Using Bananas to Make Music: The Evolution of the School Library

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Once upon a time, a library was a quiet place to find or read books, to study or to get shushed by a crabby librarian. That was then, this is now.

School libraries continue to evolve. From microfiche and card catalogs to media centers and makerspaces, today’s school library—and its media specialists—are vibrant, creative, innovative and provide a great place to learn and explore.

In Richfield Public Schools, all of our school media centers received upgrades thanks to the voter-approved referendum in 2017. These open and inviting spaces promote collaboration and hands-on learning for all students. In addition, each building now has a makerspace area.

Makerspaces are areas made for creating, learning, exploring and sharing. Students use a variety of high-tech (robotics and circuitry) and no tech (pipe cleaners and Play-Doh) items to bring learning to life. Everything is tactile and engaging—from “Squishy Circuits” to “Makey Makey” items, students can explore STEM concepts, collaborate with peers to problem solve, and show their learning in new ways. Critical thinking is essential and, most importantly, students love it!

Kari Nelson, the media specialist at Centennial Elementary, showed us around the school’s new makerspace and talked with us about the role of the media specialist.

“We have been incorporating makerspace activities into student activities for a while, but the new spaces have really helped us to expand the program,” Ms. Nelson explained. Currently, she leads makerspace activities for students in grades K-5 and collaborates with the preschool teacher at Centennial to provide materials they can use in their classroom to support instruction. 

“The students love these activities,” she added. “Last year, they connected a banana to a circuit and used it to make music through the computer.” While this may sound funny or odd at first, the STEM lessons and creativity involved are impressive.

Ms. Nelson, who is licensed as both a K-12 media specialist and a K-6 teacher, has been an educator for 15 years, the last five as a media specialist in Richfield. “A media specialist does more than read books,” she explained. “We teach students how to find books, appreciate authors and genres, find materials, conduct research and ensure sources are reliable.” After that, media specialists teach digital citizenship, computer skills, coding, project-based learning through makerspace, how to live in a digital world and they manage all of the school technology resources (Smartboards, Chromebooks, iPads, etc.). But wait, there’s more! Media specialists also maintain the library collection and provide new resources that will reflect the diversity of our students—both digitally and in print—and support technology integration in classrooms through co-teaching and collaboration with classroom teachers. 

Needless to say, there is a lot that goes on in today’s media centers, makerspaces and in the daily life of our media specialists. 

“It’s a great job,” says Ms. Nelson. “The media center is the heart of the school. It’s the hub where everyone goes to get what they need. It’s my job to know how to look for and find things. There is a lot of problem-solving. My favorite part is when I’m working with students and they get to experience something new and they understand it—they are so excited and engaged!”

View additional photos on the Centennial Media Center page.

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