Where’s the library? New cloud-based database puts resources at student fingertips

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What do children need to support their ideas with research? A library, of course.

The Mustard Seed School library looks a little different than you might expect.  Over the past few years, we’ve developed an innovative and flexible 21st Century library. The one-to-one laptop program in the Middle School has put online resources at students’ fingertips. Several years ago, the books that were once housed in the Middle School Library space were redistributed into the classrooms. This supports the high-volume reading program by offering students easier access to hundreds of texts.

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Lower School classrooms have also acquired collections of books that support readers at many reading levels as well as collections that connect to thematic units of study. The redistribution of books enables children to find information at a comfortable reading level as quickly and easily as possible.

So how do students find out what books and resources are available at school if the library is decentralized?

This summer, a team of teachers worked for over 200 hours entering books into our new library management system. Student access to information is now supported by a network of connections to collections of texts and resources available throughout the entire building. The Coleman Fung Chair for Creativity and Design provided funds to support the implementation of a cloud-based, searchable database of all the books in the school. It’s like a 24/7 digital card catalogue that teachers and students alike can access from any mobile device.

For example, a seventh grader developing a science exhibition can find texts to support her research in the Thunder and Lightning classrooms, where a large collection of science texts live. A third grader with a passion for sustainability can quickly access to resources on the shelves in the the Middle School Lab. Students are becoming better researchers because information is available to them more quickly.maps

The new online database connects students and books. Why does this matter?

Now all students can easily access every book in the school. We hope it will inspire more learning. More curiosity. And creativity! Creative people do two things well. They get ideas. And then they evaluate them by deciding which ideas are new and valuable enough to invest the time and energy to develop.

It’s not enough to teach children how to generate a lot of ideas through brainstorming and thinking strategies. They also need resources to inform their evaluation process. That’s why creative people need to be excellent researchers.

The 12 Affirmations 2.0, a guiding set of principles for Mustard Seed School, states that “Christian schools must… create an environment that opens up rather than limits possibilities… that encourages community not isolation, that nurtures creativity and imagination….”

Mustard Seed School’s new library resources and systems not only support students’ creativity but by developing their research skills, a world of possibilities now lies at their fingertips.

Emily Sytsma

EMILY SYTSMA Coleman Fung Chair for Creativity and Design; Lower School Assistant Director; Lead Teacher, Rivers Class

Ms. Sytsma has been learning alongside Mustard Seed students for over 15 years. She is also the parent of two Mustard Seed students.