Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Squishy Circuits Light Up 5th Grade STEM Classes

Play dough, batteries, and LEDs lit up the library on April 10 as Nick Wethington from SpectrUM led fifth graders in a STEM lab about electricity and circuits.

As usual, Nick Wethington, from SpectrUM, introduced 5th graders to the day's activity. In the photo above, he uses play dough replicas of Mutant Ninja Turtles characters to show how to get the electricity flowing through small LEDs.

There was no shortage of enthusiasm. Farah and Luci got into the spirit with several LEDs in one small play dough creation.

Some students developed more elaborate creations, like the ones below:

The next STEM lab is Tuesday, April 24. To find out more about how squishy circuits work, as well as more about the Making and Tinkering in the Bitterroot program, just click here to view Nick's Instructables.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

How High Can You Go?

We are well into the second year of a making and tinkering program funded and supported by SpectrUM at the University of Montana. The initial program began with 5th graders and they continue to be the focus, and from the start teachers have embraced the STEM labs.

New this year are Strawbees - think an updated version of Tinker Toys that use varying shapes of connectors and, as the name suggests, straws. Fifth graders tried out Strawbees for the first time last January, with some whimsical results:

On the Friday before spring break, all of the 5th graders participated in a Strawbees challenge that urged them to build as high a freestanding Strawbees structure as they could manage in just 10 minutes. They came up with a wide variety of structures and some even managed to have some fun:


The labs will continue well into May with activities that will include circuitry of various kinds and some work with forced perspective.

Many thanks to spectrUM and, especially, to SpectUM Museum Manager Nick Wethington, who is inspiring a second group of 5th graders to see themselves as makers and tinkers.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Battle of the Books Comes to Corvallis Middle School

For the first time, Corvallis Middle School students have participated in the Battle of the Books. This is a competition in which teams of three, grouped by grade level, read a common list of 10-12 books and, during the competition, answer questions about those books. The titles cover several different genres, including history, realistic fiction, humor, and fantasy.

About 30 5th and 6th graders and a dozen 7th and 8th graders participated at CMS. The 5/6 and 7/8 winning teams from Corvallis participated in the Montana State Tournament on March 13 at the Missoula Public Library.

The Battle of the Books has been around for at least 30 years but is relatively new to Montana. Paige Merriam, a middle school librarian at Target Range School in Missoula brought the program to Montana from Alaska, where the competition is very popular. Paige and her colleague, Lisa Brennan, have been encouraging Montana schools to give BOB a try.

Thus far, most of the participating schools are in the greater Missoula area, but Anaconda, Ovando, and Troy also participated in this year's state tournament, and a 5/6 group team from Broadus participated remotely. The CMS administration and staff support the program and we all hope that interest and participation will grow in the coming years.

Our 5/6 state team, all 5th graders, was, left to right, Riley Dahlstrom, Caitlin Nelson, Arden Weidow, and Emily Jones (alternate). They placed fifth out of nine teams.

The 7/8 grade team (all 8th graders) is below. Left to right are Zoe Sampson, Skylar Tibbs, and Liliana Trail.They finished third at state.

Because the state competition was at the Missoula Public Library, we got a chance to explore a larger library space than we are used to. As the following pictures suggest, middle school kids know how to have some fun, including 8th graders in the kids' room and fifth graders enthralled with elevators.

The 2018-2019 reading list will be out next fall and we at CMS will be eagerly reading the books.

Monday, February 5, 2018

A New Adventure

This blog represents an effort to move beyond my Corvallis Middle School Library website. That site seemed like a good idea when I created it four or five years ago, but in the last couple of years I have barely glanced at it, let alone updated it or encouraged my students and colleagues to use it.

So, a blog. Which feels a bit behind the times, too. But I will give it a try.

About the name, "Librarian Without Walls." I stole this from a presentation at the NCCE Conference in 2013. I have the opportunity to help out with the CMS Outdoor Education program. We take kids hiking and biking in local wildlife refuges and national forest trails, where we identify some of the local floral and fauna, write in nature journals, and do our best to take advantage of the wild places so close to us in the Bitterroot Valley. I am also involved with a MakerSpace program developed by spectrUM, and while much of what we do is within the confines of the library, we do look outward, including trips to the Fab Lab at the Bitterroot College in Hamilton.

More about all of this later. For now, I will aim to post something each week and see if a blog by a librarian from a middle school in the Bitterroot can reach beyond the walls of the library.