Many school librarians dread the research design course in library school, and they avoid the research studies that are presented by library scholars at AASL and ALA. But this Guest Teen Blogger, Sophia, shares the importance of school librarians serving as research mentors. I met Sophia this year, and she generously shared her story of transformation with me. I wanted to give her the floor with y’all… a kind and generous, national school librarian audience. Please feel free to comment on her work below.
My name is Sophia, and I am a seventh-grade student. Below I explore the benefits of librarians helping students see research opportunities in everyday life. I was transformed as a learner during my English Class’s Genius Hour unit, during the Fall of 2016. Because my librarian took time to mentor me and my teacher was flexible on our knowledge products, I had the opportunity to educate fourth-grade girls about “real” beauty and also become a mentor to them.
For my Genius Hour project, I researched American society’s often-distorted perceptions of beauty. In school, sometimes, we research topics that we may never go back to… that we don’t have a personal connection with. However, Genius Hour gave me the opportunity to research a topic that is a big part of the life of young women across the United States. I chose beauty because it is a topic that I often grapple with, because of the pressures in our society to conform to unrealistic standards. These come from the American media and also sometimes ourselves and our peers. I try to ignore the messages sent to me by the American media, and instead I embrace a beauty standard based on the human spirit, not the human body. It is my hope that all young women can set a beauty standard for themselves, and not be influenced by the external pressures put on us to strive for an unrealistic image. This research topic allowed me to delve deeper into my personal values.
After I read some books that answered the question “What Is Real Beauty?” and was introduced to some online studies, I was inspired to create my own research study to investigate elementary-aged girls’ thoughts about beauty.
For the study, first I created a survey and received feedback from my librarian. On the survey, 20 fourth-grade participants reported their initial beliefs on inner beauty, external beauty, and how race impacts perceptions of beauty (if at all).
After the participants completed the survey, I delivered a “treatment” that I designed and curated during Genius Hour. The treatment consisted of:
- reading a fictional story that I authored, with a theme that focuses on the importance of inner-beauty;
- discussing the story together as a group; and
- watching a video that explained the role of photoshop and “beauty” enhancement products (make-up) in published advertisements.
After the “treatment” the participants took the same survey, so that I could gauge the impact of the treatment. Participants’ answers turned from almost entirely “body-based” definitions of beauty to a definition more about their actions and heart.
Though it began as a way for me to learn more about the perceptions of beauty, the study ultimately became an opportunity for me to teach girls about the power and importance of inner beauty.
After I saw the survey results, I recognized the amount of impact I made with my research. Some of the teachers even noticed a change in the way that the girls interacted with each other. I can only imagine how our society would change for the better, if all school librarians mentored teen researchers. My generation has the power to make a difference, but we need someone to help us develop our skills in research design.
Could that be you in your school?
Sophia, 7th grade student