Creating Curation Sensations

The concurrent sessions are my favorite part of the AASL National Conference because these one-hour workshops always provide me with inspiring ideas I can take back to my library. One of those sessions was “Creating Curation Sensations,” presented by Katherine Nelson, who is the librarian at Washburne Middle School in Winnetka, Illinois. Katherine explained that she began focusing on curation assignments and projects with students when she and some of her teachers were looking for ways to get students more engaged in their academics. When doing writing assignments, their students completed the task, but sometimes seemed to barely scratch the surface of their topics. Nelson and her colleagues wanted students to dig deeper.


Katherine Nelson presented a concurrent session called Creating Curation Sensations at the 2019 AASL National Conference and Exhibition.

The AASL Standards define Curate as “[making] meaning for oneself and others by collecting, organizing, and sharing resources of personal relevance.” The process of curation requires students to evaluate information, making connections in terms of how selected artifacts relate to each other and to the topic, and develop a personal resource collection. Curation assignments can allow for choice, creativity, and personalization while focusing on a curricular topic.

When introducing the idea of curation to students, Nelson begins by pointing out popular curation services such as Stitch Fix and Birchbox. She goes on to explain that the LibGuides her students access on her library website are curated. People curate all the time, even though they may not realize it. Librarians (and teachers) can model curation for students by sharing collections they create on sites such as Wakelet, Google Arts and Culture, and the Smithsonian Learning Lab. Students can create accounts on these sites to curate their own collections. (Check the websites’ terms of use and any of your school district’s relevant policies regarding website and Internet use.)

For me, the best takeaways from the session were the student projects that Nelson shared. Before reading The Outsiders, language arts students did research about teenagers in the 1950s and 1960s to create a collection of three artifacts that told the story of young people during that time. They shared their collections by creating short presentations with Adobe Spark. I’m already thinking about approaching one of my world history teachers about adapting this project to the study of a time period in his class. Nelson worked with another language arts class on a Book Bento Box project that involved students curating five artifacts related to a book they read. I’d love to collaborate with the language arts teachers at my school on a project like this, perhaps when students read independent novels. (Click here to see Nelson’s slides presentation.)

As school librarians, we can learn so much from each other when we have a chance to share ideas and successes. Katherine Nelson’s ideas and successes gave attendees at her workshop lots of ideas that can be adapted across grade levels and subject areas.


Author: Margaret Sullivan

Margaret Sullivan is a librarian at Rockwood Summit High School and also serves as the Lead Librarian for the Rockwood School District. A past president of the Missouri Association of School Librarians, Margaret’s professional interests include advocacy, teacher collaboration, professional development, equity, and YA literature. You can connect with her on Twitter @mm_sullivan.

Categories: AASL National Conference, Blog Topics, Community, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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