A Campbell River elementary school has the community to thank after winning an innovative teaching contest.
École Willow Point Elementary School won one of 10 People’s Choice Awards during this year’s Follett Challenge. Their prize is $5,000 US worth of Follett products or services.
The contest is open to K-12 schools in Australia, Canada and the U.S. and invites them to showcase innovative programs that are preparing students for the demands of the 21st century.
École Willow Point’s entry was prepared by Teacher-Librarian Lila Armstrong over the course of the district’s Battle of the Books initiative. It showcases how technology is being integrated into the much-loved program at the school.
She is thankful to everyone who voted for their video over the five-day window in late January. The school’s win came purely based off the amount of votes Armstrong’s video received: 887, to be exact.
“Everyone who voted believes in the power of school libraries being run by teacher librarians,” she said.
Armstrong’s four-minute-and-53-second video shows how the Grade 3 – 5 students at the school have been learning as 21st-century learners including the use of a green screen, virtual author visits and powerpoint presentations.
She said with Battle of the Books going digital, the program has changed how she looks at the library space.
“The library is no longer simply a place to come and check out books. The library has become a hub of learning, creating and solving problems,” she said. “This program has opened my eyes to how a library can grow itself into a library learning commons and I think we’re well on our way.”
École Willow Point’s library is undergoing a transformation of its own.
With laptops now available in the school, its old computer lab was no longer needed. Adjacent to the library, the room has been converted into additional library space. Armstrong’s vision is to transition the library from being a space solely for books into a library learning commons space, complete with a flexible learning area and a maker-space.
District carpenters worked in the space from March 10-13, taking out a large bookcase that blocked sight lines and adding some lower-profile options.
“The new library space is now twice as big, but feels much larger,” said Armstrong.
She’ll have some work to do once school is back in session. All the books were moved to enable the carpenters to work.
Armstrong said she’s excited to rebuild.
In addition to school, community and district support, École Willow Point’s Parent Advisory Council has also been supportive of the transformation. Armstrong said she’ll be looking to purchase some new comfortable furniture for students.
“The role of social and emotional learning in the library can not be undervalued. Students often have very little choice in how their days play out, so to be able to lounge in a comfy chair and read a book or work with their group in a practical and flexible station provides students with the learning and emotional support that they may need,” she said.
Armstrong was starting to see students using the library differently before spring break. She said students would come in to see her for new books and to share their learning experiences at recess and after school.
The prize money has to be spent on Follett products and services. Since École Willow Point already uses Follett software, Armstrong said she plans on purchasing lots of new books and makerspace tools.
“We are very fortunate in SD72 to have an incredible group of teacher librarians who are all creating safe, exciting and innovative spaces for student learning,” she said. “I feel our win is a win for our district as well as École Willow Point.”
While the district-wide Battle of the Books competition finished in early March, Armstrong said she’s already looking ahead.
“The process was productive and creative,” she said, “and I am already looking forward to next year’s Battle.”