We are grateful to be back in the library with our students not just to work with them on academics, but also to support them with SEL issues and allow them a safe place to unwind. Puzzling — of all kinds — has become very popular in the library.
We have moved our jigsaw puzzle table to a new location and students had collaboratively finished 25 jigsaw puzzles when this post was drafted. By the time you read this, it will no doubt be more than that. In fact, we are starting to repeat puzzles, so we welcome donations — our sweet spot is puzzles between 500 and 1000 pieces. We observe a wide mix of students at the table and there is rarely a block when no one is working on the puzzle.
We also have started a large community crossword puzzle as well as smaller Sudoku puzzles to engage other types of thinkers.
We’re delighted to see students off their screens and enjoying time collaborating on these challenging puzzles! Chess, Uno, and other games are still popular — especially during the last block of the day.
The library teachers worked collaboratively with the ninth-grade History team to prepare for the 1st “choice research project” that 9th graders completed towards the end of term 2.
After meeting with the team to review the learning goals, develop potential project topics, and brainstorm project outcomes, librarians created a research guide and a series of videos and presentations for students to view if they were absent during the instructional periods or if they needed additional review on their own. Students learned how to use a library database, effective search techniques, how to create a productive research question, and how to use NoodleTools to create a list of Works Cited in MLA format.
Since the entire grade was working on the project simultaneously, librarians and teachers were creative with instruction! While every class had time in the library to work directly with library teachers, during blocks when there were more classes needing instruction than librarians, additional classes joined library classes via Google Meet, and the librarian provided instruction in a “hy-flex” mode (new skill & technology acquired during the pandemic). Librarians also scheduled dedicated WIN blocks for ninth-grade research support and offered one-on-one appointments for students who needed additional instruction.
Returning the library from its Hybrid/HyFlex use as a space for students to Zoom with remote teachers back to a true library learning commons environment was a big focus of the first weeks of school. All of the bookshelves and books were returned and displays were arranged to create a welcoming, literature-rich environment. We were able to put our pandemic project of “genrefying” the fiction collection into its final phase by creating fresh new signs, spaces, and displays devoted to each genre to better facilitate student browsing and book discovery.
Freshman English classes visited the library for orientation during September and early October. While they were here, students met the library staff, completed a digital escape room to familiarize themselves with the library’s online resources, participated in a scavenger hunt to get oriented to the physical space, and had the opportunity to browse and check out books. Because of the pandemic closure last fall, many Sophomore English classes also came to the library for a brief visit to get oriented to the space.
Now that all South students have a Chromebook, we were able to create a second “Quiet Study” in the space that had formally been dedicated to old desktop computers. More individual study space was something that students had been requesting for quite some time since our original Quiet Study area is frequently full. It is not fancy, this new area is currently furnished with simple tab desks, but students have flocked to it nonetheless. We hope to someday raise funds to upgrade to more spacious study carrels like those in our original Quiet Study Area.
What an interesting year it has been! Despite the many challenges, the NSHS Library found ways to continue educating students, keep them reading, and build community.
We invite you to check out the highlights in our online annual report (we recommend viewing in full-screen; toggle in bottom right of screen). Be sure to check the library website for updates on summer reading, and don’t forget that Sora continues to be available for accessing ebooks and audiobooks all summer long!
Jennifer Dimmick, Margaret Schoen and Katherine Steiger
We are delighted to be collaborating with the Newton Free Library, Newton North Library and a number of student/faculty organizations oriented around antiracism, to host an author discussion with Jennifer De Leon. De Leon’s novel, Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, tells the story of Liliana Cruz, a Boston teen from an immigrant family who is accepted into the METCO program—and the challenges she faces as she is forced to confront racism at her new, white, suburban school. The program will be held on 5/4 via Zoom webinar and will be open to students, faculty, staff, and members of the Newton community. Sign-up to attend here.
The Library team presented at the Massachusetts School Library Association’s annual conference. The librarians demonstrated how the use of one-on-one research appointments with students has helped students work on research skills and helped librarians develop personal relationships with students, collaborate with teachers, and uncover gaps in the collection.
In Term 3, the South and North libraries took the idea of interactive contests to a whole new level with Nailed It: Library edition. If you’re not familiar, Nailed It! is a Netflix competition show where amateur bakers try to recreate professional cakes in a bake-off format. We put a library twist on it and asked our student and staff contestants to bake and decorate cakes inspired by books. The contest submission period included the February vacation to allow for more time for baking! Contestants submitted photos of themselves with the cakes to authenticate their creations.
After the break, we assembled the photo submissions into a slideshow and created an interactive ballot for voting for the best book-inspired cakes. Participants included both students and staff. And all modes cohorts were represented: fully remote, HyFlex and fully in-person. We promoted this challenge using Schoology, social media, and email and received far more submissions than we expected — considering the complexity of the task! We were pretty sure many people liked books and cake, but combining the two took some effort.
We had one winner and one runner-up each in the student and staff categories. Winners received a baking book (thanks to grant support from the PTSO). We had great fun with this, and we think participants and viewers did too!
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the library has been trying to engage the whole school community in light-hearted, uplifting, interactive activities to bring us all together and encourage reading for fun. Last term we worked with the Newton North library team to design a “Pets Caught Reading” contest whereby students and staff submitted pictures of their “pets” reading (we encouraged loose interpretation of “pets” to be as inclusive as possible). We assembled the photo submissions into a slideshow and a ballot for voting for the best reading pets. We received 40 photo submissions and 164 ballots! Winners received a gift certificate to chewy.com thanks to grant support from the PTSO. We had great fun with this, and we think participants and viewers did too!