I believe STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) education is critical to providing children with opportunities relevant to today's world. Over the past few months the Shaw has been working on finding ways to better prepare Shaw students to excel in science. We have been working to create a school-wide STEAM culture that contains real world problem solving and a connection to careers. Every student is working to develop the following STEAM skills: problem solving, teamwork, technology, and communication. Check out some of the things the Shaw library is doing to create a STEAM culture at the Shaw!
Volunteers from Vertex came and read stories to students. These stories celebrated the positive contributions that African American scientists, engineers, computer programmers, and many more make to society.
New England Aquarium Field Trip
K1 and 1st grade students took a field trip to the New England Aquarium. This was a chance for students to step outside their classroom and apply their learning to real world situations. Our K1 students had been learning about water. On the field trip they were able to see living things and their environment. Our first graders had been studying different species of birds, their habitats, and adaptations. On the field trip students looked specifically at the penguins and made scientific observations. They learned about penguin behavior, adaptations, their habitat, and conservation. Students got to look at penguin feathers up close and meet with the Aquarium guides to ask questions. It gave students a chance to see birds up close and personal!
Dream STEAM! Event
This event had the entire Shaw school working together to promote a culture of STEAM learning. Families were able to visit classrooms and see the fun STEAM learning already happening in classes. Activities ranged from making slime, programming robots, writing in nature journals, making edible amber fossils, and studying the effect of oil spills on bird feathers. In the end, families walked away feeling comfortable encouraging STEAM at home. The event really emphasized how many of our students are already succeeding at using technology, posing questions, and planning out investigations (all parts of the Next Generation Science Standards).
Engineering & Empathy PD
Ms. Donlan, Mr. Connor and I visited the Boston Children’s Museum to participate in an “Engineering & Empathy” professional development opportunity. We were able to think about hands-on ways to help our students become empathic innovators and problem solvers. Through classroom engineering activities, our students can begin to think carefully about the needs of others.
Creating lifelong learners doesn’t just happen, but takes everyone in the community to reach that objective. Prioritizing STEAM is teaching all Shaw students to take risks, make mistakes, and explore new ideas.
This school year started with not only Shaw students eager to learn, but Shaw teachers too! Alongside my colleagues, I participated in two professional development opportunities in October. Professional development is about becoming the best-equipped teacher I can be as well as sharing what I know with other educators.
Ms. Peralta and I attended the Women in Stem Conference in Orlando, Florida hosted by the National Educator Program. The conference focused on how to promote student achievement, mastery of STEM content, and getting under-represented populations interested in STEM.
Brenda Skoczelas, a physics professor at Lake Sumter State College in Florida, talked about closing the gender gap in STEM and what educators can do to help. She talked about exposing students at an earlier age to STEM, making students aware of the different STEM careers available to them, and making sure students have female STEM mentors.
During the conference Ms. Peralta and I participated in various workshops and STEM building challenges. We learned about coding, the value of play, and even participated in a forensic science experiment about the Wicked Witch of the West! Attending this conference helped me remember that it’s our responsibility as teachers to give girls a positive early experience. We need to let girls explore and have fun, and the library is the perfect place to do that!
Alongside Holmes Innovation School librarian Paula Pickett, I was a presenter for STEAM Up Your Library! at the MassCUE Fall Conference. Paula and I believe that structured makerspace activities combined with well-selected literature increase awareness of STEAM careers in elementary students. We demonstrated how to combine literacy and STEAM-based activities in the library to expose students to career opportunities within STEAM fields. Some of our project examples included strawberry science, school yard gardening, making fossils, 3D technology, coding, and making clothes for dolls.
There is always more to learn. Life-long learning keeps me motivated, and I’m hoping that my students will be inspired to do the same.
This was the second year in a row I was lucky enough to present at the MassCUE Annual Technology Conference, held at Gillette Stadium.
Alongside Paula Pickett (Library Media Specialist at the Holmes Innovation School) I was able to speak about how having a makerspace has added an entirely new dimension of literacy to the Shaw library. From storytelling to game design, students can make truly meaningful connections to stories. They can explore the possibilities and try at coding a story, an animation, or game. This helps to ensure high levels of learning and meaningful student engagement. Paula and I spoke to attendees about the learning opportunities that emerge when bringing student imagination to life. We showed how making ties in perfectly with what we want our students to be able to accomplish. We displayed real project examples, showing attendees resources they can use in their own space. Maker spaces are a chance for educators to take stories and bring them to life. In our library, students can use hands-on materials to take control over their own learning and become an active part of the learning process when reading stories. Check out our presentation slides here!
The presentation was well received and I am so thankful I was able to share some of the incredible making Shaw students are doing!
A good teacher never stops learning. I recently finished a course at Lesley University called "The Maker Mindset”. I was able to engage in hands-on activities that model learning through play, fostering opportunities for self-awareness and identity affirmation, creativity, collaboration, and problem solving. I also learned about some beneficial technology to start using in the Shaw library.
Using Scratch and Makey Makey, our K0/K1 students can participate in Reader's Theater! They can press the characters to have them speak for each role. This helps our non-verbal and shy students be included in our literacy activities, giving them a voice they didn't have before.
Using the Stop Motion Studio app, students can start making stop motion videos! They will be able to create their own videos, bringing stories and poetry to life.
Learning about circuits, students can combine natural materials with electronic components to make a nature bot!
Learning doesn’t just happen. Rather, it’s something you work at. Making can help students develop that growth mindset we want them to have, teaching them to push through obstacles and be resilient in the face of failure. Our students need the skills to succeed in a constantly changing world. Robots, computer programming, upcycling, and STEAM building challenges are all engaging ways of learning the essential skills of collaboration, communication, and digital literacy. These skills are critical to providing children with opportunities relevant to today's world, and having these resources will help to put our students on a level playing field in the future. Building and making is a way for some students to know something deeply. We have the opportunity to ignite a passion in them so they become doctors, architects, scientists and astronomers. We can start this when they are young so they grow up believing that they can and that they have the ability to do so. According to Dale Dougherty, Editor & Publisher of Make Magazine, “By the process of tinkering, we learn how to change and shape the world in small but significant ways and adapt it to our personal needs.” Making will open doors of opportunity for all our students, and I know they will have a positive impact on the world.
Even on a weekend, my students and the Shaw library are never far from my mind. Sunday led me all the way to Worcester, MA where I attended the The Massachusetts School Library Association (MSLA) Conference. This conference was called “Future Ready” and focused on the work school librarians are doing to transform their own schools into places of fruitful learning. The morning started off with an inspiring talk from author A.S. King. Her own school library experience helped shape her as a writer, and she spoke to how much of an impact school librarians can have on students that otherwise feel excluded or different.
With King’s moving message resonating, I participated in a presentation titled, “Using Action Research to Improve Your Practice” alongside Boston Public Schools library colleagues. During this panel presentation, I talked about an action research project I have been working on in the library. Over the past few months, I collected data to see if reading selection influenced student story comprehension. I shared my findings in the hopes of increasing coherent school library teaching and learning access for students, and improving my own practice through the use of data. My research showcased active student learning in the library.
Lunchtime offered up-close and personal conversations with some amazing authors and illustrators. I was able to get an inside look at the creative processes of Mike Curato, Matt Tavares, and Lisa Yee.
I was lucky enough to be one of the few chosen to exhibit the Shaw’s vibrant library community and the foundational skills being built. Library teachers from across the state commended the work being done in our library and commented on how engaged our students seem in their work.
I accepted the President’s Award, which goes to someone "who has made an impact on student learning and positively contributed to their school in a career of five or fewer years as a School Librarian."
The evening concluded with a presentation by author and teacher Jennifer Casa-Todd. Casa-Todd spoke about how our role as educators is to embrace social media and inspire students to use it positively, making them digital leaders instead of just followers. The shared experiences and conversations I had with school librarians from all across the state allowed me to see all the positive work being done in the field. Speaking with my colleagues gave me some wonderful new ideas to try out in my own library space, and I am excited to see what the future has to hold for all of us in this field.
This week marked the first time this year students were able to check out library books. For some, this was their first time EVER being able to borrow a book of their own! Every student received their own shelf marker and library card, and it was quite a momentous occasion. I loved being able to watch the students peruse the shelves for a book they were interested in purely for entertainment. I have found that when kids get to choose their own reading, they read more! I had so many students express their joy at being able to read their library books at home, on the bus, and during free time in their classrooms.
Thursday I was lucky enough to present at the MassCUE Annual Technology Conference, held at Gillette Stadium. I was able to meet with educators from across New England to talk about new and exciting ways to enhance teaching and learning.
I spoke on a panel titled "Social-Emotional Learning in the School Library: Serving the Invisibly Injured". Along with other librarians, I was able to share my experiences working in a school library and how schools can implement social-emotional strategies. Books can teach empathy, self-awareness, responsibility, and so much more. I was even able to mention our library pet and how he has been a calming presence in the library!
I think this week we all were reminded of the pleasures of reading!
"You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book." -Dr. Seuss
Mrs. Keohane is the School Librarian at the P.A. Shaw. She loves hockey, going to the beach, and reading (obviously!)