Move over HGTV, the fifth graders at Maple Grove Elementary are the stars of their very own school library redesign! Budgets, research, surveys, and floor plans are being drafted in
Ms. Ligrani’s and Ms. McCormick’s 5th grade classes as students create their proposals in hopes to be selected for the final design.
This unique PBL (project based learning) asks the students to apply math, economics, technology and reading skills in an authentic way in order to create a flexible learning space for their school.
The innovative idea began last spring, as the teachers recognized a need to replace the old and uncomfortable library furniture. The library is a shared learning space for everyone at Maple Grove, and Principal Chris Neville began to ponder how students could be involved in the improvements. He was inspired by Jeffco’s vision to transform the task for student learning.
When asked how they felt about being entrusted with the library redesign, 5th graders Lilly and Cameron smiled. “I think it was pretty cool! Since this is our last year at the school, we would like to use some of the furniture that we’ve wanted and to help everyone else get a new library.”
Handing over the reigns to the students has been an exciting adventure for Digital Teacher Librarian, Amy Stahura. “I’m totally game! The whole school is really excited about changing the look of the space. Hopefully it will look a lot different in here! I told the kids you can even my office space. The office would be a great green screen room.”
The Design Process
Students have been learning about design thinking (with resources from the Stanford d.school and ISTE Standard "Innovative Designer").
Research began in the field as students explored three sites in the community with flexible learning spaces. Their inquisitive minds visited "The LINK" at the Jeffco Education Center, fellow Jeffco school, Three Creeks K-8, and mindSpark Learning.
Ben and Jack were amazed by one site on their visit. "It was hard to believe that mindSpark was an old library and had no windows!" In their own design, the boys are interested in understanding how the wall colors might help learners in the library.
Empathizing with multiple stakeholders is important to the fifth graders, so the students have been collecting input from students, staff, and the community.
Surveys created in Google Forms allow students to collect and analyze data and share the results across groups. "We're working on a survey to the teachers right now. The teachers still use [the library], so they still have a voice in it," commented Austin and Ben H.
The student's creative juices are flowing as they ideate multiple scenarios for their new space. Tristan shares a draft design with considerations for height of the learners. iPads in the library will have the AutoCAD app available for groups as well.
The budget is on the mind of Bren and Stephanie. "Our budget is really really tight. We may have to reuse some of our stuff. We could reuse the bookshelf and make it a reading space to look outside." A generous donation from the PTA is funding the redesign and community partnerships are at the heart of the project. Parents with backgrounds in architecture, design, and furniture sales have become local experts from which to learn.
Instructional Coach, Amy Ellerman, a collaborator in the PBL remarked, "This project has provided such an authentic opportunity for collaboration between students, Maple Grove staff members, and our community. It is expanding our understanding of where and how learning happens."
We will have to wait until the end of the trimester when students share their proposals with school leadership and the PTA to find out the final design.
Ms. Stahura plans to reveal the renovation and invite all the partners who have supported the project. The celebration will not only be of the new space, but of the contribution of the fifth grade students to this authentic need in their school.
Want to learn more about designing learning spaces?
Read the review for The Space: A guide for educators
"Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results." ~John Dewey.
Digital discussions have become regular practices in our everyday lives. From text messages and social media posts to blog and YouTube comment streams there are continued learning and sharing opportunities with global connections on a regular basis. Many of us are often hyper-active in daily digital discussions as we connect with friends, family, and world-wide audiences.
As we continue to implement the Jeffco Generations skills and Transform Tasks, digital dialogue and discussion opportunities present engaging opportunities to authentically develop skills and concepts beyond the basic acquisition of facts. Through participation in digital discussions with global audiences we are exposed to the challenges of content application, concept justification, and social understandings in our ever changing world.
The New York Times provides a number of incredible resources to educators and students for elevating digital discussion opportunities that engage learners in relevant and meaningful topics. Through The Learning Network, they began in 2014 with 200 Prompts for Argumentative Writing which grew to 650 Prompts for Argumentative Writing in 2016 and is now over 1000 Writing Prompts for Students in 2018. The prompts are broken up by topic areas such as Social Media and Smartphones, Gender Issues, Dating and Sex, Music, Literature and Art, Being a Teenager, School, Health and Nutrition, Science and Animals, Government and Leadership, Personal Character and Morality, and more. Under each topic is a list of questions that are linked to a short articles followed by more specific questions for students to consider and answer. The list of 650 prompts are also available via a handy PDF for easy access and sharing.
So how does this apply to our daily instruction as educators? Francis Bacon said, "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man". Reading, writing and discussion are a critical components of our everyday learning and growth processes. As educators we know high quality instruction in any content area or discipline contains regular opportunities for learners to engage in reading, writing, and discussion to further develop critical and creative thinking skills.
Using the resources above, learners can be given a prompt and the associated article to read. Following the reading, learners can engage in a short writing activity to gather thoughts and develop ideas. Learners can then share their thoughts with others and ideas to seek feedback for further development and discussion. Some ideas might include:
Reading, writing and dialogue can and should take place in all disciplines, not just literacy. For example, math teachers can leverage prompts like #327 which centers around a distribution graph of how many A's schools hand out or #289 "Are You Afraid of Math?" and #290 "Do We Need A Better Way To Teach Math?". Science teachers can leverage the wide variety of prompts in Science & Health (1,066-1,146) involving Science and The Environment, Animals and Pets, or Exercise and Health. Art teachers have a vast array to choose from in Arts and Entertainment (75-248). Whichever discipline you teach, there can be resources for you to leverage to support students with engaging in reading, writing, and dialogue.
How will you leverage digital discussions as a way to Transform the Task and support learners with developing the Jeffco Generations skills? The Jeffco Ed Tech team is available to support you in thinking through ways you can leverage reading, writing and discussion with students in your instruction. We would also love to hear from you around how you are already leveraging digital discussions or have done so in the past. We learn a great deal from examples and experience so we invite you to share with us as we continue to grow together.
The Results Are In...
A total of 37,103,946 minutes were read by students and community members
12,424,426 minutes were logged by Jeffco students alone
9,111 students completed their summer reading log this past year.
3,916 babies “read” 2,053,010 minutes
19,086 children read 10,896,665 minutes
8,440 teens read 6,267,520 minutes
12,424 adults read 17,863,351 minutes