Children's author Brian Yanish visited all eight ICSD elementary schools, hosting workshops and assemblies organized by the school librarians and designed to inspire technological ingenuity and environmental activism.
The program was funded through an IPEI Connecting Classrooms Grant. Connecting Classrooms Grants support large-scale projects that enhance student engagement and support learning consistent with school and district goals. They intend to foster collaborative partnerships between teachers within a school, across grade levels and/or between schools.
Yanish recently wrote a recycled art activity book ScrapKins: Junk Re-thunk in which he helps children imagine the possibilities of making things with everyday recyclable objects. He has shared his ScrapKins program with schools across the country and has created others for Sesame Street, Whole Foods, The American Museum of Natural History, Seventh Generation, Clif Bar, World Science Festival, Maker Faire and Scholastic Afterschool.
"Our intention is that the Scrapkins program will inspire our students in a universally accessible way, and support the Makerspaces we have introduced or plan to introduce soon in our libraries," said Sarah Jones, librarian at South Hill Elementary School. ICSD's Makerspaces provide opportunities for students to have hands-on creative projects in libraries and explore new technology tools, apps and programs. "Through our experiences as librarians working with all grade levels in our elementary schools, we can see that our students need opportunities to problem solve, create and revise."
Yanish's program connects to the Makerspaces as well as to the NYS Science curriculum that incorporates a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) component for each grade level. In addition, his program reinforces other learning activities throughout the district. For example, fifth-graders at Northeast Elementary recently participated in a case study incorporating technology, environmental stewardship, and innovation inspired by Ada's Violin, the Story of Paraguay's Recycled Orchestra. Re-engineered waste and recyclables were used to create working musical instruments and then electronically adapted them to sound like their traditional versions. Northeast students applied 21st Century skills in science and technology to their more traditional re-purposing and engineering skills with physical objects.
"I have been working with students this year on STEM challenges in the Makerspace, and Brian's presentation and books help bring exciting ideas for new things to make and invent using what you have around you," said Maureen Giilroy, librarian at Enfield Elementary.
She added: "I think it is very important for students to meet a published author and or illustrator. We ask students to read and write every day and sometimes they feel frustrated or disengaged. When students experience an author visit they can be inspired to work harder and strive to someday write or illustrate their own book."
After Yanish's visit to Enfield, Gilroy said, "Students loved the workshop Brian did with them to make a toy out of recycled materials and have been begging to do these in our new Makerspace in the library. Students are clamoring for [his] books. There is a list of "holds" for the book in the library."
At Caroline, Librarian Milly Stephenson said Yanish was "engaging, interactive, and fun. Students left the program with a better understanding of the writing and illustrating process, the importance of revision, and the joys of turning trash into something new."
When sharing with Belle Sherman students at their assembly, Yanish talked about being in elementary school himself when he first had the idea for the Scrapkins characters and activities. Belle Sherman's Makerspace Club members made parachutes with Yanish. Librarian Kaitlin Bryant and teacher Allison Trdan meet with the group weekly after school.