[Editor’s note: This piece is the first in our new monthly series focusing on Innovative School Libraries and Librarians. Be sure to keep checking back during the month of August for new library-focused articles!]

The Barrow Peace Prize is a cross-curricular project that allows 2nd-grade students to consider the character traits of peace and extend their voices to a global audience.

Named for our school, David C. Barrow Elementary, the project begins with each student selecting one of six nominees from civil rights history to research. They then create a persuasive video essay as well as a watercolor painting showing why their chosen nominee best displays the qualities of peace. The videos are voted on by people from all over the world, and the nominee with the most votes (and the students who researched them) is awarded the Barrow Peace Prize.

This project comes after students have studied Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther King Jr., and gives them an opportunity to explore additional historical figures beyond what is specifically listed in our standards. Each year, I begin by sharing Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize by Kathy-Jo Warginalong with information on the Nobel Peace Prize. I also read Peace Is an Offering by Annette Lebox. Each classroom brainstorms a list of traits that someone would need to exhibit in order to be worthy of the prize.

Teaching Basic Technological Skills

Every year when we start this project, I’m overwhelmed by just how many technical skills are woven in.

Our students mostly use iPads in kindergarten and 1st grade, so this is their first use of a laptop for a project. We share a Google Doc graphic organizer in Google Classroom, so students must learn how to log in to their Google account, access Google Classroom, and open their document. They also must learn to navigate multiple tabs online, since they will have Google Classroom, PebbleGo, and their Google doc all open at the same time.

I show students how to copy and paste from digital resources, cite sources, and put information into their own words. I also show them how to use Google Explore to search for public domain images to use for their art project. Students have some familiarity with Flipgrid by 2nd grade, but sometimes they do need support to navigate typing in their code and recording their videos.

Two students are selected to design the peace prize in  3D, and I show them how to use Tinkercad and sit with them while they design to offer troubleshooting tips.

Even though it can be a challenge to use all of these new skills with young learners, they prove again and again that they can do it. If they start using these tools now, it will only strengthen the kind of work we can do together in later grades, when they have their own device.

One of the databases our students use for research is PebbleGo. Designed for students in the younger grades, it offers a quality base of facts about a variety of topics, which are broken down into manageable sections under each heading. We use many of the headings to craft our graphic organizer questions so that students are able to navigate the information related to the question.

(Next page: Embracing all students; a global audience; strengthening the community)

About the Author:

Andy Plemmons is the media specialist at David C. Barrow Elementary in Athens, GA. He is also the 2017 American Association of School Librarians Social Media Superstar for Sensational Student Voice, a 2016 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, a Google Innovator, and an NSBA “20 to Watch” honoree. Find him the Barrow Media Center blog, or on Twitter at @plemmonsa.

 


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