Want to create stations or centers in your school library but don’t know where to start or what to use? My friend Leigh Hopkins, instructional technology facilitator for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, and I tackled that topic in a recent workshop.
First consideration – Why have stations in the library?
Stations provide hands-on learning for the students and allow them to work independently on activities they choose. Even back in the day when I taught math, that was my goal. Choice helps build that intrinsic motivation we want for our students. In the library, I’ve found stations to easy to develop and establish.
Additionally, stations free me up to do many more tasks while classes are in session. Most of my library experience is at an elementary school where six classes a day is the norm. Along with those classes it is the expectation that I’ll help teachers, parents, and tutors on an as-needed basis. Stations also allow me to work with small groups of students on reader’s advisory, developing project plans, and building those important relationships.
Understand your space
Is your library is on the smaller side? You may have to put your stations in a centralized location. This allows for students to pick up tubs and take them back to their tables or find some floor space. I had to do this when I was at Moore Elementary School. While the library wasn’t tiny, it wasn’t all that large either and was shaped like a piece of pie. The solution? Small shelving units strategically placed around the library, which allowed for storage and easy access to materials. By using this method, you may also be able to creatively locate your stations in small pockets around the room. Odd or unused little areas are perfect for stations. Think about the end of a bookcase or some unused table that may be just the right spot for a station.
If your library is spacious and roomy, you have the luxury of setting up stations around the room and leaving them out all the time in permanent locations. Use as much of the library as possible to spread out your stations. You’ll be freed up to think about traffic flow, flexible seating, creative signage, and light sources.
The very first thing to do is to inventory what you already have! Look for things that small groups of students could use like puzzles and games. Check those closets, cabinets, and storage areas that have been long forgotten. Also, let teachers know what you are looking for. You may be pleasantly surprised at what they share or even be excited that something they can no longer use has found a new home.
Look through your old lesson materials as well as those closets. You’ll be surprised by what can be turned into a station. Got a graphic organizer and an old set of encyclopedias? You’ve got a station. Elementary kids are fascinated with those old clunky outdated tomes and many will devour them like a new treasure. I had packs of 24 game cards from when I taught math. And it doesn’t take much work to turn old lessons into games that can be stored in colorful file folders or envelopes. Here are a couple of early stations I made from old lessons.
Recruiting a station team
Equally important is engaging your family and friends to catch your station passion. Mine are always on station patrol. I never know what they’ll bring in! They’ve gathered wall maps, train sets, and cars. Just this past week, my husband showed me an article in the paper about the changing leaves in NC. The first words out of his mouth were, “This would be a great station!” As a matter of fact, the newspaper is a treasure trove of station ideas! So, if you know someone who reads it from cover to cover, recruit them to help.
Don’t forget technology
Got an extra chrome book, iPad, or Nook? You’ve got a station. In the beginning, these can just be some well-chosen apps or sites like the ones from AASL’s best apps and websites. Later, you can move to using programs and apps that offer students more creativity. Do you have a bank of desktops? Incorporate Minecraft into your library. Write a grant to add Ozobots, Makey Makeys, Spheros, and LittleBits to your station lineup. Add some screwdrivers and wrenches to inoperative keyboards, hard drives, and other tech discards and let the students do some deconstruction to discover how tech is put together. By the same token, you can provide low-tech alternatives like coding with plastic cups.
Need something else?
Look for grants and crowd-sourcing venues for help. When my first set of Legos started to dwindle, I wrote a grant to get more. I saw an idea for a read-and-ride station and wrote another for stationary bikes. Recently, I wrote one for gardening supplies to utilize a little side courtyard. And don’t forget the power of sharing what you need on social media. The very thing you are looking for may be in someone’s give-away pile.
What are your go-to stations?
What stations have you used that are both easy to prep and enjoyed by students? Please share and post a picture or two!
Author: Bitsy Griffin
Bitsy Griffin is the school librarian for Chatham Grove ES in Chapel Hill NC. She has 25+ years experience in elementary, middle, and high schools as a math teacher and librarian. She is active in AASL and the North Carolina School Library Media Association. Find her blog at http://www.bitsygriffin.com .