Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Posts that don’t fit in the other categories

Little starlings and little darlings

It’s late November, and during my Thanksgiving travel I was entertained by flocks of starlings swooping and soaring as they migrated. This flock motion is called murmuration. Today I mentioned it to my Kindergarten library class, and was delighted to hear that a few of the students recently had seen the same phenomenon. We talked about the word, “murmuration,” and how its meaning differs from two other big seasonal terms, migration and hibernation. I read the picture book, Calvin Can’t Fly: the Story of a Bookworm Birdie, by Jennifer Berne and Keith Bendis. In the story, Calvin is a little starling who prefers reading to flying lessons. When the time comes to migrate, Calvin cannot fly, so his extended family attaches tethers to him, prepared to carry him along. Calvin’s extended periods in the library pay off when he understands that the flock is in danger from a hurricane, and that they must seek shelter. All’s well that ends well, and in Calvin’s case, his joy causes him to jump about, flapping his little wings, until he surprises himself — and his family — by flying. The Kindergartners loved the story (little darlings); I hope they will remember the concept of murmuration. Go from fiction to nonfiction with this 6-minute video of starling murmuration in Scotland, by Cameron Presentations, with music by Gerry Clark.

Murmuration from Cameron Presentations on Vimeo.


Adventures in weeding, Fall 2017

An important part of curating a great school library is the regular weeding of outdated or unused items. This morning while weeding the 600’s (applied sciences in the Dewey classification), I came across a fifty-year old title, Man the Maker: a First History of Tools and Machines, by Anne Jolliffe. (Hawthorn Books, 1967). Although dated by gender stereotypes and its depiction of 1960’s computer technology, I like the book’s mod illustrations and topic. Anne Jolliffe is a trailblazing female animator from Australia who was the talented force behind the animation of Jeremy Hillary Boob in Yellow Submarine, the animated Beatles movie. She also was instrumental in creating the psychedelic “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” sequence in that film.  By the way, I decided to remove the book from the circulating collection, relocating it to my office.

bottom right: Jeremy Hillary Boob, from Yellow Submarine

Thinking about Jolliffe’s achievements reminds me of a new gem of a book about another animator, Mary Blair (1911-1978). Blair, like Joliffe, incorporated unconventional color combinations and styles. Blair worked for many years for Walt Disney Studios, overcoming gender bias in a male-dominated workplace. One of her most lasting designs is the “It’s a Small World” ride, introduced at the 1964 World’s Fair, and enjoyed by millions of visitors to Disney parks. Pocket Full of Colors, by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville, illustrated by Brigette Barrager, tells Mary’s story.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month / Latinx Heritage Month

file-oct-03-8-35-40-amI have created  a special display of books in the library  in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated nationwide and begins on September 15, the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico achieved independence on September 16th and Chile on September 18th.
Hispanic Heritage Month has been celebrated in the United States since 1974, when President Gerald Ford issued a Presidential Proclamation extending Hispanic Heritage Week into a month-long observation. Many people and educational organizations now prefer the term “Latinx Heritage Month,” to include non-Spanish speaking people of Latin America, including Brazilians. Books written or illustrated by Sandra Cisneros, Arthur Dorros, Maya Gonzalez, Tony Johnston, Gary Soto, Pat Mora, and Carmen Tafolla are being shared with the students in their classrooms or during library classes. We highlight several library books in Spanish, as well. By reading these books at Concord Hill, we are active participants in the International Reading Association’s Hispanic American Heritage Read-in program.

What’s the big idea?

I have created a special display of picture books about people who, sparked by imagination or insatiable curiosity, had big ideas they developed in order to help others. As I explained to our students, big ideas can come from observing nature or from identifying a community need. Big ideas can lead to social justice, new realms of study, artistic breakthroughs, and even new kinds of toys. Here are a few of my favorites. Scroll over the images for captions. These books are available through your local independent bookseller or several online sources.

The CHS Library’s Parent Collection

Photo Oct 01, 5 54 26 PM
Recent additions to the Parent Collection

Did you know that we maintain a special Parent Collection that includes over 100 books about parenting and child development? The collection is located in the waiting room by the Development Office on the main floor – sharing space with the school store. We rely on an honor system to circulate those materials.

Lending Library for CHS parents
Lending Library for CHS parents

If you borrow a book from the Parent Collection, please sign and date the yellow check-out card located in the back of the book, and place the card in the little box on the book carousel. Please return borrowed items as soon as possible, and replace the check-out card. Thanks for your cooperation.

Upcoming Author Visit: Susan L. Roth

Self-portrait collage by Susan L. Roth

I am looking forward to a visit from author/illustrator Susan L. Roth as a highlight of Concord Hill School’s 50th birthday celebration! Susan is an award-winning collage artist whose works are beloved by students and teachers worldwide. She will join us on Saturday, October 3rd, offering two collage demonstrations followed by book-signings.

Coincidentally, as we celebrate 50 years of Concord Hill, Susan is celebrating publication of her 50th book! Another fascinating tidbit: Susan was born on a Leap Year day, so technically she has not had very many of her own birthdays; I’m delighted to share ours with her! Her books been honored around the world, including:

  • Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books (co-author Karen Leggett Abouraya) won the 2013 Arab American Book Award for Children.
  • Parrots Over Puerto Rico (co-author Cindy Trumbore) won the prestigious 2014 Robert F. Siegel Medal for Most Distinguished Informational Book for Children.
  • The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families (co-author Cindy Trumbore) won the 2012 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. This award, given by the Jane Addams Peace Association, is given annually to the children’s book that effectively promotes the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races. This book also was an ALA (American Library Association) Notable Children’s Book in 2012.
  • Hard Hat Area was a Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club selection and was named a Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Book.
  • The Great Ball Game (co-author Joseph Bruchac) was a Junior Library Guild selection, and it also won a Maryland Black Eyed Susan Picture Book Award for its depiction of a Native American legend about animals and lacrosse.
  • Listen to the Wind: the Story of Dr. Greg and Three Cups of Tea was a #1 New York Times bestseller.
  • Leon’s Story (co-author Leon Walter Tillage) won the Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Nonfiction.
  • Made in Mexico (co-author Peter Laufer) was a National Council for Social Studies / Children’s Book Council Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People in 2001.
  • The Biggest Frog in Australia won an Aesop Accolade from the American Folklore Society in 1996.ParrotsOverPRI will be highlighting Susan’s books and collage technique during library classes leading up to her visit. For more information about Susan and her books, see her website.

AASL Announces Best Apps & Websites

The American Association  of School Librarians recently released its 2015 lists for best apps and websites for teaching and learning. Although many of them are for older students, our CHS students and teachers use (or are considering using) several, including Motion Math, Seesaw,  and Click the images to see the lists.

  AASL_BestApp 2015      AASL_Best Websites 15


ISTE2015 was awesome!

I’m still coming down from that cloud known as ISTE2015. The International Society for Technology in Education has wrapped up its annual convention. Philadelphia lived up to its nickname — brotherly (and sisterly) love ruled, as 17,000 attendees shared ideas and learned together in a supportive, energizing environment.
Upon arriving in Philadelphia, I met up with three of my twitter colleagues at the Franklin Institute to see the LEGO art exhibit. The Art of the Brick featured LEGO art by Nathan Sawaya. It was an inspiring exhibit for those of us who embrace maker education. I so enjoyed going through the exhibit with tweeps Diana Rendina, Okle Miller, and Nathan Stevens. Visitors were encouraged to photograph the exhibits; here are a few of my favorites:

After picking up my conference registration materials, I began to learn my way around the massive convention center. I made two presentations over the following two days. Mrs. Opdahl also attended the meeting, and she was so supportive as I set up for my two presentations. My first presentation was one of several sessions hosted by the ISTE Librarians’ group. As one of several stations in an area dubbed a “playground,” I discussed how librarians can match picture books with maker activities. I especially enjoyed meeting librarians from all over the world who are interested in starting their own library makerspaces.

Many librarians were interested in discussing how they can design maker activities around children’s literature.
Heading out for the Convention Center with my exhibit materials
Heading out for the Convention Center with my exhibit materials

The following day I lugged books, robotic devices, and other maker resources from our hotel to the Convention Center for my second presentation. “The Youngest Makers: Maker Activities that Help Preschoolers Develop Fine Motor Skills” was a very popular station, if I say so myself. Attendees enjoyed experimenting with one of our Bee Bots, the Osmo tangram set, Cubelets, and a “tinker tray” full of loose parts. We focused on how each resource could help young children develop hand strength, pincer grip, and other skills. I posted QR codes linked to the resources, and many visitors indicated that they planned on acquiring and using the items with their own students. I had 300 handouts, which proved to be too few. I was pleasantly surprised when Benjamin Herold, a journalist with Education Week, asked if he could interview me for that publication! The article has a couple of minor inaccuracies, but I chalk them up to my own momentary discombobulation following the two-hour presentation! The EdWeek blog article is here.

Mrs. Opdahl provided enthusiastic support as I prepared for my “Youngest Makers” session.

In addition to sharing my own ideas, I attended several workshops and sessions so I could discover more ideas to borrow! I enjoyed a Makey Makey workshop, a session on designing library makerspaces, a panel presentation about incorporating maker educuation into the curriculum, playgrounds featuring digital storytelling and early learning technologies, and other topics. At the ISTE Librarians’ Network breakfast meeting, I was inspired by the keynote speaker, Shannon Miller. She spoke about the important role school librarians should play as technology integrators in encouraging students to find and share their own voices respectfully and safely through social media — including Skyping with their favorite authors. Mrs. Opdahl and I attended the Independent School Educator Network’s dinner, where we found other Marylanders and AIMS members, including our friend Marti Weston of Georgetown Day School. Marti was awarded the group’s Outstanding Educator Award for implementing innovative practices, establishing private-public partnerships, and advancing the teaching practice with all educators. Well done, Marti! Another evening I attended the Librarian Network’s dinner and social at the Independence Beer Garden near the Liberty Bell, which was great fun. Several vendors and corporate sponsors hosted social events. The Gaggle party and the Edtech Karaoke party always are popular. (I had so much fun at the former that I was too pooped for the latter!) Speaking of vendors, Mrs. Opdahl and I both spent hours meeting and greeting representatives of companies we already know, and making new connections with potential vendors, as well. Some of the products and companies represented were Microsoft, LittleBits, Modular Robotics, Britannica, KidPix, LEGO Education, MakerBot Industries, Bretford Library Furniture, SMART, One More Story, Common Sense Media, Sphero Education, and many, many more.

Your intrepid ISTE2015 volunteer serves up Philly water ice to a happy attendee.
Your intrepid ISTE2015 volunteer serves up Philly water ice to a happy attendee.

My final action to report on from the immersive experience of ISTE2015 was serving as a conference volunteer for a couple of hours. I handed out welcome treats to attendees — Philadelphia water ice, such a refreshing treat — and got a t-shirt for my efforts. Before I knew it, it was time for Mrs. Opdahl and me to get our bags and go to the Amtrak station for our train home again. Now I will have some time to thank everyone who was kind enough to tweet about my sessions, and plan how I can incorporate new ideas into my own curriculum. Making new professional connections, extending my own personal learning network, and acquiring new skills and ideas are great take-aways from the conference. (The vendor swag is pretty cool, too!)

If you would like to see my presentation handouts, click on the “Nan’s ISTE2015 Presentations” link on the top menu. To learn more about ISTE, see and watch this ISTE-produced video about the conference:

Getting ready for ISTE2015!

At the end of June I will be in Philadelphia for the annual meeting of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). I am pleased and proud to report that I will be sharing two presentations. The first, “Pairing Picture Books to Maker Activities,” is part of the Librarian network’s “playground” — an expo in which librarians from around the world share ideas, technology, and maker projects. The following day I will present my solo presentation, “The Youngest Makers: Makerspace Activities that Help Preschoolers Develop Fine Motor Skills.” I have many ideas to share based on my work with our youngest CHS students this past year. I can’t wait to network with other makers and librarians, and I’m especially excited that Mrs. Opdahl is attending the conference, too. Here’s an example of a classic children’s book with a Maker project featuring Cubelets.