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  • 11 Oct 2017 7:34 PM | Kristen

    Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead

    The Danville School Library got a new database this fall, ABDO’s S.T.E.A.M. offering for grades K-2. I am going to admit I was rather utilitarian about it. I needed to freshen up the electronic offerings for the small-fry--something besides BookFlix and the tidbits I am forever inserting on the elementary library web page. The ABDO offering came through the mail on a snazzy card, offering a free trial and all of that. I tried it, it was fine, that was nice. Never terribly invested in science and math myself, but knowing that the K-1 teachers built a dedicated S.T.E.A.M. workshop into their days just last year, I ordered the product thinking I’d just push the timely topic out for folks to use. I figured the database had the subject under control, so it wasn’t like I needed to become an expert, right?

    Well, it turns out this S.T.E.A.M. stuff is so much fun I am becoming one, despite those awful science and math grades in high school! All of sudden, some component of the subject is everywhere, and it has become the driving force behind all my recent elementary programming. Who knew? And my background in the liberal arts is coming in handy, too, which is just making things that much sweeter. (More on that later.) Of course, I am the first person to crow about a Matisse cut-out or a Calder mobile, but to have beautiful picture books do the crowing and S.T.E.A.M.ing for me? Perfection! Then, whip up a few tidbits on the website to go with and everyone is happy and curious inside and outside the library! Seriously, it is delightful.

    This week’s feature is Jacques Cousteau, the penultimate S.T.E.A.M.er--and showing kids a clip from that awesome 70s TV show, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, is more than icing on the cake. Besides taking me back to cozying up on the shag carpet in the den on a Sunday night forty years ago to be amazed by what was going on aboard The Calypso, watching the delight and amazement brew among the kids is a certain brand of perfection.

    But back to my comment about the liberal arts. There is a fairly robust conversation going on in higher education these days about whether they are all that pertinent in the technologically advancing 21st century. I see where that argument comes from, that folks are afraid the “fluffy stuff” might actually get in the way of the next generation figuring out how to make surviving on this planet a doable thing. But then when I see how my background knowledge of history, art, and literature open the door for me to be zealously leading a S.T.E.A.M. effort at school, especially when I had no plans for getting this darn excited, I realize that the liberal arts are my way into understanding S.T.E.A.M. And why it is such an important, necessary topic in today’s world.

    Now, I am fully aware that plenty of people with more of an affinity to science and math might not need the liberal arts key to gain access, but I am going to argue that they will be able to get more out of their study if they have some knowledge of the more human side of it all. Who began the train of thought that led to any technological improvement we see now? What was going on historically that makes this person’s vision all the more meaningful and extraordinary? What kind of meaning might this have for people when  daydreaming about inventing that thing or solving that problem?

    It’s the yin and yang of all the disciplines, it seems, that keep humanity evolving. And therein lies the beauty of our favorite spot, correct? The Library. The keeper of all disciplines, the landlord of literature. The way that so many bits of information and so many stories can be put together to foster curiosity, understanding, and knowledge is astounding. As for me, my first epiphany of the school year began with a little glossy postcard from ABDO Publishers. I honestly had no idea...wish me luck as I host Danville school’s first-ever Makerspace club!

    Kristen Eckhardt, LMS

    Danville School

    Danville, VT

  • 05 Jul 2017 12:31 PM | Matt (Administrator)

    This was my first ALA Annual--and my first time in Chicago--and connecting with colleagues from all over the country was an intensely powerful experience (actually it was international, there was a delegation of German librarians that presented about how they support their refugee community, this is a video they produced to introduce refugees to the library, it has no speech but communicates perfectly). I commiserated with with a group of librarians about the difficulty of finding a good vendor for non-English books while touring the new children's section at the Harold Washington library. I spoke with a public librarian named Aurora from New Orleans who told me about a new initiative where they were providing breakfast and lunch to all comers in the library; she said it was a struggle getting everyone on board but it has been just hugely satisfying feeding hungry children. I had a hundred little conversations that affirmed my struggles and inspired me to do more. I got to fly a drone! I saw a book check-in machine that will replace my assistant as soon as they make a version that has deep empathy for children, an uncanny intuition about teenage misbehavior, an ability to talk me through those days, and maybe also can laminate posters. I did not get to meet Linda Sue Park (I was at Hamilton!), but I did send a surrogate to get a book signed (thank you Cheryl!) And I got to ask Andy Wier a question!

    Q: How did you ensure scientific accuracy in Artemis?

    A: Google. JK! Research and math. Sometimes wrote code to figure it out.

    My favorite session was Diversity Officers Discussion Group, which I attended because of a misunderstanding. I did not realize that Diversity Officer is a job title, I thought it was just a general discussion about diversity. As soon as we went around the room introducing ourselves, I realized my error, I was sitting next to Jo Anderson Cavinta who runs the diversity program for the King County Library System (which contains Seattle and serves over 2 million patrons). The room was full of HR directors for massive public library systems, and here I am the lone school librarian from a 1.2 mi² town in Vermont. But it was amazing! I told them that we are a school with fifty percent students of color but an all white faculty and they proceeded to give me practical advice about how I can slowly affect the process of changing that. Things like widening where we advertise positions (not just School Spring!), increasing the travel budget for applicants, and finding ways to connect applicants with minority communities when they visit.

    It was an amazing experience and I am so grateful that VSLA helped make it happen! If you would like to apply for a VSLA Professional Development Scholarship fill out this form.

  • 05 Jul 2017 9:56 AM | Shannon (Administrator)

    I was honored to serve as the first VSLA sponsored ALA Emerging Leader. This program is described as "leadership development program which enables newer library workers from across the country to participate in problem-solving workgroups, network with peers, gain an inside look into ALA structure, and have an opportunity to serve the profession in a leadership capacity. It puts participants on the fast track to ALA committee volunteerism as well as other professional library-related organizations." (http://www.ala.org/educationcareers/leadership/emergingleaders)

    The experience largely involved 2 day long seminars; one at ALA Midwinter in Atlanta and one at ALA Annual in Chicago, virtual work in the months in-between both conferences, and a culminating poster session. We discussed leadership, learned about the inner workings of ALA, met some important folks including ALA President Julie Todaro and President-Elect Jim Neal, ALA Executive Director Keith Fiels, and more! Maureen Sullivan, former ALA President, and Audrey Barbakoff, an EL alum, were wonderful coordinators who guided our seminars. We also had opportunities to work with our group in person.

    I was chosen to work on a project for the American Association of School Librarians analyzing the impact of the ESSA workshops held in over 40 different states (and D.C.) on school library advocacy. My wonderful group members and I developed a survey, sent it to state affiliates and asked all those who attended participate. (Vermont had 17 responses-more than any other state-thank you!) Next, we followed up with state affiliate representatives with a series of questions to further our understandings. I was fortunate to speak with representatives from the New England states, and Michigan, where I felt a great camaraderie. Finally, we analyzed our data as a group, and produced an executive summary and infographic which will soon be available on the AASL website. Data showed that the workshops were very helpful in increasing advocacy of the school librarian!  

    I am grateful to VSLA for sponsoring me and highly encourage other folks to apply to this wonderful program. I made so many new friends and met so many new colleagues. I learned a lot about myself and gained confidence as a leader. I plan on updating my (sparsely updated) blog soon about my conference experiences as a whole: http://noshushingallowed.blogspot.com. Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter: MsD_Reads_vt.

  • 09 Jun 2017 10:16 AM | Matt (Administrator)

    Check out Alyson Mahony's reflection on her Dynamic Landscapes experience. She was the recipient of the Professional Development Scholarship.

  • 09 Jun 2017 10:06 AM | Matt (Administrator)

    Written by Tessa Johnson in the Dorthan Brook School Library & Media Center Blog:

    I'm here at Dynamic Landscapes in beautiful Burlington, Vermont today and yesterday (which was rainy and less beautiful).  There is so much great information here and inspiring student projects.


    Yesterday I attended a presentation panel about Book Battles and a variety of ways do host them.  I am excited to do a Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Battle with my 4th and 5th graders next year! 

    In the afternoon I went to a fun workshop about "Putting the Creative in STEM" where we played with Spheros, Dash, and a basketball that can provide feedback to help you improve your game!

    This morning I attended a presentation by Diana Laufenberg about how help kids determine what is true in this age of alternative facts and truthiness.  There was a great discussion about what it means to be a kid these days and from that I came away with several ideas include in my digital safety lessons. I just finished an eye-opening presentation on copyright and the Creative Commons.  So much to know and so much knowledge to share!

    On deck for the afternoon is info about Vermont Online Library, Red Clover books, and putting it all into action! 

    UPDATE:  The Red Clover presentation was excellent and full of creative ideas by Beth Redford and M.C. Baker.

    Tiny little rock penguins to accompany the book Penguin Problems, by Jory John.  Art project by M.C. Baker.

    M.C. Baker had a fun "marbled box" project to go along with Daniel Finds a Poem, by Micha Archer.  The box is a beautiful place to keep your words or poetry, and the project is so easy and fun!

    Art project by M.C. Baker.

    This is the box I made!  The rubber bands are holding it together while the glue dries. 

    After the Red Clover presentation I ended up going to a panel discussion called "Empower, Educate, Engage: Combining Data, Stories, and Conversations to Develop Community Partnerships at All Levels," led by Heidi Heustis.  This was panel covered a variety of topics including data collection, identifying key stakeholders, promoting your library, and more; all around the idea of increase awareness about who you are and what goes on in the library.  I came away with a better understanding of the importance of tracking data, communicating with stakeholders, and documenting accomplishments (and data) each year.  

    Posted by Tessa Johnson

  • 01 May 2017 9:13 AM | Kristen

    April Showers bring May flowers and

    National Poetry Month brings out the importance of poems!

    Poetry, Plain and Simple

    Back in the day I was just another quasi-artsy kid at Sarah Lawrence College (“Where even the squirrels wear black!” was everyone’s favorite quip about the plethora of actual black squirrels on campus). I majored in poetry. Well, I didn’t really major, I concentrated. It was hip, alternative and, hopefully you’ll bear with me here, not nearly as ridiculous as it sounds. Ted Sheu, famed poet from Middlebury, VT, spent a day with us in the library last week and I’m pretty sure it changed some lives. It got me thinking about my outre collegiate days in a whole new way. Not only does poetry matter, it matters a lot.

    How often do kids these days just sit down, let their minds wander and have the gift of time to write stuff down--any old thing that comes to mind--silly, serious, sad, outrageous, whatever? The word “rarely” comes to mind. School is so super-structured, I have teachers tell me that the read aloud students enjoy in the library with me once a week is the only one “they have time for.” (This is fodder for a whole other blog.) Teachers follow a strict writing curriculum which basically forces children to “write what they are told,” as in a “How-To Book,” a persuasive letter, etc. Of course there is merit in these exercises because kids need to learn to harness the power of writing in various forms and practice GUM rules along the way, but there seems to be this idea out there that day-dreamy, from-the-gut mucking around on paper writing has no value. The Sarah Lawrence gal in me feels completely the opposite. Enter our workshops with Mr. Sheu!

    Ted gave every member of every elementary class the opportunity to goof around with ideas on paper. He had some structured activities that gave these budding writers a place to get kooky, to say something unexpected and original, that they didn’t even know they could say. It was so profound, watching literally every single student come to life with this master poet, who makes his living seriously goofing off with school kids, helping them recognize this voice inside they had not met before. What if we decided that not only is it okay to allow time for children to engage in these kind of writing exercises at school, but necessary?

    In this budding era of personalized learning, we are giving students enormous power to figure things out on their own terms. Mastery of concepts and skills can be shown via evidence accumulated over time--ideally, school is losing its “cells and bells” paradigm in favor of a “workshop” model. It sounds like a good idea, right? Well, time spent in a workshop means people are actually digging in, making a mess and ideally entering a state of flow that leads to all kinds of intrinsic learning. Gorgeous chaos? Meaningful messes? Yup. As educators in the 21st century, we have signed ourselves up to facilitate this stuff; it seems to me we have given ourselves the opportunity to let kids write poetry! Awesome.

    Okay, so now I sound like I am promoting some kind of writing free-for-all in school (admit it, it sounds fun, doesn’t it?) where kids can do whatever they wish, spelling and GUM rules be darned. I am not. A writer cannot possibly harness the power of all he or she wishes to say without a good understanding of basic writing skills. We all know that, basically, writing is rewriting. And students need to be taught all of this, often explicitly. But, that does not mean there can’t be a time for the poet in each of us to come on out and let our voices sing or laugh or cry or proclaim. It’s been going on since ancient times. It is a very human thing, poetry. It’s an art form that gets at all the things in our hearts that somehow or other never come out just right, until the poet does it for us, and we breathe a sigh of relief. It’s a celebration of expression where rules get broken because we humans often become most aware of our power when we break barriers that have been set. The world needs artists, no doubt. It needs poets to keep our voices heard in the noise of the 21st century, in the vacuum of cyberspace.

    What I am proposing is this: let’s have a time where we “Drop Everything and Write.” (Credit goes to poet Geoff Hewitt for this--he refers to it as DEW). Everyday. Let’s give these kids notebooks just for this sacred time and let them have at it. Let’s give them time to develop their voices so they know who they are as they are given the ever popular “voice and choice” that is becoming the mantra of personalization in public education. And I am going to one-up myself here: let’s then build in some of that “must-do” writing time for students to rewrite poems until they are saying that thing that is in their hearts. Let’s develop that in our students. Imagine the intrinsic motivation that might start to run rampant in each of them? It could happen. It should happen.

    I think we can all agree we are living in some pretty precarious times. We keep talking anxiously about preparing students for life in the 21st century. They are going to need to know what they are about, what they think, how they feel. They are going to need their voices. Enter a serious commitment to poetry: reading it, discussing it, writing it. I honestly believe poetry changes lives. It certainly did mine all those years ago. It gave me the courage to stand up and be a teacher librarian, actively promoting every child’s right to read, investigate and think freely. Talk about a powerful agenda. It is most likely worthy of a poem. It seems life in the library has brought me full circle to my undergraduate days, some of which may have seemed questionable in terms professional pay-off. Well, they weren’t. Libraries change lives, as do the poems housed on their shelves. Let’s work hard to promote the poets in our midst, our students. I am pretty sure they have things to say we have never heard before.

    *Many thanks to Ted Sheu for an incredibly inspiring day at Danville School during National Poetry Month 2017.

    -Kristen Eckhardt, LMS

    Danville School

    Danville, VT

  • 07 Apr 2017 2:46 PM | Kristen

    Oh, how I wish this platform would accept my copied and pasted essay instead of leaving you with a URL to copy and paste! Here is April's edition:



    Thanks for reading,

    Kristen Eckhardt, LMS

    Danville School

    Danville, VT

  • 20 Mar 2017 3:04 PM | Kristen

    I missed February, but here is an installment for March.



    Kristen Eckhardt, LMS

    Danville School

    Danville, VT

  • 23 Jan 2017 12:58 PM | Kristen

    Again, with the copying and pasting to get a look...but here is this month's musing, nonetheless. Happy New Year!

    Kristen Eckhardt, LMS

    Danville School


  • 06 Dec 2016 1:15 PM | Kristen

    Here is the latest from the Danville School Library. Happy Holidays!

    Kristen Eckhardt, LMS


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