École Willow Point Elementary School’s Battle of the Books has gone digital this year. Teacher Librarian Lila Armstrong has championed an entry into the Follett Challenge, where there’s up to US$200,000 worth of Follett products and services up for grabs. Image by Lila Armstrong

Willow Point Elementary needs your vote

Library initiative vying for prize money in Follett Challenge

A Campbell River initiative is vying for a piece of a US$200,000 pie.

École Willow Point Elementary School has entered the Follett Challenge, a contest for schools in Australia, the U.S. and Canada to showcase innovative teaching programs that prepare students for the “demands of the 21st century,” the contest page said.

The Grade 3 to 5 school’s entry highlights a new take on a well-loved program, the Battle of the Books.

Previously at the school during Battle of the Books, students would read a set list of books depending on their grade and them team up for a Jeopardy!-style quiz to test their knowledge of the titles. The best school team would then compete at zones where the winner would then move up to the championship round.

This year, that part of the contest remains the same, however when the Battle of the Books committee met, they opted for a new format leading up to the Battle that would test students’ reading comprehension.

“There were concerns that students weren’t digging into the books as much,” said École Willow Point Elementary Teacher Librarian Lila Armstrong. “So we decided on a format where students would have to complete certain activities to show that they’re thinking about what they’re reading.”

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With School District 72’s use of Microsoft Office 365 products, Armstrong thought, why don’t we do this as a powerpoint?

“It seemed like a way to wrap it up all together. You’re starting with a love of reading and you’re adding in media arts and digital citizenship and digital literacy sort of all together,” she said.

Media arts are things like green screen use, movies and audio recordings, while digital literacy asks, “how do we use technology well?” and digital citizenship is about understanding that our actions resonate around the web so “how do we make good choices about what technology we’re using?”

“My sort of thinking behind this was, if we teach them to use these office tools, how to collaborate together, how to show they’re learning in different ways and have fun doing it,” said Armstrong. “We’re giving them a pretty good foundation for once they start to be exposed to more things.”

So this fall when Battle of the Books started gearing up, Armstrong filmed the process. She combined video of students working on their projects with their testimonials on how much they enjoy the program. Then she edited the material together into a four-minute-and-53-second video for the Follett Challenge.

Voting began earlier this week and ends on Friday, Jan. 24 at 2 p.m. local time.

There are 63 entries vying for votes in the contest. Just four are Canadian.

The 10 videos that receive the most votes will receive $5,000 worth of Follett products and services. Nine semifinalists, decided by a combination of votes received and a score from the judges’ rubric, will receive $15,000 worth of Follett products and services. Of those semifinalists, one grand-prize winner will receive an additional $15,000 of Follett products and services.

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The funds would go a long way in helping a transformation that’s underway at École Willow Point Elementary’s library.

Staff opted to remove desktop computers from an adjoining computer lab room. With laptops now available in the school, the room was no longer needed as a dedicated computer space. The change essentially doubles the library’s footprint, said Armstrong. The idea is to create a Library Learning Commons space including a flexible learning area and a maker-space with comfy seating and things like Magformers, LEGO, K’Nex and other STEM toys.

“Things students can practice building with and designing with,” said Armstrong.

Willow Point’s Battle of the Books competition is coming up on Feb. 24, with zones set for March 2 and the district final scheduled for March 10.

In the meantime, Willow Point could use your vote.

“I don’t like asking people to vote for my stuff,” said Armstrong, “but I feel like this is a really good cause and this would be great for the school.”

You can vote for Willow Point’s entry here.

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