Deeth Ellis is a librarian at the Boston Latin School
and a winner of the 2016 Super Librarian award
As the librarian who works with the science department, my work to support and build collaborative projects with the science teachers has been multi-faceted. Some of the work has yielded successful collaborations and integration of essential skills into the student learning. However, a lot of my efforts have not yielded consistent results yet. The challenges are hard and require fundamental changes in collection development practices and information literacy skills to determine how the library can be relevant to students in science. My approach has been to look within Boston Latin to see what is being taught, talk about ideas and to build relationships with teachers as well as looking outside of the Boston Latin for new ideas. Within, I have looked at our print and digital collections, had many conversations with teachers, offered professional development, and pursued collaborations. Outside, I have attended a week-long Teaching with Primary Sources in Science workshop at the Library of Congress, presented at Massachusetts Association of Science Teachers, and reached out to higher education science librarians.
Academics and Professional Culture
Boston Latin School is one of three examination schools in the Boston. The student body is culturally, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse. Students take Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics as well as advanced classes in Physics, Chemistry, Environmental Science and Biology. The administrative team and Instructional Leadership Team have created opportunities for collaboration and conversations through common planning time and setting school wide goals such as the following 21st century learning expectations:
- Grappling with essential questions that span disciplines
- Engaging in inquiry based, self-driven, authentic learning
- Utilizing higher order thinking skills that include the evaluation and synthesis of information and ideas
- Collaborating and communicating with others while reflecting on personal growth
- Applying appropriate technology and media literacy skills
- Making connections to life and the larger world community
The are two main questions influencing our collection development: What sort of science print collection is relevant to students at Boston Latin? How do we help students find relevant digital material that they will understand? How much free or open source material can we find?
We tackled the print aggressively this year and weeded over 600 books (or 35%) out of the science, mathematics and technology sections. Although many books were added over the last two years to support an independent reading project in physics, older books remained in the collection. We invited a Simmons College graduate school intern to help us this Spring, and she recommended the books to weed and made a list of 70 print books and 113 ebooks to purchase. The new books consisted mostly of high-interest nonfiction print and ebooks for both the earth science and physics classes. The books are intended to support the goal for the earth science 7th grade science project: to inspire and connect a student’s interest to an area of science. The physics students all select and read a book about science, a scientist or scientific theory to read independently.
After conferring with the science teachers, we have decided to subscribe to Science, Scientific American and a suite of science magazines from Nature to supplement our one science database, Science in Context (Gale). These will be featured along with open source journal materials on a new science LibGuide page such as the Directory of Open Access Journals and Open Educational Resources (OER).
Collaboration and Curriculum
A more challenging problem is to integrate consistently information literacy and research skills into the science classes from grade 7 through grade 12. There are many projects that exist in the department that include some information literacy and 21st century learning goals such as the ones listed above, but with overall inconsistency. There are a few active collaborations with the library. These are
- Physics: Four Investigations on Energy
- Chemistry: Investigation on toxins and one on the Flint, MI water crisis
- Science Fair Project - Most extensively collaborative because of cluster organization of 7th grade. Foundations of information literacy including citation, source selection, keyword searching, source evaluation using the CRAAP test, using a science database are folded into the science fair research.
Locating high quality scientific material requires sophisticated information literacy skills and then can be complex for students to analyze and read. In an age of fractured digital media, librarians can provide curated sources and strategies for finding and criteria to evaluate and select sources. One recent idea for example is to teach the hierarchy of information to students to help them understand what they are looking at, determine the authority and understand what it means to be a published work. How does information start and then become more credible as it is published in different ways? First in social media, next news, weekly magazines, monthly magazines, science journals, then peer reviewed. Figuring out ways to help teachers and students have conversations about how to identify scholarship today is an idea talked about at the higher education level and is relevant to our students’ work, too.
We will start working with an information framework and continue to look for new ideas to inform our thinking and improve our work. The headmaster wants a grade 7-12 information literacy scope and sequence so after looking at a few different ones, we have selected the Empire State Information Fluency Continuum (2014) developed in New York and will build on the work already beginning in science as well as other disciplines to select priority standards. Next year the school will work on mapping the curriculum including using this scope and sequence. Therefore, there will be many more conversations with teachers to talk about the work they do and how we might develop and integrate new learning goals. The library’s work with the science department, the Research Task Force and the Instructional Leadership will continue and focus on how to innovatively expand, change and create work that meets the information literacy and research standards reflected in the school’s 21st Century Learning Expectations and rooted in the new Empire State Continuum.