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Library steps into the future
From teaching students how to create digital presentations to running an e-book reading club, Roberta Giusto is transforming the school library into a learning space of the future. Sandshore’s library media specialist recently introduced her latest initiative: maker learning.
Maker learning is a relatively new concept in education and represents a true fusion of creativity, hands-on learning, and age-appropriate STEM skills. It uses resources typically regarded as materials for crafts, engineering, design, robotics, or media.
At Sandshore, activities made possible through newly purchased maker kits include building structures with K'nex pieces (rods, connectors, and bricks), origami, computer coding, and making circuits.
During a class’ library time, Ms. Giusto divides the students into small groups which then work to create different projects. Each student in each group has a set role such as facilitator or materials manager. At the end of each class, the groups present their projects to each other, discussing the things that well and the things that could have been done better. This sharing is an important step in the process and allows students to learn from each other.
“School libraries, particularly at the elementary level, are transforming into common learning spaces that allow students to collaborate, access technology and information, and create, imagine, and invent,” Ms. Giusto said. “Maker learning teaches kids how to problem-solve and think outside the box.”
Renovations under way now at Mount Olive High School are converting the building’s former auditorium into instructional space that will include a designated maker space. The new maker space at MOHS will combine high-tech manufacturing and computer equipment in one lab, enabling students to apply their knowledge to design, prototype, and produce products. The high school renovations are slated to be done by September 1.
Raising money for autism
Sandshore, which houses the elementary-level autism program for the entire district, recently raised $500 in recognition of National Autism Month as well as World Autism Awareness Day (April 2). The money will benefit, Autism New Jersey, the largest statewide network of parents and professionals dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
Each student received a puzzle piece, the symbol of autism awareness, with his or her name on it for every dollar donated. The paper pieces were then assembled onto two 12-foot-tall ribbons and hung from the rafters of the gymnasium for all to see.
“New Jersey has the nation’s highest rate of children identified with an autism spectrum disorder,” said Cheryl Swackhammer, applied behavioral analyst. “It’s so important to build acceptance and enhance public awareness and understanding.”
This is the eighth year in which the faculty, parents, and students have recognized Autism Awareness Month and raised money for autism research, education, and support.
Empowering girls with the tools to navigate life
A group of Sandshore girls in the intermediate grades are learning the tools for leading healthy and self-confident lives through a new initiative begun in early April. Girls on the Run, a national program, provides the third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders with lessons that encourage positive emotional, social, mental, and physical development. The participating girls meet Tuesdays and Wednesdays afterschool for classes that are part character education and part exercise.
Taught by Sandshore school counselor Julie Kester and teachers Joanne Bosco and Kelly Rogalsky, each session begins with a lesson or activity about a life skill such as building self-esteem, developing a healthy body image, managing conflict, or working as a team. It ends with running laps outside or in the gymnasium.
“Talking about self-confidence and relationships can be very abstract, but with the Girls on the Run activities we’re able to pull it all together and allow our students to experience these concepts,” Mrs. Kester said. “The program gives specifics on appreciating our similarities and differences, developing healthy relationships, and identifying your uniqueness and strengths. These are messages that I want our students to hear and integrate into the way they think about themselves and others.”
The program lasts about three months and gives the students a chance to share their own experiences. That sharing helps the girls see that they all share common concerns and helps them build new friendships.
GOTR will end with a non-competitive 5K run in June. The culminating event brings together all the girls in the area who have participated in GOTR during the string. Crossing the finish line is a defining moment that allows the girls to experience the satisfaction of a major accomplishment and helps underscore the importance of fitness and healthy choices.
For more info on Girls on the Run, go to: https://www.girlsontherun.org