Monthly Archives: August 2014

Crazy Day

Today was, to put it mildly, crazy.  Three 5th grade intro/blitz classes; 1 activity period (busy library time); 1 collab/help time (busy library time); and 1 recess/lunch hour that included SEW for SOS being interviewed for a local t.v. news spot.  Apologies to that last period class of boys–I kept losing track of what I had said or was trying to say because I just hit a wall there at the end.   TGIF!

The highlights:

I posted yesterday about a mysterious box with motors.  Today, the kids added a propeller/fan made of duct tape, and the box does two things:  moves itself across the table, and shoots the propeller/fan thing into the air.   They had some questions about how much voltage the motors can handle, and that led to a bit of research about what happens if you attach too much power to a motor.  This is what I like to see happen:  tinkering that leads to questions about how things work, and then researching the answers.  (Of course, they need to see that the motor actually *will* burn out, and I don’t blame them!)


Some of the new 5th graders were inquiring about the Makerspace (I haven’t done an intro yet with them), and one with an older sibling immediately figured out where the LEDs and batteries were and started playing, then checked out The Art of Tinkering.  Yay!

At lunch/recess, we had a reporter from our local abc outlet come to talk to the SEW for SOS kids.  I wasn’t sure when the reporter would actually come, and I wanted to be sure everyone had a chance to eat without missing the opportunity to be on t.v., so I had them go over and grab to-go lunches and bring them back to the library to eat.  As it turned out, they had time to all eat before the reporter came, and then time to sew and be interviewed, and still make it to their next class.  Whew!

As they were eating, I was just sitting back and watching (and yeah, freaking out a little about the upcoming interview and pacing), and I had this realization about this crew of kids.  They are a very diverse group–quiet, not quiet, studious, not-so-studious, outgoing, shy, etc.  What they all have in common is this: they are compassionate.  They are compassionate to each other–no, not every moment; they are middle school students still figuring it all out, after all.  But in general, they are kinder than your average bear.  I got a bit teary, actually, as I was taking these pictures, because I was happy for them that they had found each other; proud of them for what they are doing with SEW for SOS; grateful to be a part of all of it.  My wish for them is that they continue to be there for each other over the next several years, and continue to make a difference in other people’s lives in whatever ways make sense for them as they grow older.  I also wish for them to one day know and understand what a positive impact they have had on me!





After eating, they of course sewed, and I think the t.v. stuff went well.  Then they went off to class, and I shifted back into Book mode with the 5th grade until the end of the day.  This year’s 5th grade seems to be incredibly sweet–I can’t wait to get to know them as readers and people!  They tolerated my end-of-busy-week exhaustion very kindly!

So, in the end, it was a fabulous first week of school!  Now I am ready to sleep LATE on Saturday!  🙂



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Great Day

This is going to be a great year.  I can feel it.

My day:

1. 5th grade girls came for an introduction to the library, a book blitz (we booktalk a bunch of titles rapidly to give them a sense of our collection), and some browsing time.  Tomorrow we have three more intro/blitzes with 5th graders, and I can’t wait–love the energy of 5th grade!

2. Makerspace fun.  After yesterday’s 7-battery “fun,” I decided to prank the kids with a Littlebits wireless transmitter/receiver and buzzer.  (The transmitter was controlled by my coworker at the circulation desk.)  My hope was that, once they figured out the prank, they would play with the other Littlebits, and several of them did.  At the end of the period, I handed them the Make Electronics book and corresponding kits of supplies and encouraged them to give it a whirl.  They also somehow managed to make this mysterious thing, which has two motors and is very noisy:


SEW for SOS is up and running–the kids are sewing and putting together shipments–at the edge of that picture above is a pillow ready for shipment!  It looks like the 7th/8th grade recess time will regularly have both SEWers and general makers, and this makes me quite happy.  Then we go straight from recess into collaboration/help time, which means more book-finders and Makers.

The energy today around both reading and making was all really positive and fun.  Love love love my job.

Now I’m watching a crew of 6th grade boys who were in to use our Chromebooks leave the library, which is amusing.  6th grade boys don’t always just walk from point A to point B, and just sitting back and observing sometimes is good for a little lift.

I’m going to finally deal with my inbox (can’t say I love what is left in there to deal with, but such is life!), but I wanted to do my quick reflection first.

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Today we were very busy in the library!  Tons of kids looking for books and chatting and yes, tinkering.  More on that below.  Now, at 4:30, it is eerily quiet in here (I am waiting for the kid, who is at volleyball practice).  I should be dealing with my inbox, but maybe I’ll make a ritual of reflecting at the end of the day in blog form, at least when I can.

My first task of the morning was to make some signage for the Makerspace–a rules list, and a few little light-up signs for fun.  The rules (not finalized yet and definitely need to have an entire sheet/poster devoted to safety):


Make sure you have permission before doing anything dangerous–if it says “adult supervision required,” you MUST have adult supervision.  You may NOT solder without an adult present and aware!

  1. SIGN IN and OUT

Limit of 15 people in the Makerspace at any time, unless you have permission from Mrs. LaMontagne.


Leave the space cleaner than it was when you got here!  Check the floor and counters, and put supplies in their correct places.  Put current projects in bins and on shelves.


Only take supplies for your current project(s); leave the rest for others to use!

  1. BE KIND

Support each other; be kind to each other; help each other.  Making involves taking risks and making a lot of mistakes; we need to be able to count on each other for support.

Pretty basic.  Today I had a good crew in during both recess and activity period, and they did a good job of cleaning up.  Being kind isn’t typically an issue, but a kid had asked me to include that on my rules, so I did!

Safety is the only one I really worry about.  What happens when you set a bunch of 7th grade boys loose in a Makerspace with a box of 9V batteries and some hobby motors?  Well, they just might see what happens if you put 7 of those batteries together with one of those motors.  (Answer:  it spins very fast and looks kind of blue from the sparks.)  Then they say, “Mrs. LaMontagne!  Come see how cool this is!”  I agreed that yes, it was cool, but it also was potentially dangerous, and gave a little speech about how they as 7th graders are role models for the younger kids and blahblahblah, and no, we do not put 7 batteries together to see what will happen.  I both adore their curiosity and wake up sweating in the night as a result of it.  (Not really–they are sharp kids and not likely to ever do anything intentionally dangerous.  But I do worry some, and consequently plan to stay in the space or right next to it any time it is open for business.)

Mostly, I am just thrilled that even though it was only day 2 of school, the library was hopping and kids were experimenting and connecting.  It’s going to be a good year.


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The happy kind of tired

Today was the first full day of school (with kids!!).  I am wiped out, but it’s the happy sort of exhaustion.  We had kids in to check out books, to tell us about their summers, to play and sew in the Makerspace.  Have I mentioned that we have the most awesome kids?  The building just has such a different feeling when there are young folks in it!  When it’s just the adults, it’s easy to get caught up in worrying about schedules and whatnot, but put the kids back in and it all seems to make sense.  I’m still worried about the schedule, of course, but I trust the kids to tell us what they want/need, and I believe it will all fall into place.  We will probably have an interesting year where we learn through trial and error, but that can be fun, at least when you look back on it and can say you survived!  (Look at me being all optimistic.  Colleagues who read this:  feel free to remind me of this moment when I’m being grumbly because I messed something up on the calendar.)

I also had a bit of time today where I wrestled (mostly unsuccessfully, as it turns out) with the Sparkfun Digital Sandbox.  I am excited about the potential for this little gadget for learning/teaching some basic Arduino coding, once I can get it set up correctly.  (Some of the issues I am having are because I have added so many different files to my Arduino, I think.)  I had to uninstall my Ardublock files, because the ones I had were apparently an older version and didn’t match the user guide for the Sandbox, but now that I have done that and gotten that part straight, I am hoping to get it working tomorrow.  I did get it to blink, which felt like an enormous victory after the hour or so I spent having it not blink, and then decided to stop while I was ahead.  Sometimes it’s best to just bask in the glow of the blink and save more complicated projects for another day.

I also spent a chunk of time yesterday reading reviews and ordering books, so tomorrow will be a happy mail day in the library as they start to come in.  When you work in a library, you get to have Christmas/Birthday/Gift-giving holidays all year long!

All in all, a very nice start to the year!  🙂

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Survived the first week back at school–no kids yet, but lots and lots of meetings.  I am TIRED! We have a new schedule that I still haven’t wrapped my head around (8-day rotation); new head of school and other changes in administration; new initiatives; new new new. Usually at this point in the year, I am feeling comfortable and ready, but this year, there is a layer of anxiety with all of the changes. The only one that really makes me anxious is the new schedule, because it will likely dramatically change the flow of activity in the library–I like the schedule itself and think it will wonderful for the kids, but am just nervous to see how it will play out for my particular corner of the world.  We’ll find out next week!

Of course, after the summer I had, I am very excited to see what will happen in the Makerspace this year. My goals:

1. Have that space active and hopping during every activity period, by offering a variety of options for kids to sign up for and also some slots for kids to drop in randomly.

2. Collaborate with faculty on projects that utilize the space and materials in the Makerspace, and also on projects involving coding.

3. Continue to learn new things!

4. Listen to the kids and meet them where they are. I have more thoughts on this, and it will eventually be a post of its own. What I want to do better, among many other things of course, is be tuned in to the non-squeaky wheels, the unspoken needs of the kids who might not be using the space yet or who might need something different. One thing I already know to do differently from last year is to provide more structure during activity period for kids who need it–we had some kids who were interested in making but needed more help than I realized in terms of getting started or coming up with an idea. In the first rotation of our Make It activity (a very openly defined weekly activity), the kids just immediately figured out what they wanted to work on and got going, and really didn’t need much guidance.  The second rotation was the opposite, but I didn’t handle it well–I figured they would get there eventually on their own, because of how the first group had gone, but I was wrong.

5. Figure out the whole structure/chaos balance for the library.  I wrote about this early in the summer.  The new schedule really demands that I get a better grip on this, because we are going to have times when the entire middle school is in a free period, and it’s going to be crazy.

6. Remember, always, at the end of the day, that it’s about figuring out and doing what is best for the kids. Every kid is different, so what is best for one might not be best for another. That is both terrifying and beautiful, isn’t it?


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I’ve been spending the last few weeks of summer doing things I love: spending time with family, reading books, lazing, goofing around on the internet, sewing, etc.  It has been lovely, and I’m ready for school to start!

This might be a weird post, but I took my daughter to the doctor the other day for her annual checkup, and I’ve been thinking about a little thing that happened while we were there.

We were waiting in this little area outside the lab area of the office (my daughter had to get one shot), and in comes a doctor or nurse with a handful of files.  The lab tech takes them, flips through them, and sighs, “Triplets.”  So, naturally, knowing that any minute a crew of triplets is going to come into the waiting area, I start wondering–will they be identical?  how old will they be?  etc.

A minute later, in come 4 little kids with their mom.  A boy with a broken arm and missing front teeth who says, “Do I have to get a shot, Mom?”  “Not today.”  “Why not?”  “It’s not your turn.”  He gets the hugest grin.  The other three are the triplets, all 5 and getting ready to get their shots for kindergarten.  They do not look anything alike–not even like siblings, really, let alone triplets.  One, a little boy with huge eyes, sees a familiar book about animals and yells, “I LOVE THIS BOOK!” and grabs it off the shelf above the seats.  He is immediately immersed in it.  Little girl with long blond curly hair just calmly and quietly sits, looking like she is entertaining herself with whatever is in her imagination.  The third is a little girl with short curly brown hair, nervous, sitting in Mom’s lap while Mom reads to her.  Mom says to the lab tech, “It would be best if Dylan goes first.”

They call Dylan back–he is the boy triplet– and he asks for Mom to come with him.  I couldn’t see the shots happening, but there was a bit of whimpering, which made all the other three run to peek around the corner and see.  They run and peek, then come back and sit.  Run and peek, come back and sit.  The blond just plops back down happily.  The nervous one starts looking more nervous.  There was a teenage girl also in the waiting area, who could see the kids getting the shots from where she was, and she says, “I think he’s almost done.  He’s okay.”  The nervous one says, “How many shots did he get?”  “Three, I think.  But he’s okay.”  Out Dylan comes, wipes his tears, grabs his book again, and starts reading like nothing has happened.  “I love this book,” he says again.

They call the blond one back (I didn’t catch either of the other two names), and she just trots on back without a care.  As she is getting the shots, the teenager watching says, “She is brave!  She didn’t cry at all!”  And the other three, all at the same time, say, “She’s always brave.”  You probably had to be there, but it was really amazing how they all said it together with the exact same tone of awe.

Then it was of course time for the poor little nervous one.  At this point, the other lab tech cleared me and my daughter to leave (we were just waiting to make sure she didn’t have an allergic reaction), so we didn’t get to see what happened next, but we we heard it!  She was not a happy little girl!

So why is this story sticking with me, and how is it relevant?  I think it was a good reminder to me about how kids come to us (at school, at home) with their own personalities and needs.  I was really impressed by the mom of those kids–she was far calmer than I would be with 4 kids under the age of 7 (!!), but she also was just so in tune with the whole thing.  She knew which kid should go first; she knew to give the nervous one that bit of nurturing beforehand and to have her go last; she seemed to let them all (based on how they acted, how they were dressed, etc.) be their own individual selves.  It’s not really something I can capture in a blog post, but it was moving.  Maybe because in my mind, when I heard “triplets,” I had this vision of three identical kids coming, and the reality was so different.

Looking forward to seeing what personalities I get to meet this new school year!


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Crafting, plus SEW for SOS update

I think I might be getting sick, but aside from that, it’s been a good few days.

1. I downloaded ScratchJr (free iPad app).  It’s not something I will personally use (because of age of kids I work with), but seems worth looking at for folks who have or teach younger kids.

2. I made some more bears.  God, I love those bears.

3.  I made some origami stuff, most addictively these little cubes.  You make six separate pieces, and then the awesome part is fitting them all together into the cube.  Very satisfying.

photo (76)


4.  Today I met up with a former advisee for lunch, then headed to school to help Luke out with packaging up some SEW for SOS pillows.  We have sent out about 150 pillows in the last week, some to organizations, but today was all individual requests, about 25 of them, all over the country (and one to England!).  I was finally motivated to figure out how to import the data from the Excel spreadsheet of requests into a Mail Merge for the address labels–it took me way longer than it should have, but now that I know how to do it, I can walk the kids through it once and then be done with it.  (Luke is currently broken-armed and in a sling, so having him poke around to try to figure it out one-handed did not make sense; he probably would have gotten it quicker than I did anyway, though!  He did the packaging while I wrestled with Word.)

In other SEW for SOS news, Luke applied and got accepted to the World Maker Faire in NYC this September.  He and Deven, along with their parents and maybe some cousins who live in NY, will have an exhibit at the faire where folks can sew pillows.  If anyone reads this who is going to be at that Maker Faire, please give them a visit and some support!  It’s a huge deal.  I will help as much as I can with their prep work, but I won’t be along for the actual ride.  They also are on the final leg of the fundraising drive with; $90 to reach the stretch goal of $900.  The goal is to bring the project to other schools (providing supplies and some postage money), and also to get a postage fund for us–our shipments today probably will cost about $50.  Postage is by far the biggest expense.

And that is all!  Tomorrow I am going to attend a little intro to Python class that a colleague’s son is teaching–I figure I will be lost, but I’m looking forward to dipping a toe into those waters.

I have one more maker goal for the summer: to learn how to program an ATtiny85 and use it in a paper circuit.  And that, my friends, is ALL.  Because summer is almost over!

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