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School libraries redesign, redefine learning spaces at schools

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Acres Green, Mountain Ridge and Sierra honored by CDE for efforts
DOUGLAS COUNTY – Several Douglas County schools are showing that their libraries do not have to be simply book depots. Instead, they can be learning commons, or in other words reinvigorated places for learning.

“I am in the process of developing a maker space in my learning commons and I am always looking for new things to do and share with the teachers and the students,” explained Tracie King, the librarian at Acres Green Elementary. “I am really focusing on how to provide more global connections next year for our school. My focus is always in developing deeper collaboration with both staff and students.”

Acres Green was one of three DCSD schools recently honored for their efforts to incorporate 21st Century Learning into their libraries.
The Colorado Department of Education has recognized King, Pete Vincelette from Mountain Ridge Middle School (MRMS), and Stephanie Meurer and Jennifer Milstead from Sierra Middle School (SMS) as Highly Effective School Library Programs (HESLP).

The HESLP designation is an accomplishment reflective of an all-encompassing vision that connects students with an inspirational environment, a variety of resources, and meaningful instruction, brought to life by the school librarian.

Last year three other Douglas County schools received the recognition: Rocky Heights Middle School, Ranch View Middle School, and ThunderRidge High School.
As visitors to these libraries quickly recognize, the changes have transformed the libraries, making them a point of pride and center of learning within the schools.
“We have an open and flexible space that has many individual areas for students, classes, and staff to learn, research, collaborate, create and share their information in,” says teacher-librarian Stephanie Meurer. “The learning commons is open all day and is open for everyone to use in whatever way they need. Our space is the hub of our building and is a place that we all take ownership of and enjoy.
Meurer and fellow teacher-librarian Jennifer Milstead have collaborated to transform Sierra’s library program into a learning hub that supports World-Class education.
“We are working to make our library extremely user-friendly and to be the go-to place for students and staff,” shares Milstead. “Our building is one of the oldest in the District, so we are working to continue the efforts that began last spring to revitalize the physical spaces to better meet the needs of 21st century learners. This includes flexible workspaces that foster creativity and collaboration.”
Meurer adds, “We are very proud of our efforts to support language arts teachers during their Diary of Anne Frank unit. We transformed our library into a Holocaust museum, using oral histories, historical photos, and online exhibits to bring the time period to life for students.”
Meurer and Milstead work with teachers every day to create engaging opportunities for students to use the 4C's and nurture their technology savvy, while still promoting the idea that reading is a window to the world.
The efforts of Meurer and Milstead have provided the evidence to meet the extensive criteria on the HESLP evaluation rubric. The following list itemizes some these criteria:
-A licensed teacher-librarian that collaborates with classroom teachers with instruction and assessment to integrate 21st century skills and technology into instruction and assessment;
-An established yearly growth plan;
-Collaboration between the school librarian and school faculty;
-Participation in development of curriculum and resources that incorporate 21st century skills;
-Use of differentiated instruction, backward design and other methods to meet the needs of all students;
-Partnership with teachers to design authentic assessments and analyze results;
-Use of a variety of formats to foster reading development promote reading;
-A library format that is welcoming and enhances learning;
-A variety of special programs that offer cultural global learning opportunities; and
-An innovative technology infrastructure.
King is planning to build on the work that has led to the HESLP award for Acres Green. While much is changing, she says the focus remains the same.

“I love introducing great books and encouraging students to read and become life long readers. I enjoy teaching and working with them on how to research, where to find information, and watching them solve problems.  I also enjoy seeing them grow in their learning from the time they begin school and then they leave their elementary years behind,” King said.

April 2, 2014 | By SCPaulsen | Category: Elementary Education, Middle School Education

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