Elementary Library Field Experience -- Cotton Creek Elementary

I completed my field experience at Cotton Creek Elementary School with Nancy Larkin.


What in particular did you like?

Nancy is a treasure trove of information, ideas, and experience.  She runs a thoroughly modern, collaborative library program that is completely wired, and designed to align with curriculum and standards from start to end.  She uses technology in innovative ways, and seamlessly integrates it into instruction.  She is also passionate about books and literacy, and committed to sharing new books with students and teachers.  The joy she finds in literature is apparent every day, and is infectious.


Nancy has many years of teacher librarian experience in Adams 12, but this was her first year at Cotton Creek Elementary, which was a very lucky circumstance for me.  I was able to benefit not only from her experience, but also from watching her think through the operation of her new library.  She often thought aloud as she compared the community of this school to that of her previous school, and explained to me how that affected the collection and her management of it.  She is still becoming acquainted with teachers, and while she has a very strong foundation for collaboration, she was thinking through ideas on how to expand that collaboration, and how to start to form closer relationships with teachers who had collaborated less.  The exchange of ideas back and forth as she evaluated her first year at Cotton Creek, considered the steps she would take to begin the next school year, and the reflected upon the direction of the library program was an absolutely priceless learning opportunity for me.


What were some successful activities you did?

Nancy encouraged me to jump right in and teach lessons on day one, and I worked very closely with students for the entire internship, including coaching a Battle of the Books team, and helping students with science fair projects.  My collaborative lesson involved having third graders write book reviews that were posted on the district’s library catalog, and students really enjoyed that authentic, published writing experience.


Nancy and I also embarked on a massive reorganization of the entire non fiction section of the library.  That project took several days, and involved heavy weeding, cleaning, and moving hundreds of books.  Again, it was very beneficial for me to be there while Nancy was thinking aloud about the reorganization of her library.


Another interesting experience was having a lesson I taught Skyped to a homebound student who has physical disabilities, and a severe auto-immune disorder that makes him extremely susceptible to infection.  This class has embraced this student, and while he is not included throughout the entire school day, he has regularly scheduled daily interactions with the teacher and the class, including all read-alouds and library visits.  One student pointed the web cam at me, and another monitored to make sure he could see well.  After the lesson, the student accompanied his classmates as they chose books and happily chatted to him about books that interested them.  It was a very moving and powerful experience to see how technology is embraced so that this student can join his peers and share their school experience.


Did you think about...?

I thought a lot about how much time it takes to really get to know a community so that the library’s collection, collaboration and services can best serve the community.  Nancy and her library are at the heart of the school, and I was impressed by how skillfully and quickly she became such an essential, integral, positive force at Cotton Creek.


What do you wonder about now?

I wonder how much further and deeper can school budget cuts go.  Libraries in Adams 12 have been hit hard by budget cuts, and this year (2011-2012) all elementary librarians will be half-time.  This means that Nancy, after spending a year creating an engaging, welcoming library at Cotton Creek, will now be there only 2 ½ days a week, and will be dividing her time and her energies between two schools.  On top of that, the loss of library para hours means that the library might not always be available for students and staff.

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