Wednesday, October 16, 2019

30-Day Trial For The MERGE EDU Platform From Our Friends At Maker Maven

Our friends from Maker Maven have a super special offer they are sharing with all of us.  

It is a 30-day trial to the MERGE EDU Platform! 

As the site shares, MERGE EDU is the only active learning platform designed for the award-winning MERGE Cube.  It contains NGSS-aligned STEM content, AR teaching tools, immersive lesson activities, teacher dashboard and enterprise provisioning (student accounts, single sign-on) etc...

You will find this amazing deal here!  

Sunday, October 13, 2019

An Interview With Junauda Petrus, Sharing Her Special New Book, The Stars & The Blackness Between Them

I love reading all of the amazing books that come out every year, especially those that capture not only my attention, but my heart and desire to share them with others. 

One that did this fall was The Stars and the Blackness Between Them, by Junauda Petrus and published by Penguin Random House.  This is her debut novel and one that everyone will want to put on their list to read and on their library shelves. 

I was lucky enough to talk to Junauda and ask her a few questions about The Stars and the Blackness Between Them, her life as a writer and film maker and what is next.  It ends with a very special message to my students and others.
This is your first book!  Congratulations. Tell us about The Stars and the Blackness Between Them?  

Thank you for the congratulations!

It’s about two Black girls falling in love, Mabel a 16 year-old, poetic, nerdy, deep-thinking, Whitney Houston-obsessed teenager who befriends Audre, a wild chile from Trinidad who studies ancient African healing and spirituality with her grandmother/best friend, Queenie. After falling out with her mother over being in love with another girl, Audre is sent up from Trinidad to live with her American dad and befriends Mabel. Shortly after they meet, Mabel is diagnosed with a devastating illness and begins a journey of existential crisis in the midst of her young life while falling in love with Audre. The book uses intergenerational healing, time travel, magical realism, astrology and music to tell this love and coming of age story.

2. Share a little about the two main characters of the book, Audre and Mabel? 

Audre is a very complex and loving person who is figuring out who she is in the midst of a lot of change. She has lived in Trinidad most of her life and all of a sudden has to navigate Minneapolis and living with her father who she really doesn’t know. She also is an Aquarian and a healer in her own blossoming way and this becomes important in her friendship with Mabel. Mabel is very sweet and has a bit of a dry humor, and tender spirit. She is a Scorpio a bit of an introvert, but also is very warm and a bit of a romantic at heart and loves everything Basketball and Whitney Houston.

3. Where did you get the inspiration to write this story?  

I got it from a lot of places, I feel. The initial storyline came to me and then the characters started to emerge to tell the story. I feel like Audre and Mabel are both parts of me, and parts of my heart. I was a very tender, romantic and awkward Black girl, and didn’t see or read that in art and culture I was consuming when I was growing up. In writing this book, I really channeled my young queer and questioning self, to flesh out these characters and make them real. I was inspired by Whitney Houston and her beautiful spirit and complicated life and the ways she had a close and tender female
friendship for most of her life that was very important to her. As a young girl, I was obsessed with Whitney and explored re-imagining her existence in this book.

Along the way of writing it, I reflected on the elements of life growing up that really inspired me. At around the age of 16, I started reading books by Black activists, thinkers and mystics who were contemplating Blackness in ways that were new and healing for me at that age. I wanted to include spirituality and social justice in the lives of these young women, because that was so important to me at that age as well. Astrology was also a huge inspiration for me in structuring the book and imagining the characters.

4. The two places that the young women come from…..are these connected to places
you are from?  

Yes! My mother is Trinidadian (my father is from St. Croix, Virgin Islands) and I was born and raised in Minneapolis. In writing and researching for this book, I had a great opportunity to connect with my mom’s country, my Trinidadian ancestors and with the beautiful and dynamic LGBTQIA community who live in Trinidad and Tobago. I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and feel very grateful to know this place as well. I appreciated getting to highlight my city and its green and magical setting for the love story of these two Black girls.

5. Have you always wanted be an author? 

I think I have always wanted to be an artist and a free spirit and writing has afforded me that existence in so many ways. I’ve always loved books and am still in awe of the genius minds who healed me through words on a page. I loved the worlds that opened up for me when I opened up books. Books inspired me deeply as an activist and youth worker in my teens and early twenties as well as my work as an artist. I have always loved writing and the way that words work and have appreciated devoting my life to writing recently. I feel like being a published author is still a shock to me. I love talking to people who have read my book and have been touched by it. It's surreal and amazing.

6. With your background in film making, can you see your book becoming a movie?  That
is always a big question for my teen readers. 


In writing this book, I was inspired by my work as a filmmaker in how to tell the story, its pacing and arch for sure. I think the young mind is so quick and visual these days, I wanted to find that cadence in the book. I loved writing the dialogue in the book and fleshing out the characters through the way they speak and think. The concept for this book was initially for a screenplay idea I had, and then I decided to write it as a book since, I’m still maturing as a screenwriter. I even wrote a couple of
scenes for it, before I decided to make it a book and then I began writing it as chapters instead. I think the story and the imagery are very rich and cinematic and would lend itself smoothly to the screen. I would love to have it filmed in Minneapolis and Trinidad and reflect the beauty of these two places, too. I love filmmaking as an artistic media, because it combines so many artistic elements: writing, performance, visuals, soundscape. In short, I would LOVE for this book to be a movie!

7. What is next for you as an author? 

Right now, I have a couple of projects in mind. Two other books, a memoir and poetry book. I have ideas for other fiction pieces as well. I also have been imagining a one woman performance piece, that I have already started writing but would like to put more time and research into. I also want to spend time reading and being in the world with my book. I think, The Stars and The Blackness Between Them, is a very important work for this time and this world and I want to share it with as many people as I can. Especially folks who are LGBTQIA and BIPOC, as well as folks who are incarcerated. And of course my Caribbean people! Right now, I’m focused on that the most.

8. Is there a special message that you would like me to share with my students and others? 

Yes! I would tell them to take this time in their lives to get quiet and grounded with themselves everyday. Away from people, technology and noise. Find places in nature that help them be still and listen to their own hearts. I would tell them to take time for themselves and love themselves. I would like for them to find ways to ground in their own limitless magic and healing power, despite all that is happening in the world. Young people are my heroes and inspirations, and I want them to feel empowered to continue to heal and lead in this complex and beautiful world.
You can find Junauda on Twitter at @junaudaalma too. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Join Us For The 2019 Global Traveling Mural Project, Friends!

Dear Friends, 

It’s time for the 2019 Global Traveling Mural Project! 

Our first annual Traveling Mural Project was a huge success and such a special project for over 150 schools around the world to be part of. It has been such a special experience sharing it with all of you, my students and community.
You can also visit our Traveling Mural Google Slide Book to see pictures and stories of those who were part of this amazing journey in 2018.
Here are the steps: 

1. First, go to the 2019 Global Travel Mural Google Doc

This year, we have been signing up for several months so I started putting the groups together already. 

If you haven’t signed up yet, please do so here.

You will be in a group of 10, 9 others and you! 

This is also where you sign up if you haven't already. Just keep adding to the bottom and we can add as many groups as we need.

2. Create a 10 foot mural with your community on butcher paper.  You can use paints, crayons, markers, pencil, mixed media, photos, etc.. 
It can be as simple as putting up a 10 foot piece of butcher paper and having your students contribute to it over the course of a week or two to having it all drawn out for them to color in too.  Anything goes with this mural project. 
There are lots of wonderful picture and nonfiction books to use when talking about and creating murals.  This is the Padlet with several….please feel free to add more. 
Here is a Google Slide presentation that our related arts team used last year to kick off this project at
Van Meter.  You are welcome to use it or make a copy and add your own slides too.

3. Cut the mural into 10, 1 foot long pieces and send them to the 9 other places on your list.  Make sure to include the name and location of your school somewhere on the mural. Keep one of the pieces for your mural. Send the mural pieces by November 30, 2019. 

4. Once you have all 10 pieces of the mural, put it together with your students to create your traveling community mural. 

5. Post pictures & videos using #travelingmural on Twitter & Instagram. Let's all post these by the end of 2019. 

6. Make connections throughout this project with the others in your group. This project is about creating global connections and community with others around the world.  

Remember, you can find your groups here.

Together, think of the impact and difference we can make for our students, library, school, community and throughout the world. 

Let me know if you have questions.  My email is

With love and friendship, Shannon McClintock Miller

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A Tip For Creating PebbleGo & My Capstone Library Posters!

I am always looking for ways to streamline the process of getting to our online resources and making it quick and easy for students, teachers and families. 

Today, I thought about how I could get our kindergarteners onto the different places they have never been before with their new iPads.  This is a process we need to think through with our kindergarten classrooms being 1:1 and all of the students having their own iPad throughout the day. 

In fact, it is something we explore with all of our students every year as we get back into school. 
As I talked through it with a few of the kindergarten teachers, I thought it would be fun to come to each classroom and show them how to get to the PebbleGo article about pumpkins, which is what they are learning about in October. 
With this goal in mind, I got to work creating PebbleGo posters the teachers could post in their classrooms and even on the iPad cart.  
I took the URL for PebbleGo,, and created a QR code using QRMonkey.  I love this QR Code maker, because it allows you to add an image to the middle. 
I then added it to a Google Slide where I could add a screenshot of the PebbleGo logo and the sign in boxes from the site.  

It is easy in Google Slides to move things around, copy assets and slides and make them looks nice and organized to use for posters.  
I made this one blank but the ones I created for the teachers and students today at Van Meter, had our schools username and password.  This will allow the students to have all of the information they need for logging in successfully to PebbleGo at their fingertips. 
As I was working on these, I thought it would be helpful to create a poster for PebbleGo Next and....

...Capstone Interactive (My Capstone Library) too.  

Now all of our students, who have access to iPads often, will be able to get to all of the Capstone resources they need from any device at school and at home.  
After I put all three of the online resources into the Google Slides presentation, I shared it with teachers and printed off the posters for them to hang up in their classrooms.

If you would like to make these for your library and classrooms, I made the Google Slide presentation so you can make a copy and use it for your own.  You can get to the link here.

As you are working on your PebbleGo posters, don't forget to add your own username and password to each poster before you print.  This will save a lot of time and will be easy to read.

Have fun making these for your school community too! 

A Special Skype with Janet Sumner Johnson & Her New Book, Help Wanted, Must Love Books!

Today, in the library with the 2nd grade in Mrs. Braun's class, we Skyped with our new friend and author, Janet Sumner Johnson.  
She joined us to share her new book, 
Help Wanted, Must Love Booksthat comes out in March 2020 from Capstone.

This new book joins her first one,
The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society, 
which came out in 2016 from Capstone too.  You will find this one here on the Capstone site.
On her website, she shares this about Help Wanted, Must Love Books, 

When Shailey’s dad gets a new job, she loses her bedtime reading partner. She immediately starts interviews to fill the position and is thrilled when her favorite fairy tale characters line up to apply. But Sleeping Beauty can’t stay awake, the Gingerbread Man steals her book, and Snow White brings her whole team. Shailey is running out of options. Is bedtime ruined forever?
We loved learning how it was inspired by her husband, daughter and their nightly read aloud time and...
 ...figuring out the fairytale characters, Sleeping Beauty, Gingerbread Man, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and more, that she included within her story
 After she shared the story, Janet answered lots of awesome questions....
 ...from our second graders. 

Her story is not only a funny tale of bedtime rituals and the struggle it sometimes causes; it is also a special story told through a fun cast of fairytale characters and great imagination.

Thank you, Janet for joining Jessica and I with our 2nd graders today.  You are awesome and we can't wait to connect with you again. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Get Free Little Women Educational Materials and Bookmarks For Your Students, Libraries & Classrooms

One of my favorite classic books is Little Women.  I have read the book three times and have shared it with others too many times to count.   
This holiday season, the movie event of the year for book lovers will take place as Little Women opens in theaters on December 25, 2019. Directed by Greta Gerwig, LITTLE WOMEN stars Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Emma Watson as Meg, Laura Dern as Marmee, Timothee Chalamet as Laurie and Meryl Streep as Aunt March.

In our library at Van Meter Community School in Iowa, we are planning to include a Little Women program as we introduce a new generation to the beloved classic that resonates today just as much as ever. 
We are using the amazing Little Women Toolkit to start planning our event.  You can find it on Dropbox here.

The Little Women Toolkit is wonderful!  
The toolkit features a link to three lesson plans developed by the Great Books Foundation
discussion questions for book groups and the classroom, 
“Are You Meg, Jo, Beth or Amy?” Quiz, 
links to the LITTLE WOMEN movie images that you can use to create displays at your library or decorate bulletin boards, 
tea party recipes from Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House and The Little Women Cookbook, 
vintage games and..
...arts-and-crafts activities from the late 1800s, like this one pictured above. 

They are also offering free bookmarks (indicate whether you would like 25 or 50 bookmarks) and mini posters (5 per person).  

You can email Rachel Breinin at to request both. When they are ready, she will send them to you. Also, provide your full mailing address.
I just ordered this very special edition of Little Women from Abrams that comes out on November 5, 2019.  I can't wait to read and share it before the movie comes out on Christmas Day.  

And I can't wait to plan a Little Women celebration in our school and community.  I hope with these resources and more, you will too. 

Halloween Collection by Destiny Filled With Books, Songs, Interactive Sites, Making, Learning and Fun!

It's October and time to start planning for a month of fun Halloween reading, making, baking, singing, learning, writing and fun.  

And guess what? I have lots of new things to share with you!  

Let me share two new Collections by Destiny that I created.  
You will find the Let's Celebrate Halloween Collection for elementary students here.
Two of my favorite new books for Halloween are the ones at the top of this post....
Halloween and Monster Party...A Song About Drawing With Numbers from Cantata Learning.  These stories are paired with music that you will find online to stream or download.

It is super easy for students to get to the music by scanning the QR codes found throughout each book.
Monster Party...A Song about Drawing and Numbers is from the new Sing and Draw Set by the dynamic team of Blake Hoena, Tim Palin and Emily Arrow.
I remember drawing things from numbers when I was young from Ed Emberley's fantastic books and the six new books in this Cantata Learning series are just as fun!

And they can sing along while drawing and learning about numbers....How cool is that!

I added the Monster Party video to the Let's Celebrate Halloween Collection so it will be super easy for your students to sing and draw monsters too. 
You will find all four of the titles from this series in the Sing and Draw YouTube playlist here.
These two series of Cantata Learning books, along with all Cantata titles, are available on Titlewave from Follett.
In fact, these books and more can be found on the October 31 Happy Halloween Titlewave List that our friends at Follett have put together for us.  

I just love looking through all of the wonderful books available for our readers for Halloween and the fall.  
Also, in the Let's Celebrate Halloween Collection you will find lots of educational and fun websites and activities including ones from PBS Kids,
 several from ABCya!,
 and a link to Buncee, where you and your students can create so many amazing digital stories for...
Halloween too!

Check it out and share this Collection with your students this month too. 
As for the librarians and teachers, I have created the Halloween Collection for Librarians and Teachers that you will find here.
It is filled with amazing learning, teaching, making, reading and sharing Halloween resources. There is definitely something for everyone here.

I will continue to add to both Halloween Collections and please let me know if you'd like to collaborate and share things on them too.  I will make you a collaborator...that would be fun.

Happy October and Halloween, friends....I hope you find lots of ideas in this post and enjoy the month in your library and school too!