CS First Coding Club in the Library

  I received an email from Donors Choose offering an exciting incentive for sponsoring a Google CS First Coding Club in my  library: an opportunity to earn Donors Choose gift cards when students complete specific coding projects!

I’ve been providing coding experience for my students for many years, ever since I learned about Scratch at the S.C. EdTech conference in 2009.  Last year I attended Code.org training in my district and enrolled my library classes in one of their formal courses, and I sponsored the annual Hour of Code for all of my students.  This year our school is building on those experiences by offering additional mini courses in our computer lab (for all students) and in my library (for those who enjoy coding and want to pursue it more deeply).

  I like the approach CS First takes by providing a structured learning environment yet still allowing kids to have some creative control over their projects.  I’m especially excited about the Google Doodle activity, which has kids designing their own Google Logo, since that was one of the Genius Hour themes in my library a couple of years ago.

We’re kicking off our next learning adventure on Thursday, so watch for updates in a couple of weeks!  Are you using CS First in your school or library?  Leave a comment and tell us about it!


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Donors Choose Makerspace STEAM Book Grant Funded!

 *Update on my Reading + Doing = Learning project:  It’s been fully funded!  (Thanks in part to our eligibility for matching funds from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, an organization that supports schools serving military communities.)  If you were one of my donors, thank you very much!!!

Do you need more books for your library?  (Don’t we all?!?)  Donors Choose is helping us fill our shelves by matching all donations made Oct 18-19 to book projects.  Get the details from this Donors Choose blog post.

I’m creating a project to get more STEAM books for my collection.  Many of the activities we have going on the the makerspaces each week elicit requests for library books on those same topics, and currently I can’t keep up with the demand.  Click to view (and donate to!) my project: Reading + Doing = Learning

Have you had a Donors Choose book project funded?  Tell us about it in the comments or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune!


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Donors Choose Makerspace Book Grant

  For the second year in a row, book funding for my library was cut by the district, so once again I turned to Donors Choose to fill a need in my library.

My project this year is connected to the activities I host in my STEAM makerspace area.  I’ve found that when kids engage in hands-on activities like origami, drawing and doodling, designing and building with simple materials like Legos, etc. they often ask for how-to books on those same topics to check out.  As important as it is to me to offer these learning opportunities in my library, it’s perhaps more important that kids voluntarily follow up on theses activities on their own. The need for more of those books sparked my idea for Reading + Doing = Learning!

After determining the most popular makerspace activities, I analyzed my library collection to see where the greatest need for corresponding books was.  That led me to creating a wish list on Amazon that I could plug into my Donors Choose project.

If you support hands-on learning for students after the school day ends, I hope you’ll consider making a donation to this project!

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Pi in the Sky

As most of you know, Pi Day is celebrated every year on March 14.

Pi in the Sky  I can’t let Pi Day go by without giving a shout out to a book by one of my favorite authors, Wendy Mass.  Her novel Pi in the Sky takes us to outer space for a funny and informative science fiction adventure.  With pie!

In Wendy’s own words:

“The germ of the idea for Pi in the Sky came from a quote a middle-schooler gave me. It was by astronomer Carl Sagan: ‘If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.’ My brain just started churning that quote over and over until a story started to form. I’ve always loved reading science fiction—starting with Ray Bradbury when I was younger—and I felt ready to take on the challenge.”

She actually started her career writing nonfiction for kids, so she’s no stranger to researching science and math.  It actually took her three years to do the research for this book before she felt ready to write about astronomy, evolution, and astrophysics on a level that students could understand.

Learn more about the book:

And here’s a link to some classroom resources for Pi Day.

I’ll leave you with the Pi Episode of Math Bites with Danica McKellar.

Do you know of any other good Pi books or resources?  Please share them in the comments!


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Hour of Code with Scratch

Scratch  Several of my library classes participated in the annual Hour of Code using Scratch, one of my favorite coding programs.

Hour of Code 1Why do I like it so much?

  • Detailed step-by-step tutorials for introductory projects
  • Color coded instructions and tools that make it easy for students to click on the right thing
  • Flexible project ideas that give students some freedom for self-expression within the boundaries of a structured activity
  • Printable activity cards so students can explore Scratch independently
  • An online community for educators

Hour of Code 2It’s always interesting to see which students will cautiously follow the instructions to the letter, and which kids will use the tutorial as merely a suggestion of what can be done.  I also enjoy watching them turn to one another asking “How did you do that?!?”  Sometimes the most unlikely students become Scratch Masters, and it’s gratifying to watch them shine as they assist others.

Hour of Code 3If you haven’t tried Scratch yourself, it’s easy to get started with it.  And I think it’s important to realize that you don’t have to know everything about Scratch to use it with your students.  Over the past week I’ve learned several new things about Scratch by watching the kids experimenting with it, and I’m quick to admit “Hey, I didn’t know you could do that!”  That’s how we model learning for our students, right?

If you are using Scratch already, I’d love to hear about your experience.  Please leave a comment, or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune


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A Monkey With a Tool Belt is Ready for Anything!

Monkey tool-beltI fell in love with Chico Bon Bon the minute I met him.  He’s an extremely resourceful Monkey With a Tool Belt who loves to build and fix things.  He’s generous with his time and skills, he helps his friends with all kinds of problems, and he’s able to think outside the box.  (Literally!  An organ grinder traps him in one and he has to plan his escape.)

You might say he’s been part of the maker movement since 2008, before it was a buzzword in libraries and education.  So what better book to get kids thinking about their “maker” interests?

Monkey ramp

This week I’m reading the book aloud to third graders and asking them to think about what they like making and doing, and what specific tools or supplies they need to pursue their interests.  They have a choice of listing those items with a small drawing of each one, drawing themselves wearing their “maker” tool belt, or some combination of the two.  Here are some examples:

2-Alexandra    1-Morgan1-Elliott

This will lead right into a discussion of our makerspaces and the supplies that will be available for the kids.  It also gave me some great insight into the hobbies and interests of my students.  As they were writing and drawing, I was pulling books on art, fashion, sports, cooking, etc to show them during check-out time.

Don’t miss Monkey With a Tool Belt by Chris Monroe, or the two sequels!  Click on a book cover to look inside.



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LEGO Challenges in the Library: Build a Duck

One of my goals this year is to incorporate more STEAM activities into my library program, and with that in mind I’m instituting a series of LEGO Challenges for my students.

I began very simply with my 3rd and 4th graders; their first Challenge was to Build a Duck.

1-CIMG4064We went over some basic rules (click for a copy of my Duck Lego Challenge instructions) and then I gave each student a mini LEGO building kit that I put together using six to nine red, yellow, orange, and white standard bricks.  I made sure no two kits were identical so that copying someone else’s design would be impossible, and I stressed that the goal was to be original.

1-CIMG4090Most students dove right in, while others were a bit hesitant.  I think some had less experience using LEGOs, but a few were not sure what the “right” way to build a duck was.

09-CIMG4070As I circled the room offering praise for their creativity, I could see their initial noisy excitement fading to deep concentration as they experimented with different designs.

05-CIMG4066Students only needed a few minutes to complete their projects, which gave us plenty of time for Show & Share using the document camera and the promethean board.

12-CIMG4073I put blue paper under the document camera to serve as the duck pond, and students showed off their creations and explained how they built their ducks and why they used their bricks the way they did.

16-CIMG4077Allowing students to start small gave them an opportunity to build their confidence as well as their ducks, thus paving the way for more complicated projects later.  Who says learning can’t be fun?!?

1-CIMG4071Eventually I’ll be including LEGO Challenges as one of my makerspace stations.  Are you using LEGO Challenges in your library or classroom?  Please leave a comment or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune and share what you’re doing!


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