Edwards Middle School, formerly Brunswick’s high school, is home to 600 middle school students. As I park in the school’s lot, school library media specialist, Michele Kuhar greets me. It’s Kuhar’s 2nd year at Edwards. Prior to moving to the middle school, she served as the high school’s librarian for 12 years. Originally built in the early 1920s, Edwards has undergone some renovations over the years. One of those renovations is the media center. Kuhar shares that at one time, it was the gym. As we walk into the media center, I can see the bleachers that are now carpeted and serve as comfy reading areas. The ceilings have been dropped twice and the original floor has been carpeted to cut down on noise. On the wall across from the bleachers, there is a wall hanging – I Accept Rachel’s Challenge. Rachel’s Challenge, Michele explains, was founded as a result of the untimely death of Rachel Joy Scott, a student at Columbine High School in 1999. Brunswick students took part in the program that focuses on equipping students and adults to combat bullying and allay feelings of isolation and despair by creating a culture of kindness and compassion (Rachel’s Challenge). As we sit at one of the student tables, students come into the media center to study. I ask Michele to comment on how she has had to adapt her teaching of research to meet the needs of middle school students. Since there are no elementary school librarians in Brunswick she starts with the basics. With the 8th graders, Kuhar focuses on databases and plagiarism, so she has emphasized INFOhio databases and shown a video about plagiarism entitledDon’t Copy That. With her 6th graders, Michele teaches them to search for books and how books are organized. With English/Language Arts classes she works with students on citing sources using an interactive citation tool and with her Science classes she uses the topic of climate change and global warming to help her students understand how to narrow the subject. In middle school, Kuhar explains, she can still talk to them about books. She will be starting a book club during lunch periods. Once a month, she plans to hold an after-school meeting with different themes such as poetry, new book releases, and Dr. Suess. Michele has traveled to Italy and Greece and used the photographs she took there to expand her 7th grade students’ understanding of the ancient world. You may remember Kuhar presented at OELMA in 2012 on Google Lit Trips. Last school year Kuhar used a site calledDonors Choose to raise funds to obtain resources – her grant entitled “Around the World: Do You See Yourself,” raised $800 in donations from people all over the United States. She used the money to purchase thirty books – both fiction and non-fiction. Although Kuhar’s budget is limited, she found a way to expand Edward’s collection using a fundraising tool designed for educators to raise funds for legitimate projects. As we finish up our conversation, Michele and I walk across the parking lot to Visintainer Middle School to meet school library media specialist, Gina Slusarski.
Visintainer’s media center is on the basement level. As one enters the media center, the circulation desk is on the left and the rest of the space is dedicated to bookshelves and a computer lab. When I ask Gina about the raised built-in bookcase behind the computer lab, she explains that at one time it was a stage. Now it houses her book processing materials. Slusarski enjoys creating displays to entice her students to read. No where is that more evident than on top of the bookshelves where the casual visitor can see displays for new books, Halloween, and Veterans Day. Displays are also built into the bookshelves creating lots of visual stimulation. Her displays are primed for Pinterest. As I browse the shelves I see some letters such as SK above the books. She explains that she has middle school students who are responsible for maintaining the shelves; the initials serve as a reminder. I wish I had thought of that when I had my high school students shelf checking!
I left Visintainer Middle School and walk to my car to head home. It was a great day and I thank school library media specialists – Karon Lippincott, Pam Shirk, Michele Edwards, and Gina Slusarski – for allowing me to share in their busy days.
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