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Librarians provide innovative learning opportunities, resources for students

Over the past two years, school libraries in Lake Stevens School District have undergone a significant transformation. They are still led by knowledgeable and highly-trained teacher librarians, and they are still home to hundreds of books, references materials, computers and educational activities. However, the roles of librarians, and the physical spaces they teach in, have transitioned and been reorganized to better meet the needs of students and their learning needs.

In addition to more traditional services like storytime, book checkout and helping students locate reference materials, teacher librarians are working directly with classrooms of students in ways that align with the projects and activities they are currently engaged in. As part of this transformation, elementary schools are also shifting to an open book checkout system where students have the freedom to drop in and out of the library to select and return. This has increased circulation because students are no longer limited to once a week visits.

“Collaboration has been a key component in the transformation of our libraries,” said Sarah Danielson, Director of Professional Learning. “Our teacher librarians are experts in media literacy, research, and technology and they are supporting classroom learning in all of these areas. The partnership between the librarians and classroom teachers directly benefits students and enhances learning opportunities.”

Prior to implementing changes, the district’s teacher librarians and a team of administrators explored the Future Ready Schools (FRS) program and visited Future Ready Librarians in Bellevue School District and Tacoma Public Schools. FRS is a collaborative, districtwide effort to maximize digital learning opportunities and prepare students for success in college, a career, and citizenship. The FRS principles were used as a foundation for the changes made throughout the district’s libraries.

To further the collaboration, teacher librarians meet regularly as a team to share ideas, solve problems and to participate in further professional learning opportunities. 

What does this look like in practice?

The Three Little Pigs
We all know the story of The Three Little Pigs—three pigs build houses, two of which are blown down by the Big Bad Wolf. The third house, made of bricks, withstands the wolf’s strongest blows and that pig is saved. Before Ellie Moon, the Teacher Librarian at Hillcrest and Skyline Elementary Schools, begins reading the story to Tamara Stuller’s first-grade class at Skyline, she asks them to focus on the problem that the pigs are trying to solve in the story. After reading the story, students discuss the potential problems in small groups. The students overwhelmingly agree that the problem is the construction of the homes made out of straw and sticks because they cannot withstand the wolf’s blows. Then the real fun begins.

Moon and Stuller ask the students to become engineers and to plan and construct model homes that can withstand the wolf’s—or in this case, the teachers’—blows. Using cardboard, plastic cups, popsicle sticks, toilet and paper towel rolls, Play-Doh and tape, students construct and test a myriad of designs. The ultimate test is whether their prototypes can withstand Moon and Stuller’s best blows. Those that don’t were thoughtfully reengineered after discussing what went well and what could be improved.

“Students already have anytime access to resources, right at their fingertips,” said Moon, who was a classroom teacher prior to earning a Master of Library Science and Information in 2007. “I’m passionate about teaching information literacy to my students so they can weed through what they find to analyze it and identify content that is relevant, accurate and meaningful. The shift in scheduling and programming gives me more time with students to provide project-based support that builds on the skills they are currently learning.”

Moon spends two weeks at one school and then two weeks at the other. This flexible schedule has allowed her to maximize the time she spends with students in the library and in their classrooms. While supporting two schools can be challenging, Moon uses a shared calendar and other digital tools in order to collaborate with her colleagues to schedule classroom lessons and library time.

The new district library vision has been well received by teachers and administrators and will continue to be evaluated and enhanced in each of the schools to meet their unique needs. Students are enjoying and benefiting from the program shift and are greatly appreciating the project-based learning experience. When teachers can collaborate and guide students through an innovative lesson together, students benefit.

Librarian blows down model house

Tamara Stuller, a first-grade teacher at Skyline Elementary School, uses a big, wolf-like blow to see if student’s model homes can remain standing. Ellie Moon, teacher librarian, read The Three Little Pigs to students who then used a variety of items and construction methods to build the homes.