Blogger School-Age Programs and Service Committee

A Model for School and Library Collaboration: Arts & Science Day

For the past 38 years, El Granada Elementary School’s PTO has organized “Arts & Science Day,” an exciting day of fun interactive workshops for kids. The PTO reaches out to experts in the community to develop and present fifty minute workshops on topics ranging from crime scene investigation science to Mexican dance lessons. Throughout the day, each student attends up to five workshops. It’s a unique and highly anticipated day that wraps up the school year.

Every year the library participates in this collaborative spring event. It’s a perfectly timed opportunity to step to the front of the classroom and give students a small taste of the types of engaging activities and resources available at the library during the Summer Reading Program. Five classrooms full of students means that a substantial number of students are directly reached. Librarians and library assistants team up, rotating the project between art and science activities on a yearly basis.

If this sort of collaborative event doesn’t already exist at your local school, arts and science presentations are still a fantastic way to work with teachers. Think of it as an enhanced booktalk! It’ll remind kids–particularly non-users–that the library offers so much more than books and computers.

Presentations ideas include:

Owl Pellet Dissection: What kid isn’t fascinated and repulsed by owl regurgitation? This program is such a smash hit that we also offer it as part of our summer science series. Owl pellets can easily be ordered online, along with petri dishes and cotton batting to display the excavated bones. A wealth of nonfiction books, paired with skeleton diagrams of moles, mice, and other prey aid students in identifying the special characteristics of their pellets…which they get to take home as a mementos.

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Eye of God/Ojo de Dios Craft: This traditional symbol of the Huichol Indians of Mexico represents seeing and understanding the unknown. Ojos de Dios are woven using brightly colored yarn, wrapped around two wooden sticks. There are several patterns and instructions available online. Reading aloud a brief history of the Huichol people and folktales round out the lesson.

Jurassic Poop: Based on the book Jurassic Poop: What Dinosaurs and Others Left Behind (by Jacob Berkowitz; Illustrated by Steve Mack), this program always draws gasps of delight and disgust. Start with a guessing game where kids match photos of dung to animals. There are a variety of books available that help intrepid hikers and naturalists identify scat. Discuss the characteristics of different types of coprolites. Use the recipe in the book to recreate dino poop (ingredients similar to homemade play dough).

As mentioned in a previous post, partnerships between schools and libraries may take a bit of time to set up, but the payoff is extremely rewarding for students. What successful collaborative programs have you offered in your local school’s classrooms? If you’re a teacher, what types of arts and science presentations would you like your public librarian to present to students? Please comment below.

Karen Choy is the Youth Services Librarian at Half Moon Bay Library in Northern California. She is a member of the ALSC School Age Services and Program Committee and writes blog posts for the San Mateo County Library kids and teens blogs. You may write her at choy@smcl.org.

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