Saturday, August 29, 2015

To Grant Or Not To Grant?

They take a lot of time and effort and they may not pay off, but when they do grants can change everything. Grant funding can make the difference in a educational program for students. Long ago I discovered their powerful impact, when I received a Target grant to purchase books for my library in a low income neighborhood. The second grant I applied for, I thought was a long shot, but it paid off. I read about a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Grant to learn more about Thomas Day, an African American entrepreneur who lived in North Carolina in the 1800's. I wrote an essay explaining why I felt learning more about Thomas Day would benefit my library program. I wrote from the heart, explaining that I wanted to build a multicultural library where many voices could be heard especially the voices rarely heard in History books. My essay was accepted and I received a grant that paid for a two week stay in North Carolina, while I completed a fellowship. I traveled to museums looked at artifacts, and learned more about African American entrepreneurs in the 1800's.

My district has an educational fund, so teachers can write grants to request funds. I wrote a grant to receive Playaways for my library. That year I transfered to another campus, so the librarian taking my place got the honor of placing the order to purchase the Playaways. Typically grant materials stay at the campus where the grant was written. I wrote another grant for Playaways at my new campus and it too was funded.
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But sometimes it doesn't workout. I've poured my heart and time into several applications for funding only to hear sorry, we are not funding your grant, but try again next year. This has happened more often recently, because I apply for every grant that's applicable to my library program. Last year, when we started the makerspace in my elementary library, there was no budget. Grants paid for a lot of the products in the space. A Donor's Choose grant paid for four Raspberrypi computers and accessories. This site creates an "on-line campaign" for the educational items you would like your students to have, and once the funds are raised Donor's Chose sends you the items from Amazon.

As I sat up the makerspace last year, I invested a lot of time and energy to write what I thought was a beautiful proposal to receive a Fund for Teacher's Grant. I wanted to travel to New York City to learn more about 3D printing and makerspaces. It wasn't meant to be last summer, I was told thanks but no thanks. I stayed home and read books about makerspaces instead. I won't write the same proposal, but I will apply again. Hearing "no" is not going to stop me from applying.

My most recent grant was from the Friends of the Library group in my district for four Ollie robots. My Students love the sphero, and there is always a long line to program and control sphero, Ollies will be a great addition.

Makerspace tools cost a lot and it's just one section in a library. Grants can go a long way to make it happen @ the library!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Fresh New Books Worth Class Time Fall 2015

Here's a list of books to use to teach Social Studies Topics. These books can be used to teach the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies (NCSS). Below one NCSS Standard is listed others can be found within the books. The suggested grade level appropriateness is also listed. Click the link listed below the book's cover to read the synopsis or book review. The chapter books would be great for book clubs. Cross Curricular Connections can also be made within each book.

Drum Dream Girl (K-3) NCSS 2 Time, Continuity, and Change

Last Stop On Market

Last Stop On Market Street
 (K-3) NCSS 7 Production, Distribution, and Consumption

ECHO (5-8) NCSS 5 Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
Gone Crazy In Alabama (4th - 6th) NCSS 1 Culture

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries Four Families A Fine Treat
(K-3) NCSS 2 Time, Continuity, Change

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans                                             (K-3) NCSS 9 Global Connections

What Do You Do With an Idea  (K-3) NCSS 4 Individual Development and Identity
Listen, Slowly (4-8) NCSS 4 Individual Development and Identity

Stella by Starlight (5-8) NCSS 2 Time, Continuity, Change

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Makerspace Fosters Character Building Traits

We created a makerspace in the library of our STEM elementary campus to give the students a chance to explore Science, Engineering and Math topics. I didn't realize the makerspace we created was going to be so much more. When one first looks at the concept of a makerspace one may think... oh it's just centers or a place for indoor recess. I was even told make sure this doesn't become just a tinker room. After having a year to experience a makerspace in the library and researching the concepts and philosophies associated with a makerspace, I realize this makerspace offers character building traits students will needs beyond their school years.
Teamwork and Collaboration
When a student comes into the makerspace, they are expected to work collaboratively with a group or partner. One may have more experience on a topic, so students are given a chance to learn from each other. This also gives them a chance to work as a team and engage in constructive criticism and respect for one another.
Creativity and Curiosity 
Makerspace time in the library gives students a chance to pursue their interest. The library has always been the place to get resources and its always been a community gathering place. Students continue to check out books and research topics based on personal interest, but now they have a space to take it a step farther, and they now have an area to tinker, create, and invent. 

Tinkering is not a bad thing, it is a real world way of learning. It's how Engineers and Scientist come up with their innovative designs and discoveries. If there is not time for tinkering, then where are innovation and creativity found? Students having time to tinker and create, leads them to being intrinsically motivated. If you're looking for tinkering opportunities, this web-site is a great place to start. If you want it ready to go, in a box.

Grit and Perseverance 
One of the best things I love about the makerspace is that it's a safe place where it's okay fail. The space is not about the librarian or teacher being the expert. We are there just to scaffold them as they "understand to invent" (Piaget). As students try and fail they learn and improve. This is an ongoing circular design model. One of my favorite new rules, I'm going to implement in the makerspace this year is three before me. I want them to try three times and ask three people before they seek my help. My hope is that this will help to instill grit in my students. The same grit students need to become a video game expert or a Pokemon expert is found in their makerspace projects. Grit and Perseverance are character traits one needs to get through the marathon of life. Angela Duckworth offers a great TED Talk on grit. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Book Review: Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom

"To understand is to invent" ( Piaget, 1976) this quote is found on the first page and through out the book, which focus on children creating and inventing to learn. The title of the book is a perfect fit. This book explains that children need to tinker, play, and given opportunities to invent, so they can learn. Students remember projects and collaborative groups not worksheets and pointless facts. Makerspaces are giving us an opportunity to rethink how we teach, as we try to get our students ready for the competitive ever changing "real world." Making gives students a chance to take ownership of their learning even if what they create isn't perfect. Making also gives them confidence to trust themselves. In a world of high stakes testing, this is a refreshing book to really think about how students learn. 
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Makerspace: A Teacher's Resource

Just like every class can have a classroom library, every class can have a makerspace. When children are allowed to try, fail, and tinker with their ideas, we are giving them permission to trust themselves. The slides below are from a recent workshop on creating a makerspace in your classroom.