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Lane Elementary is a vibrant 3rd-5th grade school in Bedford, a wonderful community in the Metrowest area. Supportive parents, staff, administrators and community partners all contribute to a strong educational message to students, and this translates into strong school libraries.
One year ago, our Technology Administrator broached the subject of transitioning the Library into a blended Makerspace. My principal was enthusiastic. I, a little less so, agreed. My concerns:
- How would I manage the space?
- Where would the supplies come from?
- Would there be enough time to run an effective program?
- Would the shift to the MakerSpace impact the library's focus on reading and literacy?
I was extremely fortunate that some items were already in place at various spots around the school, so we simply collaborated and consolidated them into the library program. Other items came from grants, donations, yard sales, thrift store finds, book fair funds, and creative budgeting. I scrounged for carts to use as movable storage. My goal was that the widely varied activities would connect to literacy in some way and reach a variety of learning styles.
I turned to project-based learning as a model. I wanted to maintain the literary aspect of the library by combining the topic of a book, article or website reading with an activity, alternating between low and high tech. My mantra became “Try...fail. Try again...fail better!” I collected recyclables, enlisted donations (fabric, yarn, Legos) and spent my supply budget on Spheros and accessories, and I spent my book budget on author/illustrator visits and Skype sessions.
At the end of it all, I came back to literacy and coordinated the Summer Reading program.
The students were engaged and enthusiastic, the administrative response overwhelmingly positive. I was exhausted, so far out of my comfort zone, but encouraged. There were certainly trade-offs: less time for traditional library skills or research, and even book exchange suffered occasionally when maker activities took more time than expected. But the positives? Student engagement, increased collaboration with my technology partners, a boost in relevancy in the eyes of my administrators, and compliments from parents raving about their child's follow-up interest in library activities.
With one year under our belts, I feel that the shift in programming was successful. The plan for 2016-17 is to follow the model, refine it, and to continue to evolve as technology changes. The future role of traditional Libraries may be uncertain, but the importance of teaching our young minds to read, think, design, innovate and create will never be irrelevant.