Monthly Archives: June 2014

Check Out a North Dakota State Park This 4th of July Weekend

park passIn spite of the cool and rainy weather I can see out our office window this afternoon, it is in fact summer, and nothing says summer like the 4th of July holiday. The 4th of July conjures up images of parades and fireworks and the scents of grilling meat, but if you’re looking to do something a little more adventurous this weekend, your local library is here to help! In partnership with the North Dakota Parks & Recreation Department, all public libraries in North Dakota offer state park passes available for checkout. When you borrow a state park pass, you gain free vehicle admission into a North Dakota state park for the duration of the 5-day checkout. Any camp sites, equipment rental or other activities may cost extra, but you’ll be covered for basic entry into the park. This is a great way to get out and experience all our great state parks have to offer. So if you’re imagining yourself doing some hiking, trail biking, boating or paddling, camping, fishing, swimming, sunbathing, or making your own outdoor adventure this weekend, check out your local public library first and check out a ND State Park pass.

YA Introductory Origami Program

Image of seven paper cranes and a square of paper with five crease lines indicated.

Image from Senbazuru Orikata (1797), in the public domain.

Time: 90 minutes

Attendees: Small groups work best as all participants will need some individual assistance

Supplies: 15 sheets of 15cm x 15 cm origami paper per participant;printouts of the three folding diagrams for each participant;completed demonstration models of each figure; a small display of origami books from the library

Regarding the origami paper: an assortment of colors and patterns for participants to choose from will be appreciated. I’d avoid foil-backed papers, as they’re harder to fold. Most craft and hobby stores carry packs of various sizes of origami paper, but 15cm x 15cm is a nice size to learn with. If you can’t find a local paper source, consider purchasing online from one of these fine paper vendors. While participants will only need 3 sheets during the session, let them choose 10-12 more at the conclusion so they can keep practicing at home. Continue reading

The Learning Environment

Recently, I’ve noticed the term “learning environment” popping up in much of the educational literature. The term implies much more than the physical layout of the classroom. A learning environment should be welcoming, social, secure, encouraging, and fun. Included are educational, behavioral, cultural, societal, emotional, and technological components. The learning environment (or learning space or learning ecosystem) is student-centered and teacher-mentored. It acknowledges the diversity of student skills, talents, and creativity.

LearnEnvironNationally, teachers are being held accountable for student achievement. In addition to course content, the learning environment is another avenue for teachers to improve student success. Teachers are introducing new educational resources, including smart devices, into the learning environment. This is having a profound impact on learning. Within the confines of standardization, teachers can creatively tweak the learning environment and present powerful opportunities for students to learn and succeed.

“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.” –Jacques Barzun




Young Father Pouring Milk into Bowl of Cereal for Young Boy (6-8)Recently we discussed how libraries can participate in the USDA Summer Food Service Program. If you are interested in other ways the library can encourage a healthy lifestyle, check out EatPlayGrow, a curriculum developed by the Children’s Museum of Manhattan in partnership with the National Institutes of Health in order “to teach children ages 6 and younger and their adult caregivers how to make healthy nutrition and physical activity choices.”

When you download the EatPlayGrow curriculum, don’t be overwhelmed by the length of the document. You can skip right to section 2, where you’ll find 11 lesson plans, each of which include an outline of everything you’ll need to run a successful story time about making healthy choices. There are suggested books, snack ideas, art activities, and physical activities.  There are also handouts for the caregivers to take home.

What are some ways you already encourage healthy behaviors through story time? Share your ideas in the comments!

ETA: The Bismarck Public Library has partnered with Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health to host an EatPlayGrow series this summer.

World Class Reads for the World Cup

I didn’t play soccer growing up and don’t typically pay much attention to the goings-on in the major soccer/football leagues in the U.S. and Europe, but every four years, for a few weeks in the summer, I devote a good chunk of my TV time to the World Cup. We watch a lot of sports at our house as it is, but for the past week, it’s been all World Cup, all the time. Since I don’t know a lot about soccer and don’t have a great background to put what I’m watching in context, I started looking for something to read that would build up my knowledge of the game. So here’s a list of recommended reads about soccer for those who are interested in learning more (and being entertained in the process):

How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization by Franklin Foer – Examines the role of soccer in various cultures around the world, particularly in the context of increasing globalization

Bloody Confused!: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer by Chuck Culpepper – An American sportswriter fed up with the American sports scene dives into the world of the English Premier League

The Girls of Summer: the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team and How It Changed the World by Jere Longman – An inside look at the 1999 U.S. Women’s national team and how its players raised the bar for women in sports

The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer by David Goldblatt – A complete history of the game of soccer and a discussion of its status as the single most prominent cultural activity that ties the world together

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby – Hornby’s autobiographical look at the fanaticism and community of being a soccer fan

Among the Thugs by Bill Buford – An account of editor, travel writer and social commentator Buford’s experience being embedded in the alternate society of England’s soccer thugs

Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano – An account of the history of soccer in South America

More Than Just a Game: Soccer vs. Apartheid: The Most Important Soccer Story Ever Told by Chuck Korr – The story of the struggle of prisoners of Robben Island in South Africa to be granted the right to play soccer, and how the game became a symbol of their resistance against apartheid

Common Core Pendulum

Prior to the Common Core, there existed a mish-mash of educational standards that varied widely from state to state. Consequently, 20-50% of students entering college are not prepared and need remedial courses in English or math.

In 2009, the National Governors Association requested that academic specialists develop a new approach, which became the Common Core State Standards. The focus of the Core is on critical thinking skills like analyzing information and reasoning, which theoretically better prepares students for college and career. In 2010, the District of Columbia and 46 states adopted the Common Core State Standards.

Originally the Common Core had wide bipartisan support, a rare example of Democratic and Republican cooperation. Oh how things have changed. Common Core has become a key issue in the midterm campaigns. South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Indiana have dropped the standards, decreasing the number of support states to 43.

The past year has seen a backlash to the new standards from both left and right. The left sees the Core as increasing the rigid standardized-testing culture and argues that teachers will become scapegoats. Tea partiers see the Core as Big Government’s attempt to take control over local schools, with many referring to it as “ObamaCore.”

A central concern of teachers is that fictional literature from Shakespeare and others will be dropped because the Core requires that 50%-70% of reading assignments be from nonfiction texts. The Core’s “fuzzy math” is mystifying parents and students.  “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and Common Core!” comedian Louis C.K. recently complained in a tweet.

The Common Core is no longer seen as a nonpartisan solution that provides a way to compare students across states. What happens with Common Core in the next few years is not clear. Some educators are advocating a moratorium on using Common Core assessments until the criticism, politics, and polemics die down. One thing is clear; decision-makers must take seriously the concerns of students, parents, and teachers.

“The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.”         – David Foster Wallace



Sherlock Holmes is public domain!*


*Well most of the stories are–The Seventh Circuit Court ruled on Monday that a large portion of the Sherlock Holmes stories are in the public domain. Public domain in the United States includes works published before 1923. Leslie Klinger is the editor of a set of stories based on the Sherlock Holmes stories and filed suit against the Doyle estate to assert that those stories written before 1923 were in the public domain and not subject to licensing fees. The Doyle estate argued that the last 10 stories published after 1923 greatly helped to round out the Sherlock Holmes character so all the stories should still be subject to copyright. The estate was basically asking for 135 years of copyright protection. It will be another 8 years before all of the stories fall into public domain.

The decision is good news for those who would like to reuse and re-purpose the character. It would have been markedly more messy if the judge had decided in favor of the estate. Copyright is already messy enough without extending protections for works that may not have finished their whole runs in the public domain range.

StoryBlocks for Story Time

Family readingAre you looking for songs and rhymes for your story times? Check out StoryBlocks. StoryBlocks are short videos created by Colorado librarians for Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL). They are produced by Rocky Mountain PBS and funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Libraries Services.

The videos are geared toward babies, toddlers, or preschoolers. Each video is  only about a minute long, and each includes a tip for caregivers to help their young child develop literacy skills. Transcripts are provided so you can follow along with the words or lyrics. Some of the videos are available in Spanish and Vietnamese.

For more early literacy tips you can use for story time, check out the CLEL blog. They’ve even got a convenient list of all the story time-related blog posts.

What are your favorite tips or resources for building early literacy skills during story time? Share your suggestions in the comments!

Mark Your Calendars – 2014 ARSL Annual Conference

Registration is now open for the 2014 Association of Rural and Small Libraries annual conference, which will be held September 3-6, 2014 at the Hotel Murano in downtown Tacoma, Washington.

It looks like there’s a great lineup of programming this year. Preconference sessions include:

  • Crash Course in Youth Services
  • Community Building
  • Library Space Planning
  • Tours of three local libraries
  • And 4 others

The roster of breakout sessions looks great as well, including sessions on:

  • LEGO and STEM programming
  • Maker Spaces
  • Library marketing
  • Tablets & apps
  • Library planning and administration
  • Customer service
  • Mentoring and library science education

The Association of Rural and Small Libraries is a nationwide group of librarians, staff, and library supporters who believe in the value of small and rural libraries and are committed to building library resources and services in small and rural communities. North Dakota librarians who have attended this conference in the past have indicated that it offers great information and networking opportunities geared specifically toward small and rural libraries. So if you’re looking for a great conference opportunity, this could be it!


A prairie dog standing at attention

WebQuests are an inquiry-based approach to learning that pairs activities with a meaningful task and the creation of a product. They typically build from Internet information to the creation of a real world outcome, such as a flyer, a video, a meal, or a pictorial journal like in the example below. Creating (or linking to) WebQuests is a great way to engage children and teens in developing their 21st Century Skills even if they aren’t making it into your physical building.

As an example, this Theodore Roosevelt National Park WebQuest prepares teens to visit the badlands by challenging them to learn about the park’s history and its inhabitants. Continue reading