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School libraries evolve to meet students’ changing needs

Two Students working in the libraryLibraries can be playgrounds for learning. That’s the goal for Jeffrey Riemann, library media specialist at Ralph H. Metcalfe School.

Metcalfe is the first school in Milwaukee Public Schools to create a makerspace in their school library. A makerspace is an area where students can use hands-on educational experiences to inquire, analyze and solve problems in ways that suit  their individual needs and learning styles.

“Inside of a makerspace, students could be building a do-it-yourself project using a computer to create an app, engage in creative writing, research or poetry, or working with a small group with the space and tools necessary to complete a project,” Riemann said. If a student needs help, a library media specialist is there to assist.

Libraries today are more than just a collection of books. They provide people access to computers and the Internet, and have become hubs for project collaboration. Their evolution to places for creative research fits with the 2016 theme of National Library Week, “Libraries Transform,” April 10-16. April also is School Library Month.

MPS is celebrating National Library Week with a special event on Friday, April 15, at MPS’ Central Services, 5225 W. Vliet St., Milwaukee. An open house from noon to 2 p.m. in Room 272 will be followed by a special hands-on learning experience in Room 103 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Lisa Chatman, MPS library media specialist, said makerspaces should be viewed as a student’s interactive learning and exploration resource.

“We’re trying to spark our students’ interest in research and give them an experience that brings it to life,” Chatman said.

Chatman said Metcalfe is the pilot site for the library makerspace. She hopes it will inspire other schools around the district to open their own makerspaces.

Riemann said makerspaces will enhance the library experience for students. Metcalfe will fully roll out its makerspaces during the 2016-17 school year.

“A makerspace adds another way for students to be engaged, along with taking ownership, while showcasing their learning and talents,” he said.   

Photo: Students at Ralph H. Metcalfe School work on a project together in their school library's makerspace.

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Milwaukee Public Schools is committed to accelerating student achievement, building positive relationships between youth and adults and cultivating leadership at all levels. The district’s commitment to improvement continues to show results:

  • More MPS students are taking college-level Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses;
  • The MPS Class of 2016 earned $51+ million in scholarships; and
  • MPS is home to seven of the state and nation’s top high schools according to U.S. News and World Report and the Washington Post.

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