.
Williams, P. (2017). Starting a makerspace. Ann Arbor, MI: Cherry Lake Publishing.

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Our first makerspace day in the library.

How our students presented innovation spaces in the library.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Shallows Library Collaboration

A few years ago, one of our English teachers (Mrs. Jennifer Garner) approached me about having her students lead a learning activity based on The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. This was one of the first student-led collaborations that we attempted in the library. I was delighted when Mrs. Garner approached me about having the program again this school year. In this article, she joins me in describing how her students held this program in the library.

Description of the Program (Mrs. Jennifer Garner, English Teacher, Lakeside High School)

Students present a video about the history of the Internet

Students in my senior-level English 12 Transitions class read The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, as a part of the curriculum designed by the Southern Regional Education Board’s College Ready course. Working with this text prepares students for college-level work as they gain skills in reading and writing claims and evidence. Students in my junior-level AP Language and Composition course also study this text as they study sources and evidence in preparation for writing the synthesis essay. The English 12 students read the text early in the year. The AP students read it at the beginning of the second semester. As a capstone for the unit, my English 12 students design, plan, and execute a collaborative event designed to introduce the AP students to the text. This event is planned with the assistance of our school media specialist, Stony Evans, and takes place in the Media Center. Based on their understanding of the text and what students need to know in order to have some background schema, the English 12 students created four stations based on major claims and information presented in The Shallows: multitasking, e-texts vs. print texts, the history and development of the Internet, and Internet use. The students determined which concepts were important and created the stations based on those concepts. They consulted with Mr. Evans and shared with him their needs for media and supplies. The multitasking station required participants to perform multiple cognitive tasks, such as drawing, watching a video, listening to music, and listening to a presentation, all at the same time. Students conducting the station then asked a series of questions about how well they completed each task. The etexts vs. print text station required students to read an e-text with hyperlinks and then answer a series of questions that assessed their comprehension of what they read. The history station traced the development of the Internet via a video; student leaders then lead a discussion with the students about the content of the video. Finally, at the Internet Use station, students completed a Google survey about their Internet use and habits, the results of which were immediately shared and discussed with the student leaders. Students spent approximately 10 minutes at each station and rotated through all four stations during the 50-minute class period.

YouTube video from our Facebook Live broadcast of the event.

Teacher Reflection

Having taught students on all levels of learning, I realize the importance of building background knowledge and creating some level of enthusiasm before reading difficult texts. I also believe students learn best when they take some ownership in their learning. This collaborative project enabled my on-level seniors to take ownership as they developed and implemented this project. It also gave students who are often unmotivated and sometimes feel “less than” – because they are in an on-level course – to make an important contribution to the learning of other students. The project gave my AP students valuable information about the content of the text, which they have frequently referenced in class discussions. As a result of the collaboration, my senior English students experienced confidence and satisfaction in having contributed to an important project while reinforcing their understanding of the text. I witnessed growth in several of my seniors and realized many of them have skills and abilities that aren’t revealed in the classroom setting. For example, one student really stood out as she led discussions about multitasking. Her enthusiasm was evident as my AP students listened intently and engaged in discussion with her. She is a student who never would have had an opportunity to interact with advanced students in a class because she has always taken on-level classes. In fact, she has struggled with and even failed English classes in the past. She now has an A in English.

As teachers, we often feel we must control and implement every aspect of students’ learning. We undervalue students’ gifts and abilities when our classrooms are teacher-centered rather than student-centered. There are times when we must be the focus for learning, but giving students an opportunity to learn from one another in projects such as this not only brings out their skills and confidence, but strengthens them as learners and valuable members of a classroom and school community.

Students discuss the impact of multitasking
Student Reflection

The Shallows has influenced me alot. It has put alot of thoughts in my head. I think of all the pros and cons of the Internet. It makes me think "is it worth it?" There are some serious cons to using the Internet all th time. But there are great pros to using it also. The Shallows collaborative event really showed some light on the effects of using the Internet. I sat with groups of kids, and some it didn't really get in to their brain of what I was trying to say. But a couple of groups really got into it and I think expressing some of my experiences that I've gone through. The Internet can be a blessing and a curse. (This program) has made them think and change their perspective on using the Internet. - Lissie

Teacher Librarian Reflection/ Conclusion

This program is an excellent example of how the school library can support a student led collaborative learning event. We have so many resources in our library spaces just waiting to be utilized by visionary students. I believe this is an important mission for the Future Ready Librarian. It is so crucial that we assist teachers in giving their students a voice in the classroom. The library is a perfect staging area for such events since we have resources on every subject in addition to vibrant technology. I will be using Mrs. Garner's students as an example for other teachers (and students) in our learning community. I can't wait to see how this program inspires others to step out of their comfort zones!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Close the year with student voices!

Connect your library with Skype.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Close The Year With Student Voices

As the hectic pace of May continues to build, it is easy to get wrapped up in end-of-the-year procedures. During this time teacher librarians everywhere are making lists of overdue items, teaching classes, completing library inventory reports, and more. What if we also used these last few weeks as a time to invite students to give us feedback on how the year went for them in the library? This is exactly what we have done at Lakeside High School for the past few weeks, and the feedback has been informative. We wanted to know how our services impacted the students. We also want to know how students think we can improve. Read on for a brief description of how we have heard their voices.

Google Form Survey

We decided to create a Google Form to email out to all of the students. We asked only four questions (3 multiple choice and 1 optional short paragraph written answer).

  • The library media center has a warm and inviting climate for the LHS learning community. (Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree)

A large number of students agree that the library climate is warm and inviting!

  • The student resources in the library media center serve your needs (both academic & recreational). (Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree)
The majority of students that responded gave positive reviews of library resources.

  • The library staff demonstrates a good understanding of technology and assists students with technology problems in a timely manner. (Always, Sometimes, Rarely, Never)

The majority of students that responded seem to be happy with our technology assistance.

  • Please tell us how we can improve our services. (If you should have a complaint, please provide a possible solution). 41 students responded to this optional short answer response.

We emailed the link out to approximately 1360 students. 110 voluntarily participated! I must admit, I was a bit nervous to open ourselves up to anonymous feedback in this format. The results were very encouraging. We also identified a need that our users indicated in their written responses. Several students requested that we provide a quiet space for study before school and during lunch. I can understand this request since the library typically has well over 60-100 students in its spaces during those periods. We have always had a "quiet zone" available to students, but few have asked for it. This feedback lets us know it is still a need to a small population of our users. We are already advertising the "quiet zone" again even though there are only a few weeks left of school. In addition, we have been brainstorming additional quiet spaces for next year and have been consulting with our administrators on future possibilities. This process has let me see the value of seeking our user's voices! If I wouldn't have taken a risk in posting the survey for everyone, we may have not learned about this need!


We also decided to create an opportunity for students to share their voices in a more personal way. Kaitlyn Price (co-librarian) and I have been experimenting with Padlet this year. We thought it would be interesting to ask students what they will remember most about the library from this school year. We decided to make this a fun activity with the opportunity to win something. (If students give feedback, they get to enter a prize drawing.) We posted this question on a Padlet, "What will you remember about the library this year? Tell us what stands out to you." We put this on an iPad at the front desk and announced the drawing for anyone that participates. So far, 14 students have participated. They have written some wonderful things for us to read. It has made our library staff realize how much being consistently friendly and supportive can make a difference to young people. Here are some of their responses:

"I like to sit in the library and read or study while listening to music. The librarians are always really nice, whether it's letting me leave my stuff in the library or suggesting books. I'll remember the book that I was suggested with one week to read, and of course the librarian who suggested it." 
"I will remember the book club. I was introduced to a new book called Unwind and the discussions we had and getting to talk to other schools about the book Wonder."
Padlet Screenshot

"I will remember how welcoming all the librarians are. Each time I come it I feel at home and I never feel like I'm going to be turned away. I will always remember how they helped me come out of my bubble this year and encouraged me to participate in school events." 

"I will remember the first time coming here for a tour of the campus. The library was the most memorable thing about the school. I could not wait to come in here and feel comfortable reading with everyone else. Also, me and my friends eat in the library for breakfast and lunch and we always enjoy being in here." 


Kaitlyn and I also decided to give students an option to respond on Flipgrid by creating short videos. So far, students have favored the Padlet more. (Most say that they don't like making video responses.)  Previously, I had also used Flipgrid to allow students to answer this question, "How has the school library changed you this year?" We had 8 students and 1 teacher respond. I recently used some of these as part of a keynote presentation at a library conference! Special thanks to Microsoft Education for providing Flipgrid to Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts this school year. It has made a difference for me and our learning community through these activities.

Incorporate Feedback Into An Annual Report

Now that we have this data, we must do something with it! Kaitlyn and I can't wait to share portions of these results on our annual report. The survey shows areas of strength according to our learners; in addition,  we know the areas that we need to improve for next year. The Padlet and Flipgrid entries share specific stories from students. Such endorsements from student users are gold to library stakeholders! These wonderful quotes and stories share the value of the school library program to our administrators and school board. Now that we have tried this with success, I want to improve our surveys in the future. There are so many ways we can solicit student feedback!

I hope you will also consider stepping out of your comfort zone and invite your student users to give feedback. You never know what ideas they may present to you. It is true that all feedback will not be useful. One thing is for certain, if students see you acting on their feedback and/ or appropriate requests, good things will happen. Such actions show them that their voices are important and the library is for them. I think you will be surprised how little input students typically have in public school. Why not lead this process from the library?

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Computers in Libraries 2017


Back in the fall of 2016, my friend Tracey Wong asked me to present a session with her at the Computers in Libraries Conference in Washington, D.C. Tracey is a school librarian in New York. I was very excited about this opportunity since I had never attended an out of state library conference. This was a chance to attend a national library/ technology conference and share our best practices!


Tracey had her session, "Game Design as a Catalyst for Learning", accepted by the conference. We both applied for the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEExpert) travel program and were accepted. (Read this earlier blog article I wrote about being an MIEExpert if you want to know more.) With the travel program, Microsoft would send us to the conference and provide for our travel and room accommodations. Now we were ready to start creating our content.

Brainstorming Content

Both of us had cool tools we wanted to share. Tracey had been using VR Quest as a way to teach her students about virtual reality game creation. She and I had also both been using Minecraft with students in our school libraries. We decided to focus on both VR Quest and Minecraft in our presentation.

Earlier this year, I wrote about my first experiences with Minecraft with students in summer school. I also wrote a post about how several of our learners took the lead with Minecraft. This was one of my favorite articles to share because a few of the students created screenshot videos of them describing why they like Minecraft as a learning tool. I decided I would focus on a few of these examples from the current school year. Tracey and I also thought it would be great to Skype with one of my students during the session. We began to create and curate our slides and other content for the presentation.

Flying to DC

The jet that took me to Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport
In my lifetime, I've only flown a few times. While serving in the 106th Army Band in the Arkansas Army National Guard, I flew on the big C-130 aircraft a few times during our summer annual training missions. Flying has always been a bit scary for me. I knew I wanted this opportunity to share our student's stories more than the fear of flying, so I hopped on a plane at the Clinton National Airport that took me to Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport. From there, I flew to Reagan International Airport in Washington, D.C. The two flights took half of the day, but it was a pleasant experience.

Meeting New Friends

Upon arriving at the hotel, I had a chance to finally meet Shannon Miller and her husband Eric Fitzgerald. This meant the world to me since Shannon had inspired me to create this blog in 2014 when she spoke at our state Arkansas Association of Instructional Media conference! We had a pleasant visit. I was also able to visit with another important mentor to me, Joyce Valenza. The next day, I had the privilege of meeting another teacher-librarian I follow on social media, Michelle Luhtala. I love attending professional conferences where I can meet important school library thought leaders face to face (even if it is only for a brief time).

Our Session

On the day of our session, we arrived early to check that all our technology was working. We weren't sure how many might come to the session. 20 minutes before starting time the room began to fill up.
Approximately 110 people attended the session. We were excited about the turnout since there were about 1300 attending the conference! Tracey started the presentation by talking about VR Quest and the potential for deeper student learning through the creation of games. She brought her VR setup and asked for a member of the audience to assist. To our good fortune, there happened to be a young person in the session named Alex. He jumped at the chance to demonstrate the VR Quest device. The audience could see on the projector screen what Alex was viewing through the VR headset.

Tracey helped Alex with the VR Quest headset
 After this, Tracey gave a brief overview of Minecraft. She described the basics of the game and provided some additional resources and tutorials for attendees. Following her part of the presentation, I shared about our first experiences with Minecraft last summer and how two students (Jared and Shawn) built the library in Minecraft. Later this led to both of them presenting to our entire faculty prior to school starting! I also shared about how a student created a puzzle based on the Plymouth colony for the history department. (This was part of a student-led BreakoutEDU session.) I couldn't pass up talking about LHS 8th grader, Jordan, and his castle built in Minecraft. Each example showed the possibilities of using Minecraft to teach math, science, electronics, problem-solving, and more.

Jordan presented via Skype!

During the final 10 minutes, we Skyped with Jordan back home in Arkansas. I'm very grateful to my colleague, Kaitlyn Price (@Kait_Price11), for helping set this up for us. He and the attendees exchanged waves and greeted one another. Jordan seemed so fearless as he shared why he liked using Minecraft as a learning tool in the classroom. After a few moments of sharing, it was time to begin wrapping up our 45-minute session. The crowd gave Jordan a wonderful round of applause! After this, we answered a few questions and allowed attendees to try on the VR headset.

Highlights of Other Sessions 

I attended many sessions during the conference and learned many new concepts from each. These were some of my favorite sessions:

Smithsonian Museum in a Box

I attended a session shared by Sara Cardello, Education Specialist at the Smithsonian Libraries in Washington, D.C. She shared that the libraries have been working with a company called Museum in a Box. She shared that the pilot program intends to allow photos and artifacts to be sent to schools anywhere. Students can hold the artifacts near a box with a computer in it. The computer inside the box would then play audio that provides more information about the specific artifact to the users. She showed us several examples! I hope this program becomes a reality soon. Our students and teachers would love it! Watch the sample video on the Museum in a Box website. (They are the London-based company that the Smithsonian Libraries are using for this program.) I also noticed that Shannon Miller wrote about this session on her blog.

Evolving With Evidence

I attended a session by Joyce Valenza, Michelle Luhtala, and Shannon Miller. They showed us a variety of ways to collect and share evidence with library stakeholders. One of the biggest takeaways for me was that simply showing our classroom use statistics or circulation numbers are not enough. We must strive to show how library use is impacting student learning and ways it is changing the learning community! I'll share more thoughts on this in a future newsletter.

Transformation & Community Engagement

I attended a session by Dr. Tod Colgrove, Head, DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library, University of Nevada, Reno. I frequently wonder about makerspaces in public school libraries and what that can look like beyond the K-12 environment. Dr. Colgrove gave us a glimpse into his world through a science and engineering lens. He shared how the DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library has numerous innovation tools that students are constantly using. He told a story about a learner that taught himself how to create things with the 3D printers. He also learned how to solder connections and code. Over time this student built a fully functional robotic arm and hand while using innovation tools in the university library. The student has now launched his own business and builds such innovations for his living! This is what I hope our school library innovation spaces will help students create... a bright future! I'm so glad to see we are on the right track in public school librarianship by supporting student innovations.


A pic I took over Dallas/ Fort Worth
This trip allowed me to see what it is like to travel to distant conferences! Many thanks to Tracey Wong for inviting me to collaborate with her on this session. Thank you to Microsoft for sending me on this journey to share our students' work with Minecraft at a national conference. Thank you to my administration and co-workers for allowing me to attend. Tracey and I have already been approved to present at the ISTE conference in June 2017. I can't wait for this next opportunity to share our students' stories!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Our Civil War adventures in the library.

How our students took the mic at a TLChat webinar.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

Contact Me/ Follow Me

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Civil War Adventures in the Library


Being a school librarian provides countless opportunities to support the curriculum in our buildings. We had been discussing how we might incorporate a collaborative program to introduce the Civil War to 8th grade social studies classes this spring. Coach April Lawson and Mr. Brooks Lee were on board for such an event. What happened next was actually two wonderful programs that provided their students with a variety of experiences to introduce the period. We also realized that these programs could easily be expanded in the future to further enhance the experiences!

Skype With The Virginia Historical Society

In a previous blog article, I discussed how we use Skype in the Classroom to connect with other places for virtual field trips, Skype lessons, and guest speakers. While searching for ideas to complement the social studies classes, I ran upon a Skype program through the Virginia Historical Society called "The Civil War: An American Turning Point." We were able to connect with a wonderful intern named Ben. He talked about the economic and industrial differences between the North and South. He also showed us artifacts that soldiers might have carried. Our students enjoyed the 50-minute program and went back to class telling the teachers about their experience!

Ben showed our students various items carried by soldiers

Library Collaboration

We decided to put together a library collaboration to further introduce students to the Civil War period. We chose to have 5 learning stations that included a medical tent, music, and art. Coach Lawson asked if we might possibly have a BreakoutEDU component. After working together for a few days, we came up with several puzzles to embed in the experience. Below are brief descriptions of each learning station.

1. Bill of Rights Display

We were provided a wonderful Bill of Rights display by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Archives and Records Administration. We decided to incorporate it into one of our rotations. Students were asked to analyze the Bill of Rights to determine which amendments were added after the Civil War and what this meant for former slaves.

2. Appomattox Courthouse Surrender Video

Students watched a video on the library laptop computers about General Lee's surrender at Appomattox. They were asked to answer questions based on the video.

3. Civil War Era Music

At this station students listened to the popular Civil War era song called "John Brown's Body". They were provided the lyrics to the song at the station. They were asked to respond to questions about the song after a period of listening was provided.

4. Medical Tent

Mrs. Peggy Schaeffer, one of our assistants, created a medical tent station in the library by using an old food service tent. She put white bulletin board paper all around the tent to give it an appearance from the era. She also posted various photos in the tent. Students were told a wounded soldier had dropped an important clue in the tent. They discovered a locked pencil box and envelope containing directions. The envelope clue led groups to another room where they had to read an article to discover the three digit number to unlock the box. Inside the box was a map, ruler, and additional clue. They had to use map reading skills to find how many miles soldiers had to travel to Fredericksburg. This knowledge would help them solve one of the final puzzles after all rotations were completed.

Students enjoyed searching for the clues in the lockbox at this station

5. Thomas Nast Art Selection

Mrs. Schaeffer found "Emancipation" by Thomas Nast. We decided to use this piece for an art station during the rotations. Students had to look at the artwork and write down four significant points that stood out to them.

6. BreakoutEDU Challenge

After all of the rotations were complete, we brought out BreakoutEDU boxes for each of the 5 groups. Students had to solve two puzzles to successfully break out. Teachers wanted to make this a final challenge to see which groups could win by finishing first. All students were very engaged during this last "mission".

Student Reflections

"This Civil War activity in the library for Mr. Lee's class was a lot of fun and a great experience. The most fun I had was the lock boxes. This is something I (would like) to do again."  - Amberly G.

"Yesterday my class did a breakout session during our social studies period. I really enjoyed being able to get out of our classroom and being able to interact with another class. It definitely was a challenge to breakout (of) the clues in the locked box. It was really fun in Station 4 when we had to find the classroom that had the clues in it. One way you could improve this breakout session is giving us more time. I don't think 7 minutes was enough to find our clues. Overall, this was a really great experience." - Jordan S.

Teacher Reflections

Coach Lawson's Reflection

We began brainstorming this type of activity several months ago on ways to bring the Civil War to life. With the help of all of our Library Staff ( Mr. Evans, Mr. Borel, Mrs. Kaitlyn Price, and Mrs. Peggy Schaffer along with Mr. Brooks Lee, and myself) we reached the idea of using our breakout edu resources. The process all starts with creating puzzles and activities that the student are given an essential question or a set of instructions to follow and they must work together to solve the data.

We developed 5 different stations ranging from a medical tent, search and find map coordinates (having to use cardinal directions), to music and video representations of that era. The students were provided their orders and set loose to work and learn together. These stations may have used primary sources via hands on or technical components to aide the students in solving their clues or puzzles.

To finish the process the student groups completed their orders and came back to main camp to receive their breakout trunk to solve and see which troops would be successful opening the trunk to be declared the troop that broke out and won the activity. This is our BreakoutEDU resources and the kids love them.

I believe the students and the instructors enjoyed watching and participating in the activity. Many students walked away a leader and feeling the success of leading their brigade to a successful mission. I believe there were key informational details on the topic learned by all students as well as some other staff that came by to see the progress.

Using this type of activity allows students to take on the role of learning in a much more active and fun manner. It’s a chance to bring history alive into the present day for them to better understand the connections of what the past has done or is doing within the present. I also believe students that are active in their learning are able to retain and understand the content as well as the skills and procedures that will help them be successful in their future educational journeys. I love being a project based instructor allowing my students to take on the role to guide their own educational experience and the unity of working together to collaborate and solve the issues. These skills will empower students to become stronger minded, more open and free willed adults and leaders of tomorrow.

We as educators involved in this activity have already started the brainstorming process to take this activity to the next level and really design a learning center that is alive and active as well as informational and fun for our future students. We have a GREAT team of educators working for the futures of our prospective eager and successful students.

Next Steps

As Coach Lawson indicated in her reflection, we are already brainstorming potential additional material for next year. We have talked to our school nurse and a community volunteer to add them to the medical tent station. The school nurse has even offered to dress in a Civil War era costume. We have all discussed the possibility of creating a "camp" scene outside the library and bringing in food selections from the period. All of us involved want to wear Civil War costumes and uniforms! If you can think of ways we might improve this program in the future, please, add your suggestions to the comments below or email me!

In addition, I plan to share many of the resources we found for this program in my April 2017 newsletter (be sure to subscribe below to receive these!)

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

How we broke the language barrier in the library.

Adventures with OER and Google Groups.

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