Signs of fun – and learning – in the library

We’ve started 2022 under the shadow of Omicron, which means we’re back to fewer students in the library, and classes aren’t coming in for instruction. Hopefully this will be a short-term situation, but in the meantime I’m curious to know what is going on in the classrooms, and want to celebrate ways that we can interact with students. Fortunately, teens are messy! They leave papers on tables and on the copier (where I can look at their research and citations), they neglect to wipe down the whiteboards before walking away, they make fun additions to our displays. I could think of each of these as one more mess to clean up (well, often that is EXACTLY what I think) but I try to focus on the positive and think of these as clues to what is happening in the classroom and opportunities to talk with students about their lives. So, for a lighthearted first-ever AISL blog post, here’s a photo tour of some library fun from the past few years that led to interesting conversations and fun interactions with students and with teachers.

This looks staged but it’s actually what I found on the table outside my office three weeks ago. I was delighted to see that a class is using lessons from the Newseum, and even more pleased to learn that this is from an AP US Government class. I’d had a conversation with that teacher in the fall and mentioned a SCOTUS lesson I’d done in US History a number of years ago. This Newseum project prompted a new conversation, which led to me showing her the SCOTUS lesson, which led to us revamping that 10-year-old lesson into a research and citation exercise that we taught just this week. This teacher was entertained to see that a paper that will be part of a homework check had been abandoned in the library…

We found this on a whiteboard in one of the small study rooms just after Thanksgiving 2021. I wondered if a science class was doing a holiday-meal-themed lesson? I sent the photo to the upper school just for fun, and learned that it was a well-formatted “visual/flow-chart version of the protocol for a lab we recently did in Biology, studying osmosis with potato cells.” We were simply wondering how many servings of mashed potatoes this made! But it gave me the opportunity to send an email to the faculty reminding them that we are still working (somewhat invisibly) in the library. It also prompted a history teacher to respond with a link to a lovely article about blackboards and math instruction

It’s hard to believe it’s been this long, but six years ago we were starting to plan for a library remodel. We solicited input from students and teachers in several different ways, including dry erase paper mounted to a wall. What made this fun is that students could interact with each other’s suggestions. Nap pods were way too expensive, but thanks to their suggestions we now have plenty of sofas and comfy chairs, and we encourage naps! This also helped make the argument for putting a variety of writing walls in the new library.

We love it when students interact with our displays because it means they are paying attention. (I asked a physics teacher to explain this. I still don’t understand it.)

A middle school lesson was left on the library classroom whiteboard. Upper school students were curious, so I showed them our print collection of Time and Life magazines from the 1930s – 1980s. These volumes are perfect for primary source research and for learning about representation in advertisements.

Remember print encyclopedias?! This is from several years ago when we still had these on the shelf. We believe in having fun in the library and our students agree. This went on for several weeks – there were many iterations.

Sometimes the whiteboard signs are helpful, like this one from a summer 2021 class. I only met with these students once and it was over Zoom, so this “class photo” found in the library classroom helped me remember their names when we went back to school in August.

Often their drawings make everyone smile.

Sometimes their work is super-intimidating.

The write-on wall is often a palimpsest of the day’s lessons.

We enjoy having a fun and interactive library – one that provides the tools that students need and a place to explore their creativity. Before the library was remodeled we had one whiteboard – it was in the library classroom and was usually behind a locked door. After remodeling we have one write-on-wall, white boards in each of the small study rooms, a two-sided whiteboard on wheels in the central seating area, and a wall covered with whiteboard paper that we use for fun interactive surveys (or remodeling suggestions). We welcome post-it notes with encouraging comments scattered around the shelves, and we dutifully pick up the stray papers and books at the end of the day, looking for clues as to what’s happening in our students’ lives.

4 thoughts on “Signs of fun – and learning – in the library

  1. What a fun post. I think we need to keep a better record of the intellectual playfulness that happens in our library sometimes.

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