I had a hard time deciding how to end my time with kids in the library. I am excited to go back to the classroom, but leaving Riverside and the people there was hard. I feel lucky to have been part of the Riverside community. I thought back to my four years in the library. I started off my time in the library thinking hard about the spaces for kids, reading and learning. And I redesigned various spaces several times based on evolving goals. I wanted the kids to see the library as a place for more than just checking out books. I wanted them to see it as an energizing place for learning, one that was full of tools and possibilities. I had big yearly goals, visions for 21st Century Learners, visions based on professional reading and pieces I shared with kids to help expand their view of what the library could be.
I started my time in the library creating a space that welcomed kids and learning. We shared great books and laughed together a lot. We learned about favorite authors, enjoyed surprise endings and read and read and read. We added computers and iPads, iPods and ebook readers. We learned that there were so many tools for learning as we spent time using building toys, games and cameras. By the middle of this years, students were pretty independent. They came to the library with an idea of how to spend their time. We usually started our time together with a book, a new website, a game or a new tool I wanted to share. Then kids could choose how to spend their learning time. It looked simple, but it took years to build an environment that welcomed this kind of learning. I loved standing back and looking at the variety of things kids were doing.
So, as we moved into the last week of school, I couldn't decide how to end our time together. My gut was to read a good book. How could I go wrong with that? But I wanted to give them more than that. I knew that I wanted to give them 20 minutes of choice time during their last library class -- they had come to expect it and to use it well. It was important to them as learners and there were really no choices they could make that didn't support their learning in some way.
I finally decided to end the year with each class by sharing the video of Caine's Arcade. Our art teacher had shared it with me and it had inspired us both. It seemed the perfect way to end the year and our four years together in the library. Better than a book, it was a message that I thought matched all that I'd been trying to say with our work in the library over four years.
So, I shared the video in the first 10 minutes of our last library classes. Kids were glued. They didn't move or make a sound. They smiled as big as Caine smiled as they watched the customers appear in the video. And they were inspired. I told them at the end of the movie, that I had picked this to show them to kick off their summer. That I hoped they had a summer filled with with reading and writing of course. But to also fill their summers with creating and making and playing. I felt that it was the right message to end my time with these amazing kids, who I will miss incredibly. I felt that it was a message I hoped they would remember, one that would inspire them somehow.
I have to say, the impact was immediate. I gave the children 20-25 minutes of choice time after the video. In almost every class, someone created something different BECAUSE they had watched the video. Kids who had been building with straws and connectors for weeks, created games for others to play with these same building tools. They began to look at the building toys with new eyes. Kids who often spent their time writing books, instead created menus for restaurants they planned to create over the summer. Some students created extensive drawings of dollhouse furniture they might make or cardboard statues they envisioned. It was amazing and it happened within minutes of watching the video.
I wanted the library to be about possibilities as learners and I hope that it was for many children. I hope that something in Caine's Arcade helps them to understand that creativity matters and that they have the capacity to create amazing things and to have fun while doing it.
I knew the video would be powerful but didn't realize how powerful it would be. I may start my year in the classroom with the same video. The message it has for our children is a powerful one. It is a video that invites, inspires and validates. It is a video that gives me a vision for what learning is all about.
(Today, I received this link via Facebook from Riverside's amazing art teacher, Drew Jones. Caine seems to be inspiring learners everywhere!)