Sunday, January 29, 2012

Please Help Build the She's the First Digital Penpal Program

My friend Brianne from She's the First needs our help.  The post below is from Brianne.....please read and lets see what we can do!  

"A Quick Survey to Help Build She's the First's Digital Penpal Program!" 

Meet Elizabeth. She's 18 and about to graduate from high school in Tanzania. She loves Bollywood movies, wants to fight discrimination against women, and dreams of studying business in London one day. She's asking me for advice on college and telling me what she's planning for her graduation party. We talk about New Years traditions, cupcakes, and United Nations Week. 

Elizabeth's education is sponsored by She's the First (link, a not-for-profit sponsoring girls' education in the developing world, helping them be the first in their families to graduate. In the process, She’s the First fosters leadership and self-awareness in young Americans, by inspiring them to lead creative fundraisers and correspond with sponsored students.

As She's the First's penpal coordinator, I have the amazing privilege of being able to connect with Elizabeth in Tanzania from my desk in New York City.  Shannon Miller's group of girls from the Van Meter chapter of She's the First are doing the same with Neema, the Kisa scholar they sponsor in Tanzania. And now, we're innovating a new penpal program that will break barriers and give students all over the United States and the girls we sponsor around the world the chance to communicate, connect, and learn from each other. But first -- we need your help!

We want to hear from educators across the board on digital penpal programs, and how you feel your students could benefit from communication with their peers in other countries. 

Please take a few moments to fill out our brief survey -- and forward the link to your colleagues.
Your input will shape our strategy for communicating with the 150+ girls She's the First has sponsored so far, creating learning opportunities in US schools and abroad, and cultivating friendships that may last a lifetime.

Please forward this short survey on to your students as well. We need their voices to
 help us in this game changing effort to connect students around the globe. 

Thank you for taking the time to make a difference in girls' education!

(Any questions, comments, or concerns, please email -- I'd love to talk penpals with you!)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The 6th Graders Amazing "I Am A Digital Citizen" Animoto's

I teach a class to all of our 6th graders at Van Meter called Technology Literacy. To start off the class each quarter, we talk about being a digital citizen.

They took our conversation and their knowledge to create some pretty amazing Animoto's.

Today they shared them with our class. We were so impressed by the work of all the groups.

We couldn't wait to share them with you too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Celebrate World Read Aloud Day on March 7th...."Change the World, Story by Story"

(Cross-posted at Two Libraries One Voice
On March 7, 2012 we will be celebrating World Read Aloud Day with the world.  

The theme this year says it all....

Change the World, Story by Story
This amazing day is sponsored by LitWorlds, whose mission is, "to use the power of story to cultivate literacy skills in the world's most vulnerable children through Education, Advocacy and Innovation."

Through social media such as Skype, Twitter, and Facebook we will come together once again to celebrate the power of words and magic of literacy.  

Last year we celebrated by connecting with 13 other classrooms and 9 authors throughout the day.  It was one of the best days and one we will never forget.  So when LitWorld announced WRAD 2012, we just couldn't wait to start planning.  
We have created the "Change the World, Story by Story" wiki.  If you would like to join us on March 7th, please join the wiki and sign up on the "Skype Schedule and Projects" page.  We will post different resources and artifacts as well on the wiki.  
John created these beautiful posters and they are decorating our hallways.  
Shannon created this banner for the wiki and it could also be used as a bookmark for WRAD. 

We are also VERY excited to announce that we have been invited by LitWorlds to be WRADvocates.  As WRADvocates our role is to be the "Ambassador for World Read Aloud Day" is our area by spreading the word through social media, celebrations, and connections that we will make.  

As we look ahead to the year and all of the events in front of us, World Read Aloud Day is definitely one that will bring excitement, fun, and new friendships to our students and school communities.  

And we hope that you will want to bring this to yours too by joining us on March 7th.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What I Learned By Visiting Bookstores in Colorado Over Christmas

Happy New Year, Everyone.  I hope your holiday break was filled with peace, happiness, and lots of fun.

And of course a lot of wonderful books and reading too.

When I went to Colorado over Christmas, I looked for places with books.  Libraries, bookstores, even in the lodge that we stayed at.  I looked for fun, cozy, little places to read of my favorite things to do on vacations is to read and bring books back from these special visits.  

I found the cutest bookstore in Steamboat called Off the Beaten Path.  They had a sweet little comfy spot for children.  I just loved sitting back in that area reading and looking at all of their books.  
Hagan, Brianna, and I bought several books at this bookstore during the week because of the great book talking that happened while we were there.  
Not only were there people talking about the books that they read, they also had a big section that featured "Staff Picks" (as you can see in the photo above).  
At the end of the week, we went back to Fort Collins and spent the day walking around town.

The first place we went was to The Bean Cycle Coffee House.  The coffee house was super cool but tucked into the back of the store was something very special.

It was the Matter Bookstore, which is part of Wolverine Farm Publishing.  On their website it states, "A non-profit run solely by volunteers, Matter Bookstore's mission is to provide the community with a valuable resource through our carefully selected books and publications, weekly events, and the support of various causes.  All the money generated from book sales goes directly to funding publications such as the Matter Journal  and toward various literacy outreach programs."

Their children's area was amazing.  It was one of the most inspiring, creative spaces that I have ever seen.  From the original art work on the walls to the tree branch greeting you at the entrance .....everything was so special.

I could just imagine how a child would feel being able to read and dream within this space.

And once again there were people talking about books...sharing favorites and picking up new ones to read.   One thing I really loved about the Matter Bookstore was how they sold old books too.  I saw a lot of my childhood favorites on the shelves for sale (notice how they are organized by the color of their spine too.....cute!) and had so much fun sharing them with my own kids.  
Being in these spaces made me think about our elementary library.  

I love the space that we have.  It is welcoming, warm, and a place our students enjoy reading, creating, thinking, and learning.  It is a space where they have fun.  We have a new loft that they love to read in....they also love reading underneath the loft too.  

As we start a new semester this week, I thought of a few new ideas to bring to our library and students. 
I went out to the garage and found a box of books from my childhood.  I found my Judy Blume books like Blubber, Are You There God It's Me Margaret, and Freckle Juice.  I also found books that I read for my classes at school like The Pigman and A Christmas Carol.  

It was so much fun seeing which book I would pull out of the box next.  I was so excited to show my students.

I decided to create a special "Book Talk Box" for the books I would be book talking for the week.
Not only would the "Book Talk Box" hold the books I read when I was young, but also books from our books, classics, nonfiction favorites, poetry, books about people I wanted them to learn about too.  

Another special place in our library.....just like the places we found on our trip.  

The "Book Talk Box" can even travel around the school, maybe even with other people besides me.  There will be lots of possibilities for our box.  

So remember to always keep you eyes and mind open to new ideas.  

They will fill your libraries and schools with happiness.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Your happy is never too loud...

On New Year's Day, we went to the movies.

We saw "We Bought a Zoo" directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Matt Damon as the dad Benjamin Mee; Scarlett Johansson as Kelly, the young veterinarian at the zoo; Colin Ford as Dylan, his son; and adorable Maggie Elizabeth Jones as Rosie, his daughter.

The movie is based on the true story of Ben buying and moving to the zoo with his children.  His wife died 6 months earlier, his son was struggling, and his daughters love of life and the things around her led him to easily make the decision to take on this new adventure.

Not only did I love the story of how they turned the zoo around and created a new family with the people who worked there but I also hung onto so many of the words.  They stood out to me because they carried a message of hope, one that makes you ask yourself questions such as....are you living the life you want, does your life have purpose, are you getting what you want from it?

In the beginning little Rosie says to her Dad while looking out the window at the neighbors having fun, "Their happy is too loud." 

That really stuck out to me because there is nothing better in life than loud happy.....think about that for a minute.
Later in the movie, Ben and Dylan are talking about life.  Listen to this clip and think about the words that he says.

I love this...."All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it."  

Have you ever had anyone tell you that?  What would happen if you took a chance today and did something wild, completely out of the ordinary?

And how about this.....Have you ever told someone else that?
Throughout the movie, Ben talks about his wife and her love for living, for the little things in life.  He tells how she loved flying red kites and....

blueberry Pop-Tarts.

She loved the little things.

What are the little things that you love?  Have you ever been asked that?  Have you ever asked someone else what little things they love?
I love the little things too.  This movie reminded me that I need to share them with others.

I love seeing my daughter, Brianna, standing in the field talking to her horse forever.
and how she thought it would be fun to get this sock monkey calendar for our house.  Her thought behind it, "Every time I walk by it, I will smile and laugh."  So do I.....sock monkeys are funny.
I love finding illustrations of red headed girls with butterflies and
finding complete happiness in the joy my youngest Hagan had when he wore his pajamas to school on Polar Express day.

I love eating ice cream with Swedish fish, caramel, way too many sprinkles, and whipped cream.  I love listening to music and dancing in the kitchen (and even in the library).  I love getting dirty.  I love coloring.  I love finding old books with my name wrote in the front by my Mom.  I love that she let us write in the front of them too.

I love the smell of fall, pink flowers, Colorado, Monet, coffee, and babies. I love being in new places. I love going to church, and taking walks.

I love being with my family and friends. I love holding my sisters hand and remembering the day we got matching tattoos on our wrists. I love seeing my brother be a Dad to his three little ones.  I love seeing Brianna play horse monopoly with my Dad and hearing laughter fill the room.
I love looking at pictures of my son, Brady.  I love him more than air.

As the students at Van Meter come back to school in a couple of days, I want them to remember that the little things they love and that their voices have meaning.  I wrote quotes on the chalkboard coming into the library today.  I want them to take in these words....
Listen.  Listen to you. Listen to the sounds around you....even if there are none. Just listen.
Be seen....let even one person see who you are and then....
 Really see them.
You are so worth the living that chance holds.

Create your own change.  Be a change.
Love.  Be loved. 
Have a voice.

And always remember.....

Be happy.

Your happy is never too loud.

This is what I will give the people around me when they come back this week.

And remember myself, as we start a new year.