Spotlight on Vermont!

No time to visit other school libraries in your busy schedule? Wish you could see what your colleagues are doing to embrace “future ready” school library programs? Want to build networking within your region?

Welcome to a new feature of the VSLA website that connects all professional school librarians, tech integrationists, and those who love school libraries in our small, but geographically challenging state. Let’s share our ideas by showcasing what is happening in your school or district. Each month or so, watch for “Spotlight on Vermont,” (not “Moonlight in Vermont”-that’s taken).

Spotlight on East Montpelier Elementary School

By Judy Kaplan

The Spotlight on Vermont School Libraries finds us at East Montpelier Elementary School, 665 Vincent Flats Rd, in the hills of East Montpelier, Vermont.  The school has been recently renovated, and if you have not been there, take a peek at these slides.  Visitors are welcome, so plan your visit soon. You are in for a treat!

In 2012, East Montpelier voters passed a bond to improve the aging facility with additional space for classrooms, a new cafeteria, and library, while upgrading infrastructure systems, inside and out.  By the fall of 2014, students, teachers, administrators, and families were enjoying the benefits of a building that reflect goals for contemporary education.  Bright and cheery colors, spacious classrooms and workspaces, and technology innovations provide a backdrop that focuses on student centered learning.

The East Montpelier Elementary School Library has a panoramic view that looks out towards Plainfield and Marshfield, and the mountains of Groton State Forest in north central Vermont.   The wall of windows brings the outside world into a flexible center for active learning. Cloudy days or sunny days, preschoolers through sixth graders are eager to be searching for just right books, reading in quiet corners, or working on interactive technology projects in a space designed as part of the major renovation for the school community.  

Arlyn Bruccoli wears multiple hats as the school librarian and the tech integration specialist. She is enthusiastic about the flexibility of her position, and her new library space.  During my visit, she was in constant motion, weaving her two roles in seamless fashion. Each week, she has regularly scheduled classes for library instruction and book selection, that often spill over into some related technology projects.  Likewise she collaborates with teachers to infuse technology within classroom content, so she meets with each class weekly to support curriculum with technology applications. Depending on the schedule, the class may be working in the library space or in the classroom.  So, in reality, the library space and the classroom spaces are intermingled, according to the design of the learning goals.

Arlyn and her assistant, Jane Badger, get to know the 250 or so students and their families in a longitudinal way, as students move through preschool to sixth grade before venturing on the U-32 Middle/High School.   Jane has been the library assistant for many years, and is essential to the smooth operation of the day to day tasks to keep the library humming. With Arlyn out and about in the school, Jane is there to help the just in time learners in the library space.  

When the new library space opened, the former library space was the perfect spot for a makerspace, so Arlyn has been working to encourage other teachers and parents to use this as a creative work space for both low tech and high tech projects.  During the school year, Arlyn leads a “Tech Club” at lunch and recess one day a week for those who are interested, and want more tech time. With the help of parent volunteers, Arlyn and the Tech Club run a Makerspace group for younger students during lunch & recess. 4-6 week blocks are reserved for participants from 2nd - 3rd grade classrooms on a rotating basis . The Tech Club also hosts a year end celebration, Tech Night, to demonstrate and share learning for the whole school.  Arlyn has been able to purchase a variety of robotic devices and supplies through the school budget and some donations, and coding is integral to the technology curriculum across the grades.   

Take a glimpse at an afternoon with Arlyn on the move:

After lunch:

  • Second grade classroom: Students have been reading about famous people, and using facts to create their own books using Book Creator. Students have answered questions about a selected famous person in a written document, as a first step. This afternoon, Arlyn and the teacher co-teach a lesson about creating pages within the Book Creator app.  Students work in small groups or individually, and adult helpers (including me) circulate to assist and answer questions. Here are some of the finished products:
  • Library space:  5th grade class-book selection and book talk about “making and creating stuff”  from 700’s-non-fiction. Introduction to Tech Club for anyone in this class who wants to have more time with coding and robotics.  Announcements about Book Club, and after school program for 4th and 5th  readers who meet to discuss books on the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Reading List . Arlyn co-hosts with a fourth grade teacher, and it involves food!  Help individuals with reader’s advisory. On to the next event!
  • Library space:  While Arlyn meets with 5th graders, Jane has been setting up for a first grade class who will be spreading out to continue their exploration of the moon and the sun.  They have been gathering facts and will be using Legos to create a grid that demonstrates a fact or set of facts.

When the students arrive they are excited to get started, but Arlyn refocuses the group on the learning intentions and explains the activity. Working with partners or in small groups, the students problem solve the facts and how to represent them on the Lego grid. Some groups jump in, but others struggle, so Arlyn, Jane, and other adults (me too) are there to help.  Once the students have a completed product, the next step is to use a Lego software app, Story Visualizer to create a background for the creation, add the facts,  and save it along with a photo of the partners. The goal is for a class book to show learning.   Everyone helped with clean up!

  • End of the day:  Parents and students stop by to chat with Jane and Arlyn, and to return books. 4th grade teacher, Ellen Shedd, stops by to make plans for the Book Club meeting.  As I make my goodbyes, Arlyn tells me that she is looking forward to her next gig on Winter Wellness Day, later in the week. She will get a chance to wear a different hat-her ski hat!  She is a chaperone for a group of students who will be spending the day at Bolton Valley. Hope it was fun!

Contact Arlyn Bruccoli

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