On December 1, 2016, I traveled to Plain City and Jonathan Alder High School to visit Dana Wright, recipient of the 2016 OELMA/Follett School Solutions Outstanding School Librarian Award. Jonathan Alder Local School District enrolls just over 2,200 students in its two elementary schools (Monroe and Plain City), one middle school (Canaan), one junior high (Jonathan Alder Junior High), and one high school – Jonathan Alder High School. The high school is located on Route 42 and opened in 2005.
After checking in at the main office, I walk to the second floor which is home to the media center. Dana is waiting for me in Club House. The Club House sits behind the circulation desk. As Dana explains, it is now equipped with two laptops, Qomo Board, and a Cricut, all of which were purchased with an LSTA Grant. The high-top tables make it a useable space for professional development. Dana adds that she is a mentor with ODE’s RESA program and is working with two new teachers at Jonathan Alder High School.
As the only licensed school library media specialist in the district, Dana works with teachers in the two elementary buildings – Monroe and Plain City – on Tuesdays. One of her most recent lessons for fourth graders dealt with fossils. To help students develop close reading through annotating text, she found general articles on fossils from INFOhio’s databases and uploaded them to Actively Learn. Using an interactive whiteboard she modeled close reading and annotating text. A couple of weeks later she set up four stations – at one station the students had a collection of books with a set of guided questions Dana had created. At another station, students could look up general articles about fossils using INFOhio databases. At another station, students could view videos on fossils. For the fourth station, students could handle fossils and answer questions that Dana and one of the 9th grade science teachers created. As a final product, Nicole Schrock (integration specialist for the district) and Dana had the students create a presentation or electronic product using Padlet.
What is most apparent when you walk into the media center is that there are an array of seating possibilities and the seats are in every possible configuration. Why? Dana is an advocate of inquiry learning and inquiry learning requires a physical space where students can be actively engaged in the learning process. Dana shares a recent collaboration that she did with a social studies teacher. In the fall she enrolled in a six-week class through Waynesburg University. The class met virtually every Thursday evening for two hours to learn about the political cartoon collection at the Library of Congress, primary sources, and the IDM inquiry model. Eager to try IDM, a model that she claims is “amazing and has made an impact on her teaching,” she approached the social studies teacher about collaborating on the lesson about Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation to Booker T. Washington for dinner at the White House. As she explains it, the sophomores became engaged with each of the activities at the stations. Dana tweeted the photos of the engaged students and one of the instructors saw the tweets and asked Dana if she would share her lesson, reflections, and photos for an National Council for the Social Studies Conference in Washington, D.C. on December 5, 2016. “Students can be engaged and enjoy inquiry learning regardless of their age and that lessons enriched with inquiry also provide rigor for students,” says Dana. Dana’s passion for inquiry learning is everywhere evident in the media center – from the “Notice & Note” signs to the flexible furniture. She further explains that “kids aren’t used to thinking outside the text. So the C3 model (College, Career and Civic Life) works really well. You can get to the rigor when kids can think outside the text – so work with the supporting questions and then ask kids – what’s missing.”
The Jonathan Alder High School media center is an exciting place to spend time and learn about Dana’s journey with inquiry learning. Her passion about her instructional role as a school librarian is exciting to witness as she talks about her ideas and plans for the future.
For more photos of Dana’s work with students using the inquiry model follow her on Twitter @JAlibrarian.