Change Agent

In December,  I was notified by Library Journal that I’d been selected as a Mover & Shaker for 2017. To say I was excited is putting things mildly. Unfortunately, I had read the email notification while working on my book at my local public library. So excited I had to scoot into the stacks to avoid a scene. When that didn’t work, I packed up my laptop and headed for home. Calling my husband from the parking lot (I couldn’t wait to tell someone), I didn’t get the response I expected or hoped for. After interrupting me to shout at the TV – it was football Sunday – my husband was congratulatory but nonchalant. It’s hard to explain LJ Movers & Shakers to non-library folk. I’d have to wait for my peers.

In January, I attended the LJ photoshoot at the Ritz-Carleton in Atlanta during the ALA img_7149MidWinter conference. It was a rainy Saturday, the Women’s March was on and the city was preparing for the Super Bowl. So much happening that weekend. As I entered the suite, I met some amazing librarians waiting their turn with the photographer. We introduced ourselves and chatted. I was awed by the projects and programming going on across the country.

After the shoot  all that was left was to await the formal announcement in March and to find out what category I was in. You see, they tell you you’re on the list but don’t tell you your category. Would I be placed with ‘Educators’ or ‘Community Builder’? I really couldn’t guess. Our inclusive MakerCare program is a community service based model teaching teens about social action and civic engagement. Using our school library makerspace, we create items to benefit agencies and organizations in need of assistance. I like to call this compassionate making. We strive to make the community and world a better place. To be the change we wish to see.


Change Agent. That’s my category for LJ’s Movers & Shakers 2017. I think it’s fitting. To quote one of my favorite service learning gurus, Cathryn Berger Kaye, “teachers must become agents of change for students to become change agents. When this is done in overt ways, students discover what change looks like and can then choose to adopt favorable behaviors to change internally and externally.” (2010, p. 242)

Yes, that’s what we all should be when we grow up – a change agent. Every generation nurtures the next. I challenge you to be the change agent your student will become!

img_8003

To Learn and to Serve

img_7837

Thank you Twitter. It was during one of my many ed chats that someone referred me to the National Youth Leadership Council’s Service Learning Conference. This is due to my interest and participation in service projects with my students at Islip High School. After looking up the conference details, the first thing that struck me was the location – Anaheim, CA.

I’m going to Disneyland!!! It was perfect. I’d get to visit my son, a SoCal resident, network and learn with service learning professionals and go to Disney. That’s a trifecta; sign me up. SLC hosted a pre-conference day of service which I readily signed up for. In for a penny, in for a pound. I might as well serve while learning about serving. We learn by doing. I even took a red eye arriving at LAX at 1:30am to participate in the 7:30am beach cleanup. I slept for 2 hours on the flight, I’d be fine! Though exhausted, I had a wonderfully inspiring day. I met and worked alongside two educators – one a principal from AZ and the other from a university in Alabama. We did pre-service and post service reflections and learned about the oceans and environment. Please do not bring Styrofoam to the beach – better yet, don’t use it at all.  My dream is to never have to pick up pieces of Styrofoam off a beach ever again. Bring reusable items and take them back home with you.

 

This was my first Service Learning Conference, so I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t expect so many students. The young people in attendance were so inspiring, well spoken, confident and above all, passionate. Passionate about the issues that mattered to them and to their communities. I am still in awe of these remarkable young men and women. How do we encourage others to follow their example? That is my goal – to inspire, to encourage, to model and to assist and enable my students to serve, to make a difference and to be the change.

There were inspirational plenary sessions, interactive workshops and numerous networking activities. And I took advantage of as many as possible. What I liked most was all the onsite service activities in the exhibit hall and that they were predominantly run by youth. So many causes, so many willing helpers. I made a doll, one of 500, that will be donated to the Anaheim Police Department. When children are exposed to traumatic situations officers can offer the child a cuddly stuff doll to help put the child at ease.

This onsite service opportunity not only took advantage of willing participants but helped spread awareness to causes. I met some young ladies from New Foundations Charter School who were using upcycled plastic bags in unique ways as a way of spreading awareness of ocean pollution. I’ve already used plastic bags in my service projects (plarn sleepmats for the homeless), so they piqued my interest.

You’ll be hearing more about these awesome projects on this blog and in my upcoming book, Makers with a Cause. I’m still trying to process all the amazing work being done across the United States by amazing students, dedicated educators and passionate organizations.

Did I mention the conference was at the Disneyland Resort? Well, when in Rome…

img_7924

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Got Heart?

quilted-heart

In preparation for Random Acts of Kindness Day, students are using the MakerCare center at Islip High School to create handmade fabric hearts. MakerCare is a program within our makerspace dedicated to service projects. This month we will implement the I Found a Quilted Heart initiative in preparation of Random Acts of Kindness Day (Feb 17) and Random Acts of Kindness Week (Feb. 12-18).”The IFAQH project is simple: place hearts in a public place to be found by a random stranger.  That’s it!” No special skills are needed to make the hearts. Take a look – http://www.ifoundaquiltedheart.com/the-stories/


 Supplies will be left out in the library makerspace all month. Makers can create as many hearts as they wanted or make just one. Staff members were welcome to join us in making hearts.

 

This project couldn’t be simpler or cheaper. Granted, I’ve collected a large donated collection of various fabric so I didn’t have to purchase any. And I always have scissors, needle and thread on hand. If you need fabric, take to social media and spread the word. You’ll get donations. Every crafter has scraps of fabric waiting for a project or good cause. And this project is perfect for scraps.

When you’re done making your heart(s), be sure to leave in a public place for someone to find. There are some guidelines you should be aware of before placing the heart.

 February is  the perfect month for this project for a trifecta of reasons. First, Random Acts of Kindness Day is Feb. 17. Second, Valentine’s Day is the 14th and we all know we’ll see a plethora of hearts and that may make us feel good or not so good depending on our emotional status at the time. Remember, everyone deserves love and kindness and to feel good, regardless of relationship status. The third reason February is a good month is that it coincides with our school Mid-Winter break. Our handmade hearts can be far reaching if taken on vacation with our students to be shared across the county, state, country or beyond.

We’re all on this planet together right? Let’s make our communities warm, friendly happy places filled with love. So get out your fabric scraps, scissors, needle and thread and sow kindness. Because kindness matters.

Let’s MAKE the world we want to live in!

Make kindness matter with this simple project. Want to join us? Here’s a few helpful links:

  FAQs

http://ifoundaquiltedheart.com/faqs

  Guidelines for leaving your hearts in public places (such as don’t leave them at airports, etc) http://www.ifoundaquiltedheart.com/sowing/

 PDF of guidelines to use with your group http://www.ifoundaquiltedheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Sowing-Guidelines.pdf

 

 

STEAM + C: Adding Compassion to the Makerspace ‘Because Nice Matters’

I attended a maker workshop hosted by DK this weekend at the American Library Association MidWinter conference in Atlanta. DK was promoting a soon to be published title Out of the Box, highlighting quick activities using recyclable cardboard.  In a quick poll of the room participants, we were asked if our makerspaces were STEM or STEAM. There were a few show of hands for STEM, but the majority of hands raised went for STEAM designation. This was heartening because we shouldn’t be just tech based in our educational pursuits. Children are entitled and deserve a well-rounded educational experience and the Arts provide a crucial and unique layer to the development of our next generation.

 

 

The librarian sitting next to me half raised her hand in response to STEAM and then stated her makerspace was STEAM plus ‘C’. My heart stopped. I had found a kindred spirit.

You see, a part of our makerspace at Islip High School Library is dedicated to compassionate making. Our MakerCare program provides opportunities for our students to make a difference in the community through making. Each maker project benefits a person or community agency. For example here are a few of our projects: dog and cat toys were made for the town animal shelter, a sleep mat for the homeless, and postcards were decorated and given to sick children in the hospital. You see kindness, compassion and empathy are staple items in our makerspace. And just as, if not more, important as the other staples – glue, scissors and Legos.

whats-in-your-toolbox

With a smile on my face I asked, “C, your program includes C?”

“Yes” she responded “C for computers or computer science.” She wasn’t quite sure which. We all stared at her for a moment until one person pointed out that computers and computer science were already a part of STEM. She knew this, but she hadn’t control of the name of the makerspace. That distinction belonged to someone else. I was disappointed a bit so I told her my mistake and shared details of our MakerCare program. I confessed I thought (and hoped) her ‘C’ stood for compassion. I announced I was “stealing” the name STEAM + C and she responded (as all librarians do) – you’re borrowing the name. That’s right, STEAM + C is officially on interlibrary loan. You see, librarians like to share and we do it well.

Over the holiday break I spotted a beautiful sign and instantly thought it would make a lovely addition to our maker area. I guess we could have made our own sign, but sometimes you just find the perfect item, so why bother DIY. If it’s any consolation to my diehard makers, we did hot glue magnets to the back of the sign in order to hang it. And in true maker fashion, we failed to secure the needed size magnet and had to visit the local hardware store for thicker ones. And then a second trip to the store again as we discovered our magnetic surface wasn’t as strong as we hoped and we needed more magnets to cover the surface. Failure and grit as evidenced from one small sign – a true maker experience.

because-nice-matters-sign

 Just as the Arts help complete a well rounded education, so does service to one’s community as this enables the development of civically engaged compassionate citizenry. And because nice matters.

Go Ahead, #MAKE my Holiday 

12-days-of-making-48It’s the week before holiday break. We’re in Monday through Thursday and as all educators know, the closer to the break the more things unravel. As I listened in on conversations regarding pre-break activities, I thought more could be done with students than eating doughnuts and watching a video. So, I invited teachers to bring in their classes to either use STEM makerspace items, Hour of Code or a MakerCare activity.  MakerCare is a section of our makerspace dedicated to community service projects.  Santa arrived early with some new coding robots, LittleBits STEM Kits, Bloxels and some 3-Doodlers. So there were lots of fun choices. With all these good choices the overwhelming the choice to give to others.

maker-consultant-is-in-peanuts-ornament

With this added help we’ll be able to finish up our plarn sleepmat for the homeless and make catnip toys for our local shelter.

 

 

The other major activity in our makerspace is the gift of giving. For three weeks now students have been flocking the makerspace everyday at lunch and afterschool creating unique homemade gifts for family and friends. So much giving go on this month it makes my heart swell. I am so thrilled to be part of a community of caring individuals.

 

Happy Holidays Everyone!

 

Why Sustainability is Crucial for the Maker Movement: and vice versa

sustainability Creating something gives you a special feeling. Take a bunch of random objects and violà you have created something else. The problem with making is that sometimes it can cost a lot of money. We’re always looking for funds or swiping our credit cards. Constant trips to the local craft store. Can we support this type of making in our makerspace programs? We can if we look to the sustainability movement. Believe me, you can get a lot done with cereal boxes, jars and cans, old fabric, even dead tennis balls from your high school tennis team.

According to the EPA, “Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.” (To learn more about sustainability and how you can help, click here.) Many items end up in our landfills that could otherwise serve an additional purpose. These discards have an impact on the environment. We can upcycle by converting old or discarded materials into something useful. This is a great way to reuse materials and reduce our footprint, thus having a positive impact on the environment by removing items from the global garbage accumulation. It’s not just the excess garbage in our landfills that we need to worry about, but also the waste and energy required to make and transport newly made supplies to our local Michael’s, Jo-Ann’s or other craft store. Think of all those 18-wheel vehicles barreling down the interstate. Then we need to jump in our cars and drive over to the store to gather our shiny new supplies. Which, even with clipping coupons, costs us a pretty penny. Can we continue to do this indefinitely?

120423050950-lebanon-landfill-horizontal-large-gallery

Still not so sure about this? Here’s what I propose, let’s combine the two (Sustainability + Making) and upcycle some common objects. Here’s just a few ideas to get you started in realizing how really simple this can be. There are numerous ideas online once you decide to take it further or you can look at some ideas on my Compassionate Maker webpage or makerspace themes page.

 Some ideas using fabric… 

Between myself, my husband and our four children we have lots of t-shirts. You know the collection – ones from vacations, some from other people’s vacations, and the never ending supply of yearly school sports team tees. (Just in case you don’t have the volume of tees that we do, it’s easy to call for donations. My library makerspace has a stack of at least 50 t-shirts. There’s someone, somewhere who wants to clean out closets and draws.)

T-Shirts

no-sew tote bags

 

scarves

braided dog toys

3-DIY-braided-dog-toy-dogvacay

 

Jeans

There’s always a supply of jeans. Someone is always gaining weight (that would be me) or losing weight (not me). We have a yearly call for jean donations in our school.

 

bags

jean bag

-braided dog toys; see above (any fabric will work – denim, t-shirts, old towels)

 

Fleece

Your kids no longer like their “fill in the blank/former popular character” fleece blanket? Turn it into a pet bed or dog blanket. Instead of going out and buying Poly-fil stuffing, stuff the bedding with poly-fil from an old pillow or use t-shirts. (Yeah, I have a lot of t-shirts…)

fleece bedding blanket

For more animal related activities click here. Did I mention I have two Shi-Poos?

Other assorted items…

Got Balls? 

Used tennis balls make a dog very happy. Just cut a slit at both ends and insert braided fabric (see above). Fido is now busy and content and you didn’t need to gas up the car and drive over to Petco/PetSmart. dog toy

 

See that wasn’t so bad. Easy peasy. Hopefully by this time I’ve motivated you to upclyle a few household items and help save the planet in the process.  I use some of these activities when human impact on the environment shows up in the curriculum. While these ideas are great to use individually, hopefully you’ll bring similar ideas into your makerspace and give your students another more physical and tangible angle to the curriculum they are reading about in their classrooms.

keep-calm-and-up-cycle-1

 

 

Good Grief! A Librarian’s Reaction to Grief and Bereavement

I started off the school year with the death of former student. Unfortunately, I’m ending the school year with the death of a staff member. The death, another car accident, occurred over the weekend and I dreaded going to work on Monday. Senseless tragedies depriving us of vibrant lives lived.

It is said that when grieving we need to do something physical as it gives us power over the situation in which we feel powerless.

When a former high school student, Anil, died students came to the library to make memorial buttons to be worn at Homecoming and throughout the numerous memorial events that occurred during the year. It was a very cathartic experience. I still see buttons on staff lanyards and on student backpacks. It’s oddly comforting.

Recently while still feeling sad and contemplating ideas for a new end of year bulletin board, I thought this would be my opportunity to express myself. But why stop there? Why not invite others to participate. So a simple activity to provide a colorful distraction in honor of a colorful woman thus became an interactive art display.

psyches

These experiences got me thinking about grief and bereavement and the librarian’s role. When my children were young and their first dog died the very first thing I did was to run to the public library for bibliotherapy. We needed a copy of The Tenth Good Thing About Barney (Viorst), Dog Heaven (Rylant),  and stack of other related titles.  Libraries comfort us, they heal us. Psyches iatreion is roughly translated as “Healing Place for the Soul”; this phrase was found inscribed on an ancient Greek library. I  read aloud to three distraught little boys, we made our ‘Good Thing’ lists and decorated them. We grieved through doing, through making something.

Working in a school setting we are fortunate to have social workers, psychologists and counselors. However, librarians should never overlook their usefulness in this area.

In typical librarian fashion I love to curate. I also love to make and create. And unfortunately I’m not immune to grief.  I’ve gathered sources and ideas so that I could direct students and others to help themselves. Please feel free to use this list: http://hslibguides.islipufsd.org/grief and look for my upcoming article in Teacher-Librarian regarding this topic (Seymour, G. (2016, May/June). The Compassionate Makerspace: Grief and Healing in a High School Library Makerspace. Teacher Librarian.)