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.

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

Student Book Review: Rachel’s review of Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen

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Hatchet

by Gary Paulsen

I really liked the book Hatchet because of all of the exciting animals.Brian Robeson is traveling to see his father when the single engine plane in which he is flying crashes in the canadian wilderness.He learns to survive with just a hatchet and his wits.During the fifty-four days he spends alone,he will uncover a new person within himself.

This Student Book Review was written by Rachel, a Johnson Elementary School student, and shared with the library via Google Docs. Rachel drafted and typed the book review independently. Rachel is in the third grade.

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!

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.

Family Connection: Resources for Talking to your Child about the 2016 Presidential Election

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2016 is an election year. I thought I’d let you know, just in case you haven’t heard 😉

It’s no secret that the upcoming presidential election is dominating the media. From the strongly worded nightly news to the boldly printed newspaper headlines, we are constantly surrounded by the hyperbolic report of what’s to come; criticism, name calling, and aggressive drama are everywhere you turn. And odds are, your kids are hearing it too. Elections, democracy, and what it means to be president are all topics that students cover in elementary school, but it can be difficult to explain an election of this magnitude. And when you add in confusing language, mudslinging ads, and wild antics, it’s not always an easy conversation.

The point of this conversation isn’t to inspire a new generations of Republicans or Democrats – it’s simply to teach students about their government by letting them see democracy in action. Whatever your political affiliation, it’s important to let your child know that you take your civic responsibility seriously – and that someday, they will have the privilege of shaping the world with their vote. There’s no need to discuss parties or to share video footage of recent debates (eh hem, I personally suggest that you skip that one); but taking the opportunity to share this monumental moment in history with your student can bring you closer, provide a great opportunity for discussion, and plant a seed for community and democratic involvement.

With the overall tone of this election so far, it’s not a surprise that I struggled to find kid-friendly resources for teaching about the 2016 Presidential election. Media coverage of an election can be scary and overwhelming for a child – I was on the hunt for fun, friendly, simple resources designed just for kiddos. From books to digital games, consider using the resources listed below to open a dialogue with your child about elections, democracy, and government. These lists include fun and engaging books curated specifically for children that will allow you to broach the subject of voting and leadership in a casual way.

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Parentmap.org’s We Vote for These! Great Books That Get Kids Election Ready and Civics-Savvy includes not only a thorough list of resources organized by age, but also great conversation starters and activities that you can try at home to really spark your child’s curiosity. From counting bumper stickers and yard signs to discuss community involvement to letting each member of the household play President for the day, this fun article is sure to get your family talking politics in a positive way.

EducationWorld offers a variety of resources in their list, Use children’s books to teach about elections: Ten books get our vote! This list provides both fiction and nonfiction resources for children aged 4-12. Explore the silly side of an election with Duck for President, share the great responsibility of democracy with The Day Gogo Went to Vote, or hook your fact-obsessed nonfiction reader with Presidential Elections and Other Cool Facts. Whatever title you choose, you can’t go wrong with the titles on this carefully curated list.

Targeted towards students in grades 3-5, Scholastic’s Books for Teaching about Elections includes a solid list of teacher-approved resources that are sure to get your student engaged. The heading Using These Books in the Classroom might seem intimidating, but you can find any of these books at your local library and enjoy them from the comfort of your own couch – no hall pass required!

Once you’ve read a few great stories, log on to check out some of these great digital resources:

No matter who you vote for in November, I hope you’ll take this opportunity to share the excitement of this uniquely American process with your family. Get readin’, chattin’, and votin’, my fellow Americans!

Thank you, Johnson PTO!

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The times, they are a changin’. And I was shocked to see just how fast when I introduced a checkout system on a Chromebase computer earlier this year, which needed to be operated by a mouse. Students of all grades struggled with how to hold the mouse, click the button, hold the cursor still, and scroll to the bottom of the page. Can you believe that in the short time since touch screens and laptops have been invented, they’ve already become so mainstream that many children have never used a mouse?

Our old checkout system was doing its best, but the mouse issues were causing traffic jams, frustrated students, and even more frustrated librarians and library helpers. It was easy to see… we needed help. We needed a hero!

Luckily, Johnson Elementary School has a pretty incredible PTO.

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Give a warm welcome and a big cheer to our brand new, state-of-the-art touch screen checkout computer. With incredible accuracy and speedy internet, this baby makes checkout with all grades a breeze. Compliments keep rolling in from students, staff, and visitors alike on our beautiful new piece of equipment. And we couldn’t’ have done it without an enrichment grant from the Johnson PTO!

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Thanks to this generous gift from the Johnson Elementary School PTO, our library checkout is faster, easier, and more fun. This puts more smiles onto the faces of our readers and more books into the hands of our students.

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Thank you so much to the Johnson Elementary School PTO for providing this generous gift to our library! We are so lucky to have you. 

Coming Soon: Lights, Science, ACTION!

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Check your third and fourth grade students’ backpack this afternoon for a flyer regarding Johnson’s newest after school club, Lights, Science, ACTION! This environmental science and film-making based club is offered through the library in collaboration with local non-profit Light House Studio. Check out all the details below. I can’t wait to see what Johnson students will create!

*Don’t forget to fill out both the front and the back of the permission form to enroll your student.

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