A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my thoughts in regards to leveling the library. That was Part 1 in my little series called “What I am thinking about.” Here’s Part 2…what’s the point of the games and the Makerspace in the library?
So, I have a lot of “fun” things in my elementary school library. Here’s a short list:
*Magnetic board at the entrance with letter magnets
*Marble run on a magnetic board at the circulation desk
*Geoboard near my story time area
*A stack of World Record and Ripley’s Believe It or Not books
*A dry erase board that is mobile and magnetic. Currently, there are magnetic words on it that students can move around to create poems and funny phrases
*Boxes of things like Legos, Bananagrams, Whisper phones, etc.
*A whole room that is our Makerspace with so much fun stuff, it deserves its own blog post, but so that you have an idea – there are craft supplies, 3D printer, Legos, etc.
I feel like I’ve always had some fun stuff in my library (board games, puzzles, etc), but I was inspired to add more after our school district moved to a Learning Commons model for the Library Media Center/School Library and after I spent a summer working at our local Children’s Museum (EdVenture) as part of Maker Corps.
“Fun stuff” is important in a library, because you see, PLAY = LEARNING and ANY REASON to get students into the library is a GOOD REASON. Sure, they may be goofing off and not doing any reading or even checking out a book, but because of the games and what not, they are having a positive experience in the LIBRARY. I feel like that’s a GOOD thing. In a Learning Commons, students do not just come in to check out a book or do research. They create things, they work together. To encourage students to come in, many of my fellow librarians and I put out games, created interesting “centers” and flexible collaborative spaces. All of this serving a meaningful purpose of staying relevant and interesting to our customers (students, parents, administration, teachers). So, the REASON I have these games and interesting spaces is to encourage my people to come in the door. Once they are in the door, they can have a good time in my space. SURE, I know that to some folks, the “purpose” of the school library is to check out a book, learn how to use the library, find information for various projects, etc. And I realize that sometimes it is difficult to get students to focus and some kids either just check out whatever books they can get their hands on quickly to then go and “play,” or they don’t bring their books back at all so that they can “play” the entire time, but I think that’s okay sometimes. I also feel like if it is not okay with you that your students are “playing,” then they can follow your directions. If you want them to sit and read after checking out, that is okay with me. Your class. But, those materials are there for you and for them, when you want them. I know that the games make it loud in the library, but often it is a good kind of loud. For example, at the Marble Run, students are working together to create a ramp or some sort of contraption that marbles use to make it from one end of the design to the other. Students get very excited when their plan works. To me, that is a good collaborative experience and how awesome is it that it happened in the library?! It wasn’t related to books or reading, but it’s still related to the space itself. When students are in the library “playing,” they may just end up talking to a friend about a good book or perhaps the cover of a book will catch their eye. I know so many adults who do not have a good feeling about the library and who do not use it. Some are big readers and they would rather get books from a book store or order online because they have such negative feelings towards the library. These feelings had to have started when they were children – I want the children in my life to be life long users of the library and if having something fun and allowing them to play does that, GOOD! I’m not planning to remove the fun stuff from my space. Have you been to a public library lately? My local public libraries are starting to introduce fun learning spaces too (for adults! They have always had fun spaces for kids)…for the same purpose, to get new customers in and to keep the regulars coming in. Plus, the “fun stuff” in my Learning Commons and at the public library is EDUCATIONAL stuff. All of it uses critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. I don’t have it all labeled as such (maybe I should), but kids are learning when they play…there is no doubt about that!
Here’s some research to back me up:
A whole list of links supporting play from the National Association for the Education of Young Children http://www.naeyc.org/play
An article about the importance of play and maintaining parent/child bonds…lots of application for a school setting too. From the journal, Pediatrics http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182
A link to the website for Invent to Learn (one of the BEST BOOKS about play and making. A MUST read for teachers and librarians, IMO) http://inventtolearn.com/
Next up in my series? Part 3 – why kids can’t live in a bubble – coming soon!