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.

 

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!

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.