Lights, Science, ACTION!: Thank You

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When we last left Lights, Science, ACTION!, the crew was getting their hands dirty (both literally and physically) with allllllll the science. From filmmaking to seed planting, we were knee deep in exciting, real-world science experiences, and loving every minute of it!

In case you missed it, Lights, Science, ACTION! is a club offered by the Learning Leopard Library in collaboration with local non-profit organization Light House Studio. Light House Studio’s mission is to “bring young people together to make movies.” From their website:

“We are a nonprofit filmmaking center dedicated to helping students develop their vision and show their work. We believe in the importance of collaboration and community, the creativity of young minds, and the lasting benefits of our hands-on mentor-based approach to teaching the art of filmmaking.”

Light House Studio brought their collaboration, mentorship, creativity, and joy for filmmaking to Lights, Science, ACTION!, and the results were incredible. You can read more about our experiences and see photos of the team in action here.

I’m so excited this morning to share the final result of eight weeks of hard work. Each short video encompasses one subject – watch them together, separately, in order, whatever you want. While you watch, keep in mind that the filming, interviewing, and many of the editing decisions were completed by third and fourth grade students, thanks to the mentorship from the Light House Studio team.

Animation Day at Johnson from Light House Studio on Vimeo.

Leaf Rubbings from Light House Studio on Vimeo.

The Johnson Garden from Light House Studio on Vimeo.

Camouflage Creatures from Light House Studio on Vimeo.

If you’d like to share these awesome videos, follow the link at the bottom of the post to view the full album and find links for sharing. 

I was so impressed with the quality of work from our student filmmakers – and with the incredibly talented Light House Studio film team that put it all together. It made me so proud to see the student excitement and passion captured on film – is there any better commercial for science, filmmaking, and after school programming? But my favorite part was the quirky humor and silliness that shines through. Even as dedicated scientists and filmmakers, this group had a creative, fun-loving feel and a delightfully wacky sense of humor that made every meeting more fun than the last. I hope that you can feel that lovely eccentricity while you watch.

As I progress through my career in teaching and librarianship, I am starting to feel more like a veteran; and yet, my capacity to learn from my experiences keeps growing and growing. The more time I spend with students, the more I learn about the big plans they have for the world around them. My experience with Light House Studio and the Lights, Science, ACTION! group gives me yet another reason to look forward to the future – if these kids have anything to do with it, this world is going to be a truly weird and wonderful place.

To the patient, dedicated, and talented Light House Studio -thank you so much for everything. You brought so much more than just camera equipment to Johnson. We adore you! None of these creative, dirty, wonderful experiences without your help.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Prana Fund, Light House offered this program to us at no cost, and student club members don’t have to pay a cent to participate. I love getting to spend this special time in nature with Johnson students, and am so grateful to Light House Studio for making it possible.

Want to know more?

 View the full album of Lights, Science, ACTION! videos on Vimeo here.

Watch more Light House Studio videos on their Vimeo here. 

Learn more about Light House Studio and their amazing community work here.

 

Books on Bikes featured in School Library Connection

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Long, hot days and countdowns to summer vacation can mean only one thing…

…it’s BOOKS ON BIKES season!

Your favorite group of helmet wearin’, pedal pushin’, popsicle eatin’ librarians and teachers are gearing up for the 2016 summer season. Our summer schedule is now live, and we’re so excited to be starting a new season with the many other Books on Bikes chapters popping up all over the United States.

Just in time, Books on Bikes was featured in a national periodical, School Library Connection. We are honored to see the article in print and thrilled to be sharing our project with the school library community all over the country. Below you can find a digital copy of our three-page spread. Read to find out more about Books on Bikes! And as an extra bonus, this article will help you get to know Rebecca Flowers, Walker Upper Elementary School’s current librarian, who will  be stepping in to take over Johnson’s library (and this blog!) next year. Tip: Her name isn’t on the bio page, but Ms. Flowers is a founding member and driving force behind Books on Bikes, and the cartoon on the final page is her beautiful artwork. 

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Want to know more about Books on Bikes? Check out this ride-along video created by awesome local artist, jack-of-all-trades, and friend to biking librarians everywhere, Kevin Cwalina.

 

BOB Video R1 from Kevin Cwalina on Vimeo.

Spring 2016 Book Fair Scholarship Essays

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It’s that time of year again! Our Spring Book Fair is in full swing, and we are collecting donations to make our Book Fair Scholarships for this fair a success. Each year we raise hundreds of dollars to fund scholarships for hard working students that can’t afford to purchase books from the Book Fair. This year, we have a record number of students in need – which means that we need your help.

Why donate? Why give money for other kids to buy books, when you’ve already scrounged to provide for your own? Why purchase a raffle ticket for a basket full of stuff you don’t really need?

Because while we’re fundraising, Johnson students are busy writing; each applicant must complete a scholarship essay to be considered for an award. Instead of telling you why I think you should give, I’ll let the recipients of your generosity speak for themselves.

This year, the Book Fair Scholarship Essay prompt asked students to finish a sentence. When I am reading a book that I really love, I feel… 

Here is what they said.

When I am reading a book that I really love, I feel… excited. […] I never want to let go of reading it would be like selling a part of my personality at the market. When I’m reading, it feels like I’m soaring above the clouds, but when I have to close a book I feel like I have nowhere to go and nothing to do. Who would I be without reading, reading is my world. Someday I’m going to write my own book so that kids like me can read it and never let go of reading. I think everyone should have at least one book. Reading is not just an activity to me it’s part of me. I’m not scared when I’m reading, I fee free and brave and I feel wise. Reading helps me in life. I know from reading you don’t have to act like anybody else you are great just the way you are. […] Every page in a book is a new memory for the kid who reads it.”

 – Johnson third grader

 

When I am reading a book that I really love, I feel…relaxing and calm. I love reading so much. It’s so interesting. Read helps me learn and it helps me calm down. I hope this someday inspires someone. I love reading and I will never ever let anyone get in my way.”

– Johnson third grader

 

When I am reading a book that I really love, I feel… amazing. Another world. Read it again. Awesome, cool, a wonderful experience, a cool book to read. Take my time on reading a book, learning what is the book talking about.”

– Johnson fourth grader

 

When I am reading a book that I really love, I feel…so happy even when it is raining or cold and I am alone I know I am with my friend. A new friend. Also I can visit them I can play with them and they make me forget when I am sad or angry.”

– Johnson second grader

 

When I am reading a book that I really love, I feel… happy. Great. I feel that I rock like a rocket ship cause I love books so much. I’ve never known I will read as much as I live cause I love books so much.”

– Johnson third grader

 

“When I am reading a book that I really love, I feel…happy. I feel like I’m in the book. I feel like I’m saving it. I feel like an adventurer. I feel like a castle and a dragon. I feel like I’m flying. I feel like I’m jumping and running. I feel like Superman. I feel like I’m getting stronger and shorter. I feel like I’m playing.”

– Johnson second grader

 

When I am reading a book that I really love, I feel… happy because books are good for you. Because it makes you get better at reading. In some books that are hard just sound it out if you can’t sound it out tell the teacher. And if a teacher gets you to read to her you can get the words right. And if it is hard just try your best.”

– Johnson third grader

 

When I am reading a book that I really love, I feel… happy. And I love your books. It makes me feel not sad. It just makes me feel happy every time. I really loved it. When I read it, it makes me dream about it every time. And I love to read and be a good girl every time. I love books.”

Johnson second grader

 

When I am reading a book that I really love, I feel… excited when I read a book. I was proud. I was nervous when I won the prize last year.  I was happy when I won. I was proud when I won the money. I was very happy when I won. I was nervous. I hope that I win this year.”

– Johnson second grader

 

The Book Fair Scholarship Committee hopes to fund almost 100 scholarships this Spring.

You can donate to the Book Fair Scholarship Fund by visiting the Learning Leopard Library, or by contacting me (fitzhes1@charlottesvilleschools.org).

Spring Book Fair Raffle tickets will be on sale through this evening’s family shopping event at the Spring Concert (cash only). 

The 2016 Spring Book Fair is here!

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Our Spring Book Fair from Bedford Falls has arrived! And friends, it is a beaut.

All of your favorites from our fall shopping spree have returned, plus more. Find all of the Magic Tree House Books, a full cart of Newberry and Caldecott award winners, favorite picture books in hardback and paperback, and even board books for the little ones. This year we also have a selection of books in Spanish, as well as a great variety of craft books, like drawing and origami!

While you’re shopping, take a moment to check out the haul from this fair’s Book Fair Scholarship Raffle! This raffle’s picnic theme makes the basket of books, games, and toys the perfect thing to get your family ready for summer break. And the winners can start their summer of on the right note with a VIP pass to the Books on Bikes Bike Parade on June 4th. The VIP pass means exclusive VIP decorations, a front row riding spot with the biggest Books on Bikes celebrities, and a special treat once we reach our final destination: the JMRL Summer Reading Kickoff Party!

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Fall book fair raffle

You can purchase tickets any time that the Book Fair is open for shopping, from 7:40 AM – 3:00 PM all week long. You can also shop for books and enter the raffle on Thursday evening at the Spring Concert, from 5:30 PM to the end of the PTO Ice Cream Social.

Johnson’s Book Fair Scholarship Program helps to purchase books for students that qualify based on financial need, and complete application essays about reading and literature. Over the past three years, the scholarship program, raffle, and donations have raised amazing funds thanks to your help. These have provided high quality, high interest books for almost a thousand Johnson students!

See you soon, shoppers!

Learn more about our Book Fair Scholarship program, and meet some of the lucky (and adorable!) winners, here.

 

 

Coming Soon: Spring Book Fair and more!

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We may be just a few weeks from the end of the school year, but don’t worry – we’re planning on squeezing a whole semester’s worth of events into the month of May 😉 And the library is no exception! Mark these upcoming dates on your calendar to be sure that you don’t miss anything.

Spring Book Fair with Bedford Falls – May 16-20

 The Johnson Spring Book Fair is coming up! The fair open for shopping on Monday, May 16-Friday, May 20th. Students can shop in the morning from 7:40-8:15, during their library time, or after school between 2:30-3:00. Additionally, the Book Fair will be open for families to shop on the evening of the Spring Concert from 5:45-7:30. While you’re shopping, don’t forget to check out the Spring Book Fair Raffle goodies and buy your tickets! Tickets are $3 each or two for $5. All proceeds raised from the Book Fair Raffle go toward funding Book Fair Scholarships for deserving Johnson students.

We need parent volunteers to make our Book Fair successful! If you’d like to volunteer your time to help students during the week of May 16, please contact me at fitzhes1@charlottesvilleschools.org. 

Read about our last Book Fair here, and follow this link to learn more about the Johnson Book Fair Scholarship Program. 

Final Week of Student Check-Out – May 9-13

I know it seems unbelievable, but the final week of student check out is almost here! Next week, May 9-13, will be the last week for Johnson students to bring new books home. The final two weeks of school, circulation will be focused on helping students to return their lost and overdue books to the library for inventory. Every book returned is one less that has to be paid for and replaced from our limited budget – so please check your students’ backpack for overdue notices, and do your part to help maintain our library collection!

Last year, I made a public plea for our lost books. Can you save me from groveling this year?

All Student Library Books Due – Friday, May 27

Our last week of checkout may be next week, but students are invited to keep their books through the Book Fair if they’d like. In the week following the Book Fair, library books will be returned by classes in the usual schedule. By the end of this week, notices will start coming home for lost and overdue books that haven’t come home yet. I know that a lot of flyers and papers come home during this time of year – but please keep your eyes out for overdue notices! That book is probably sitting on a bookshelf or in the car, waiting to be returned. We truly appreciate the effort!

Field Day – Tuesday, May 31

Popsicles. Games. Bouncy House. Sunshine. Enough said.

Fourth Grade Moving Up Ceremony – Thursday, June 2

Bring tissues.

Books on Bikes Bike Parade – Saturday, June 4

Help books on Bikes kick off our summer season with our third annual Bike Parade! Bring the whole family to decorate your bikes, learn about bike safety, and parade through downtown Charlottesville to celebrate literacy and your favorite summer program. We will end at the Jefferson Madison Regional Library main branch for their Summer Reading Kickoff Celebration. Honk, honk – you don’t want to miss it!

Our annual Bike Parade has grown every year thanks to your help. Check it out here in 2014, and then in 2015! How many will we have this year?

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Hold on tight for these last few weeks. As always, feel free to send any questions or concerns my way via email or phone. If you’re in the building, stop by and say hello – and I hope to see you all at our Spring Book Fair!

 

Introducing: Lights, Science, ACTION!

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Somewhere during the STEAM Team madness, I got an email. Local non-profit Light House Studio had an idea for a workshop that would be perfect for our tech-savvy, ever curious scientists. Would I like a STEAM Team project about movie making and science?

Nope. No thanks. I don’t want this to be a part of STEAM Team.

Because it is WAY. TOO. COOL.

This idea doesn’t deserve to be a short project tacked onto another club. This spectacular combination of high tech equipment and old fashioned hands-in-the-dirt activities deserves its own spotlight. Luckily, LightHouse agreed – and Lights, Science, ACTION! was born.

During Lights, Science, ACTION!’s eight week session, students are learning the ins and outs of basic filmmaking, including types of shots, types of cameras, how to run sound equipment, film set lingo, and interviewing and directing techniques. They are getting hands-on experience with state-of-the-art film and sound equipment, along with different types of filmmaking like stop-motion, claymation, and special effects. They are getting a peek behind the scenes of the editing process, learning the basics of layering video and sound, editing scenes to get the very best result, and adding special features like transitions and effects. And Light House Studio’s dedicated, experienced, patient mentors are with them every step of the way, providing individualized attention and instruction to help each child get the most out of the time behind the lens.

After our initial filmmaking workshops, the science experiments began. Each week, a small group of students gets to act as the documentary crew while the rest of the group participates in a short science lesson and experiment. The group shares stories and ideas about natural science while the crew records the action, ambiance, and interviews. All of the footage is edited and combined by the experts at Light House into a final project, which we will premiere on our final meeting in May.

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Whether we’re creating art from nature, digging (and chewing) in the garden, or studying animal behaviors, our science experiments help students to make observations and ask critical questions about the world around them. Together with our parent and community volunteers (pop quiz – can you spot Mr. Fitz in these photos?)  we are working on being more inquisitive, curious, and creative; all while working towards teamwork and a growth mindset.

As an added bonus, the filmmaking aspect of the club helps students to see their world through a different lens (da-dum-ching – see what I did there?). They have to answer new questions like, what will a viewer need to know to understand this experiment, without having heard the directions? Which students are focused enough to appear on film? Does this shot show what our group is all about? These questions force students to walk in a teacher’s shoes for an hour or two – and it is both hilarious and humbling to hear their reactions about how difficult it can be.

So much of students’ time in school is spent working quietly and independently towards the goal of a good grade on a test or assignment. These skills are essential for students to develop, but they’re not the only skills needed for a well-rounded, successful, and happy child. With so many demands and limitations placed on teachers, even Johnson’s exemplary staff can’t always get kids learning through moving, shaking, and making.  Thanks to the generosity and expertise of the Light House Studio team, the Learning Leopard Library can provide third and fourth grade students with rich, engaging, hands-on experiences that allow them to learn at their own speed, in their own way. Students are transformed when they are allowed to take an active role in their own learning – and whether they’re behind the camera or up in a tree, students on the Lights, Science, ACTION! team are exploring, growing, and making connections in a way that they won’t soon forget.

Keep your eyes on this space for more news and photos from Lights, Science, ACTION! This program will continue after school in the library through mid-May.

None of these creative, dirty, wonderful experiences without the generous help of Light House Studio. Thanks to a generous grant from the Prana Fund, Light House offered this program to us at no cost, and student club members don’t have to pay a cent to participate. I love getting to spend this special time in nature with Johnson students, and am so grateful to Light House Studio for making it possible. You may remember Light House Studio from their fantastic KickStarter video for Books on Bikes in 2014. LightHouse, founded in 1999, is on a mission:

“Light House brings young people together to make movies. We are a nonprofit filmmaking center dedicated to helping students develop their vision and show their work. We believe in the importance of collaboration and community, the creativity of young minds, and the lasting benefits of our hands-on mentor-based approach to teaching the art of filmmaking.”

Now that’s a mission I think we can all get behind. Find out more about Light House Studio including their locations, wonderful staff, and more ways that they make an impact in Charlottesville by visiting their website here

This Month in Photos: March 2016

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Spring is officially here, bringing with it all of the excitement of beautiful weather, bright flowers, and fun activities! Johnson is a flurry of excitement these days, and it’s all a librarian can do to keep up. March and April have been busy busy busy, and I’m happy to share a snapshot of some of the great things we’re sharing with your students.

March brought lots of excitement, with the Virginia Festival of the Book bringing some truly awesome visiting authors our way. Kevin Sherry, Timothy Young, and Julianna Morgan (with her rescue dog, Sashi) came to Johnson to share their books, while Johnson’s second and third grade students took the show on the road. We met with all of the second and third grade students in the city at St. Anne’s-Belfield to see Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg, authors of the mega-popular books The Stinky Cheese Man and Egg Egg Egg!, among many others. Scieszka and Weinberg did not disappoint their fans, relaying icky sticky stories and delivering jokes like a weathered comedy team. Students loved hearing about Scieszka’s childhood road trips with his brothers (spoiler alert: lots of carsickness involved) and getting a sneak peek at Weinberg’s new book, You Must be This Tall. Special thanks to St. Anne’s-Belfield for welcoming us to their campus for this special event, and to the Virginia Festival of the Book for all of their hard work in arranging these unique literary experiences.

You can read more about the Festival of the Book events at Johnson here.

Following our author visits, many classes were so inspired and excited that they felt the need to say thanks. Above are two thank you cards by Johnson kindergarteners for author Kevin Sherry. These adorable cards were inspired by Sherry’s book, I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean, which hasn’t stayed in the library for more than a few hours all month!

Fourth grade employees have really been proving their worth recently, completing more and more complicated library work during their lunch and recess shifts. Each day’s employees have different jobs – on Thursdays and Fridays you will find fourth graders checking in books, shelving, and delivering resources to teachers around the school, while Monday and Tuesday’s workers will monitor kindergarten and first grade classes, lending an extra hand to students in need. Above, employees show off their training with a first grade class; the first setting up the books for a first grade checkout period, and the next spending some special time reading with a younger buddy.

I love seeing the fourth graders take ownership in the library, and it has been so much fun to watch their library confidence and knowledge grow. Many are requesting extra shifts, extra responsibilities, and more extensive training. What started out as a small volunteer idea has now become one of the best parts of my day. Walker has some truly dedicated librarians coming up!

Speaking of mentors and helpers, have you seen the amazing videos that Johnson second graders created for their first grade buddies? I challenged second graders to think about the big changes that happen between first and second grade, and to create an instructional video to help first graders prepare for their upcoming transition. Second graders planned, wrote, shot, and edited the videos themselves (with just a little bit of help).

When the videos were finally finished, each second grade class hosted a special event for their first grade buddies, complete with a world premiere of their movies and a guided tour of all of the library’s best spots. You can learn more about this event and watch the videos here.

The Famous American Living Museum is always one of my favorite events of the year, and the fourth grade team knocked it out of the park this month! From Andy Warhol to the President and First Lady, Johnson’s fourth graders showed off their hard work and research skills with multi-faceted, engaging presentations about their Famous Americans. Posters, slideshows, monologues, costumes… you name it, our Museum had it. The traffic was heavy, but the exhibitions were worth the wait! Follow the link to view the PTO’s awesome blog post about the Famous American Living Museum.

Robotics, engineering, and Making are still front and center in the Learning Leopard Library, and it is amazing to see all of the things that our students can create. I can’t take any credit for the awesome light-up robot above, made only from tin foil, tape, and a watch battery – that was all HackMaster Jones! As an ITRT, Mr. Jones visits weekly with fourth grade classes to work on a STEAM and computer science curriculum. Their projects include amazing topics like Lego Robotics, circuits, MakeyMakey computer programming, Scratch, and more. I love my time meeting with Mr. Jones each week and hearing about all of the amazing things that our students are creating.

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Fourth graders aren’t the only one catching the Maker spirit. This Maker project was a creative gift from a growing mover and shaker! Second grader Alexis re-purposed items from around her house to turn them into a creative project. The end product is a fun and imaginative farm that makes me smile every time I look at it. Way to go, Alexis! You’re a true Maker!

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The beautiful weather has drawn us outside to talk about all things green and growing. Johnson students are so lucky to have our beautiful City Schoolyard Garden, and we love to peek at all of the plants growing in their flower beds. Above, pre-school makes observations about what they see, after reading a garden story about seeds and plants.

Pre-K isn’t just talking about growing.. we’re making things grow, too! This week, we read about Jack’s beanstalk and tried to build one of our own. In the story, the beanstalk is strong enough to carry Jack, the hen, the giant, and the giant’s wife… that is one sturdy structure! We experimented with what could make our beanstalk strong enough to stand, even with the giant making it shake. We tried lots of different bases and patterns to figure out, how can we make our beanstalk taller and stronger?

STEAM doesn’t have to involve fancy tools or computer coding. Sometimes it’s as simple as figuring out how things work, and then tweaking them to make them even better!

Lights, Science, ACTION! is still going strong on Thursday afternoons in the library. With help from our partners LightHouse Studio, students have been getting their feet wet in filmmaking AND their hands dirty in the garden. We are having a blast learning about camera and editing equipment and all of the work that goes into making a movie. And to put our new information to work, teams get to film our science experiments, documentary-style. On our last week in May, we will premiere the full film. I can’t wait!

Kindergarten is lucky enough to spend some quality time with the sisters of the Pi Beta Phi service sorority from the University of Virginia. Pi Beta Phi selected Johnson as the recipient of their CAR program (Champions Are Readers), which means that they come in every week to share their love of books with us. These ladies get cheers from the group ever week! You can learn more about our partnership with Pi Beta Phi here.

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Stop by the library soon to check out the next teacher featured on our Mustache board (hint.. he’s hiding somewhere behind that large paper mustache…) and see what he’s reading!

There are LOTS of exciting events coming up at Johnson, including the Principal Search Forum THIS FRIDAY and the PTO Spring Picnic next week! Don’t miss out on any of the fun – keep track of all of the events by following the Johnson Elementary School PTO on Facebook. Parents can also sign up to receive convenient PTO Newsletters in their email each week to stay on top of all of Johnson’s news.

See you all next week at the PTO Spring Picnic!

World Premiere: Second Grade Classes present, Take it From a Second Grader

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Over the past few months, Johnson second graders have been working even harder than usual. These students have stepped out of their comfort zone to become role models, mentors, and teachers to a few lucky first graders – and I couldn’t be prouder.

The videos embedded below were designed, scripted, shot, and “edited” by second grade students (with just a little help from a certain librarian). I challenged them to remember what it felt like to be a first grader getting ready for second grade, on the cusp of new independence and academic rigor. What advice did they wish that they had had as a new second grader? What wisdom have they gathered during their time in the second grade? Where are all of the Iron Man books?! With these questions in mind, we set about brainstorming, mapping, and shooting our movies.

As part of the challenge, I promised that the class with the best video would be published to our library’s YouTube channel. But after watching all three, there was no way that I could choose. You can find the links to all three videos below!

As second graders have learned more about video recording and editing, they have also been honing their teaching skills. This week, they came to the library during first graders’ scheduled library time and each spent 30 minutes coaching a first grade buddy in all things second grade checkout. This special time together included checkout tips and tricks, a special screening of their class movie, and guided tours of the library’s collection.

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Second graders rose to the occasion with excellent behavior and kind, patient teaching far beyond their years. They took their responsibility to the younger students seriously, and showed their pride, ownership, and understanding of our library. First graders not only left better understanding what library looks like as a second grader, but also feeling inspired and excited by how much their older mentors cared about them, about our library, and about the Johnson community.

Second grade classes, you should be so proud of all of your hard work on this special project! You can watch the videos on our library YouTube Channel, or via the links below. Great work, second grade!

Festival of the Book: Visiting Authors Kevin Sherry, Timothy Young, and Juliana Morgan

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When I moved to Charlottesville, I had no idea that it was home to the Virginia Festival of the Book, an annual celebration of all things literature. Through my years here I have attended sessions by authors and illustrators, discussed childrens’ books and non-fiction texts, heard authors read their own work and watched graphic novel artists create magic before a crowd. The Festival of the Book is a treasure trove for book lovers of all ages and types, and (astoundingly!), many of the events are free to the public.

Just in case that wasn’t enough, the Festival of the Book also works closely with Charlottesville City Schools and Albemarle County Public Schools to bring the magic of the Festival of the Book to our students. This year, hard working Festival organizers began the planning process back in November, working to provide schools with one-of-a-kind author experiences. And their hard work paid off!

First, we had a visit from Kevin Sherry, author of the hilarious and quirky favorites I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean and The Yeti Files, among others. I love sharing Mr. Sherry’s books with students because they get to laugh, learn, and participate in the story with me. They were thrilled as he hopped onto the stage, guitar in hand, wearing a giant bear head – and only got more excited when he started sharing bear knock-knock jokes!

With an intro like that, the auditorium was hanging on his every word. Mr. Sherry talked to us about why he writes, how he became an author, and some of his favorite things growing up that helped him to create his hilarious and quirky stories.

After we learned more about him, Mr. Sherry read some of his stories to us. These included a Johnson favorite, and the one that got the most audience participation – I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean!

We even got a sneak peek into his notebook, which included funny thoughts, ideas for new books, sketches, and all sorts of exciting author things.

Next, Mr. Sherry talked us through the writing and editing process for his awesome graphic novel, The Yeti Files. Leading yeti Blizz Richards didn’t start out as a vest wearing, exploring yeti hero – in fact, in the beginning, he was Betty the Yeti! But through the process of being edited and published, Mr. Sherry reinvented and reimagined the character until he became the Bliz we know and love. To celebrate all things Yeti, Mr. Sherry donned a yeti costume ended the presentation with a show-stopping yeti song.

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We wrapped things up with some student questions. The group was curious about Mr. Sherry’s books, his inspiration, and, of course, his guitar! The group was so engaged and excited about his visit. They’re still buzzing about the yeti that sang them songs. I’m dying over the mesmerized little faces in the photo below.

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Later that day it was time to greet our next visiting author, the wonderful Timothy Young. Mr. Young’s books seem to me like the perfect foray into a child’s mind – complete with mystery boxes, picture book tantrums, and penguin facts. Between his fun, silly stories and his beautiful illustrations, the students loved Timothy Young and his stories right away.

Mr. Young shared some of his favorites with us, including Do Not Open the Box, I Hate Picture Books, and zombie-loving crowd favorite They’re Coming. (The photo below was snapped during They’re Coming – only a spooky but hilarious zombie and creepy crawly story could get faces like that!)

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Students and teachers both loved Mr. Young’s presentation because of his mix of stories, jokes, fun details, and information about what it’s like to be an author and an illustrator. The students were so impressed when they learned that the intricate drawings were done by Mr. Young himself, and he inspired many budding artists.

In case that wasn’t enough, Mr. Young left us with a beautiful, personalized piece of artwork to hang in our library! I was a little bit excited about it, in case you can’t tell.

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On Friday morning, we had one last visitor – or, should I say, two. Author Juliana Morgan came to speak and brought the star of many of her stories, her rescue dog, Sashi.

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Juliana was so inspired by Sashi that she became an author to share her story. Now, Juliana and Sashi visit schools to talk about the special relationships between dogs and their humans, how humans can make animals feel comfortable and loved, and all of the wonderful things that can come along when you choose to rescue an animal.

As an animal lover, I was so excited to see Ms. Morgan and meet Sashi in person. And I wasn’t the only one! When word spread that a dog was visiting, the auditorium filled up – some students had to pull up chairs behind the back row. Ms. Morgan helped us to sit quietly and explained the importance of using self control to help Sashi to feel safe. Despite the large number of students in the audiorium, Sashi sat perched happily on Ms. Morgan’s lap for the whole hour – Ms. Morgan told me later that that was because our crowd was so respectful during her presentation.

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Students had lots of questions for Ms. Morgan and Sashi, wondering about her eating and sleeping habits, their school visits, and about how they found each other. My favorite question came from a first grader – “Does your dog lick?” Spoiler alert – she does!

Thank you so much to the hard working crew that puts together the Virginia Festival of the Book each year – you knocked it out the park again for 2016! These events are so special to our students, and they leave feeling so inspired and excited.

And thank you to Kevin Sherry, Timothy Young, and Juliana Morgan for traveling to Johnson to share your talents with us. You’ve always got fans in Charlottesville!

 

 

STEAM Team: Thank You

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Interested in enrolling your child in STEAM Team? We’ll be hosting another session for rising fourth graders in the fall. Keep your eye on the blog.

It’s been awhile since we’ve caught up with the Johnson STEAM Team! Have you been wondering what we’re up to??

We started our session back in February by talking about a growth mindset, and then putting that talk to action by designing, building, fixing, and making LOTS of mistakes with our STEAM toys. See even more photos here.

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From there, our team took off with lessons about thrust and propulsion, aerodynamics, structures, gravity, shapes, physics… you name it. With the help of our volunteers from the University of Virginia’s Alpha Omega Epsilon, a professional and social sorority composed of female engineering and technical science students,we built, designed, questioned, and shared a whole lot of very happy failures. I won’t give all of the secrets away to keep the surprise for future STEAMers. Instead, I’ll let the photos do the talking.

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But the real treat was our amazing crash course in all things awesome science from Dr. H – AKA Dr. Doug Himberger, professor of Physics and Business at Piedmont Valley Community College. Dr. Himberger spent three weeks with the STEAM Team teaching us about shapes, structures, explosions, and everything in between. Dr. H. is more than just a brilliant, creative, and extraordinarily successful scientist and businessman – he is also a passionate, patient, and caring teacher. From the moment he stepped in the door, the STEAM Team was transfixed. (The intimidating lab coat didn’t hurt.)

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Our grand finale came at our last meeting, when we put our STEAM skills to the test. This was one of the most exciting and rewarding moments that I have shared with students to date. You can see the pride coming out of my ears in the photo below. The sound of splintering popsicle sticks will forever make me smile.

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Made of popsicle sticks and wood glue, these pieces weighed no more than a few ounces – and our strongest structure held 24 pounds. And these kids are TEN YEARS OLD. These mini-scientists are going to change the world someday.

Library magic like this takes a village. I’ve got a lot of people to thank. Hold on to your hats!

To the generous contributors that made this possible via your donations to our library via DonorsChoose or other avenues, I can’t thank you enough. The toys, tools, and supplies that we have been given are a huge asset to our program. The countless parent inquiries and requests that I have received ensure that STEAM Team will be a lasting tradition at Johnson far into the future. A happy parent sent me this:

“I watched each of these children yesterday come out of
STEAM team. They are EXCITED about LEARNING.
YOU DID THIS! […] Thank you.”

That’s right, my friends. You did this. Thank you.

To the bright, kind, and lovely women of Alpha Omega Epsilon, thank you for sharing your time and experience with us. We couldn’t have done this without you. You make me proud, ladies – and you inspire some of the people I love the most. Thanks for being great.

Dr. H, thank you for donating your time and your passion to the world’s tiniest masterminds. You put a whole new world within our reach, and it is an experience that these incredibly lucky children will never forget.

STEAM Team, thank you for showing me how exciting and wonderful science can be.

Bored now that STEAM Team has come to a close? Not to worry! The Learning Leopard Library’s newest after school adventure, Lights, Science, ACTION!, begins Thursday, March 17th. Find out more.