Thursday, April 14, 2016

Preview: Family Reading Night 2016

The fifth annual Pioneer district-wide Family Reading Night is almost here!  The event will take place on Friday, April 22nd from 6:00pm until 8:00pm here at Pioneer Middle School.  All Pioneer students, preK through grade 12, are invited to this free event.

This year’s Family Reading Night will be structured upon the theme “Make Time for Reading” and will feature activities related to literacy, science, technology, and crafts.  Nick, a seventh grader at Pioneer Middle School, designed an awesome logo for the event.

This year's Family Reading Night logo was designed by Nick, a seventh grader.

Here is a sneak peek of what you can expect to find at Family Reading Night.  Probably the most highly-anticipated part of the evening is a visit from the Buffalo Museum of Science.  To go right along with the science theme, the Museum will be presenting hands-on activities for students of all ages.  The activities will be centered upon alternative energy, electricity, crime scene investigation, and mad scientists throughout history.  This will be an exciting opportunity to bring the Museum right here to our own community!

Did I mention free stuff?  In addition to free snacks and refreshments, the first 150 families will receive a tote bag loaded with goodies.  The tote bag will include a Star Wars Origami book (complete with origami paper!), DIY craft kits, bookmarks, and coupons to area businesses.  The tote bags and gifts were made possible due to a generous grant from the Navient Corporation and donations from McDonald's of Arcade and Burger King of Yorkshire.  Area businesses have also graciously donated door prize items to be raffled off during the event.

FREE items for the first 150 families!

The tote bags are packed and ready to go for Family Reading Night.

What would a Family Reading Night be without the opportunity to go home with lots of books?  Families may participate in a free PFA-sponsored book swap.  Just bring in your own gently used books and swap them for titles brought in by other families.  There will also be a Scholastic Book Fair in the library during the evening.  All proceeds from the Book Fair will go towards funding future literacy events.  If you are interested in checking out the online version of the Book Fair, click here.

Pioneer staff members will also be offering a variety of activity stations throughout the evening.  The activities include the following:
  • Computer Coding Activities
  • Dr. Seuss Stories
  • Kahoot Trivia
  • Grimm Fairytales Trivia
  • Recording Studio
  • Taboo Competition
  • Bookmark Making
  • Pom Pom/Pipe Cleaner Crafts
  • Tap Lessons and DIY Tap Shoes
  • Origami
  • Duct Tape Crafts
  • Coloring 
We hope to have a huge turnout for this fun event!  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a Pioneer district librarian.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Glory Be Book Trailers

The students in Mrs. Rice's fifth grade ELA classes just finished reading Glory Be, a historical fiction book by Augusta Scattergood.  They enjoyed reading the book so much that they wanted to share their reviews with others by creating book trailers.  Similar to movie trailers, book trailers are created to generate interest and excitement about a particular title.

Although students were eager to begin recording, it was first necessary to come up with a detailed plan for the book trailers.  Movie directors must carefully plan out their movie, so book trailer directors must also have all the specifics ironed out prior to recording.  Students were divided into groups and began working on their scripts and storyboards.

Students spent a great deal of time planning their projects.

An example of a completed script and storyboard.

Student groups worked diligently to prepare their scripts and storyboards.  They wanted to make sure that their book trailers were interesting and well-organized, so they understood the importance of these planning steps.  Although all groups were given the same organizer for the script and storyboard, the groups definitely brought their own individuality and unique ideas to the project.  No two scripts were the same!

Once the scripts were set, it was now time to look for pictures.  Students were hoping to include a variety of images.  We discussed the importance of citing work that does not belong to us.  The groups were certain to include the website where they found the image.

The groups were now at the point where they could complete their book trailers!  We chose to use Voicethread, a service provided through CA BOCES, to make the book trailers.  Voicethread allows students to upload pictures and then record their own voices over the pictures.  We liked that Voicethread was easy to use.  Once students uploaded their pictures, they were ready to record their own audio.

Students received detailed instructions prior to using Voicethread.

Students found quiet corners of the library in order to record the audio for their book trailers.

Once the book trailers were complete, it was now time to share the Glory Be goodness with the rest of the world!  Mrs. Rice invited other Pioneer students in to watch the book trailers.  It was great to be able to share their projects with other groups of students.

Students from other classes stopped down to see the book trailers.

Students wanted to share the book trailers with an even larger audience.  We thought a website would be a great way to accomplish this.  In order to make this happen, all of the completed book trailers can be found on our library website here.  Be sure to check them out!

Here are just a few examples of the completed book trailers.  All student groups did an outstanding job! Mrs. Rice's students hope these book trailers inspire you to read Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood.

Friday, April 1, 2016

My Own Maker Misconceptions

At Pioneer Middle School, we began serious work on the makerspace in November 2014.  Although I was excited about the idea, I was very hesitant to get started.  I had some misconceptions about makerspaces that I have cleared up a bit during the process.

Misconception #1: A makerspace is a very difficult thing to implement.
At first, the whole idea seemed very overwhelming.  I went to lots of PD sessions on the topic, but was worried about starting this on my own.  The best advice I received from another school librarian was to “just start.”  There is no requirement for supplies needed in a makerspace.  The only real stipulation is to provide students with the time and support needed for them to explore projects of their own interest.

Misconception #2: A makerspace will be expensive.
Although I see some really shiny makerspaces in other school libraries (jealous!!), a makerspace does not need to be expensive.  Our local BOCES was a huge help, as they have many coding resources (such as Bee Bots) that can be loaned to school districts.  The greatest help with getting the makerspace up and running was the other staff members in my school.  I simply sent out an email explaining the makerspace concept and that I was looking for craft supplies to help get things started.  After just a few weeks, my back room was filled with craft supplies!  The custodians were able to find a cabinet from a classroom renovation and this became our craft cabinet for the makerspace.  As far as coding things go, there are numerous free websites.  I organized the websites I found into a Symbaloo (great site!) matrix and then posted the Symbaloo to our library website.  This made it easy for the students to quickly access many different coding sites.  You can check out the Symbaloo matrix here:

Our Symbaloo filled with coding resources.

Our makerspace today.  Supplies were mainly donated and the
cabinets came from the renovation in the high school.

All of this was free.  As work on the makerspace progressed, we were able to add more robotics and coding tools by finding grants and having a book fair fundraiser.  However, even if we were not able to secure any extra funding, we still had a makerspace! 

Misconception #3: It will be difficult to get buy-in from administrators.
This was actually one of the easier parts.  I spoke with my principal briefly about makerspaces, and she was supportive.  One of the topics we discussed was how makerspaces tie in closely to two of our district’s initiatives; namely, offering enrichment in the STEM disciplines and facilitating growth mindset in all students.  Once my principal understood the benefits of a makerspace (and that it wouldn’t involve any extra work for her!), she was thrilled.

Maker Club allows students to explore STEM concepts.

Misconception #4: It will be difficult to find other adults in the school to help.
We host Maker Club after school on Wednesdays.  At this time, we are not running the makerspace during the school day with any regularity.  I knew we would need more adults present in order to run Maker Club.  Mr. LoBianco, one of our special education teachers, hosted an Hour of Code event during the previous school year, so I knew he would be interested in helping out.  For the 2015-2016 school year, we have added one of the building’s Spanish teachers, Ms. McKenzie, to Maker Club.  She has always had an interest in computer coding, so she was passionate about helping with this project.  To find adults within your own building that may help, I would approach people that have an interest in coding/STEM concepts.  If all else fails, send an email to the staff and see what happens.  It is exciting and different, so people may surprise you with their interest.

Mr. LoBianco was eager to be a part of Maker Club.

Ms. McKenzie has a great interest in computer science.

Misconception #5: All the students will do is play.
This is something we were really worried about before starting our Maker Club.  We instituted a brief Maker Club orientation prior to students’ participation in Maker Club. We walk them through a PowerPoint presentation outlining the expectations for the club.  One of the things we told the students is that Maker Club is not play time, it’s create time.  This cut down on any instances of misusing the makerspace supplies.  We have had to speak to students about proper behavior, but usually a reminder is all it takes to get them back on track.  We also use an entrance and exit ticket system.  This is a way to keep track of what students are working on and what they would like to work on next time.  The ticket system helps to increase student accountability and helps us to know what supplies we should buy for the next time the club meets.

LEGO Mindstorms are a huge hit with the Maker Club crowd.

Recycled materials are a perfect canvas for art projects.

A great puppet made with supplies from the makerspace.

Misconception #6: We will only get the brightest, most well-behaved students in Maker Club.
I am ashamed to even admit that I felt this way.  Initially, I was envisioning that Maker Club would be a feeder for our school’s Lego League and Science Olympiad programs.  Although there is definitely some overlap, Maker Club has taken on a completely different flavor.  Not only are we getting students with great interest in STEM, we have also gotten students from a variety of other backgrounds.  Many of our regulars in Maker Club receive special education services, have behavioral issues, or are on the autism spectrum.  Maker Club has become a safe space where students can socialize with other students who have similar interests.  Students who may not experience much success within a classroom setting feel pride in their involvement in Maker Club and their work on the various projects they work on.  To me, this is the most important outcome of the club.

The last day of Maker Club for the 2014-2015 year.  What a crew!
The longer we immerse ourselves in the maker culture, the more I continue to learn from the Pioneer students.  Education isn’t a one size fits all arrangement.  I enjoy how our Maker Club give students the chance to explore their own interests, find new interests, and learn at their own pace and in their own way.  The benefits certainly outweigh the drawbacks, and I look forward to seeing what the students will imagine next.