Program has middle school pupils excited about going to the library

Children learn about tools as they work on projects

October 30, 2003|By David Anderson | David Anderson,SUN STAFF

The Essex Library was bustling one recent morning, as 20 pupils from Deep Creek Middle School checked out books and searched the Internet for help with their school projects.

"I'm coming back today," said Tia Wells, 12. "This is a nice library."

A few weeks ago, many of these pupils might not have been here. But because of a joint program between the Baltimore County public schools and the county public library system, middle school pupils have been streaming in.

About 300 sixth-graders from Deep Creek Middle in Essex spent two weeks this month traveling in small groups to the library to do research for their social studies projects on pre-Colombian civilizations.

The librarians showed the pupils how to use the Searchasaurus database to find articles and pictures. They also took tours of the library. Any pupil who did not have a library card received one, and each pupil checked out one book for pleasure reading.

A library worker walked the students through Searchasaurus, which also includes digital encyclopedias, a service allowing users to talk with a librarian 24 hours a day, and a teen-oriented Web site. One picture popular with the pupils was of a mummified head.

Librarians said pupils have been returning to the library with their parents and friends to work on their projects.

While the county school and library systems have collaborated many times, this is the first program to have a "curriculum component," said Della Curtis, the school system's coordinator of library information services.

The program, which started Oct. 7 and ended last week, required pupils to use online "research models" that the school system designed. These models guided pupils with questions, sources and tips on organizing their presentations.

"It's not going to the library and doing a report on Aztecs and Mayas by copying information out of an encyclopedia," said Curtis. "This is higher-level thinking and problem solving. The purpose is to do research and learn how to use new tools in a meaningful way."

Curtis also said this was the first time "all stakeholders," including teachers, librarians and administrators, were involved in the planning.

Donald Whitby, Deep Creek's librarian, said he could tell the program paid off when he saw the first completed projects.

"They turned out really nice," he said. "There was a lot of thought put into them. Some of them did PowerPoints, which I've never seen kids use outside of a technology class."

Parents can see the projects in the school library from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 6.

Lynn Lockwood, the library system's assistant director, said she thought of the joint program about a year-and-a-half ago after talking with Ronald Boone, the school system's executive director for federal and state programs, about ways to bring more kids to libraries.

Lockwood said she hoped to bring another school into the program next year if money is available. She praised Boone for providing about $2,800 to help pay for this year's program, funds Boone said came from state compensatory education grants.

"I've been involved with libraries for a long time," Lockwood said, "and I've seen very few collaborations as successful as this."

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