This Month in Photos: January 2016

January has been one wild month. Robots, dogs, mustaches… we’ve seen it all. I don’t think I can even begin to describe this one well enough… so I’ll let the pictures do all the talking! Hold on tight…

It was a warm Fitz-welcome back from winter break with my new name all over the library to help remind students of the change. I got married in November and Miss Messham is so 2015. My new name is Sarah FitzHenry, but I’m inviting my Johnson family to call me Ms. Fitz. I have a new email address to match the new moniker – you can now reach me at

When we last left our third and fourth graders, they were working on our 2015 Hack-a-Thon and honing their computer programming skills. I was thrilled when many students rushed into the library the first day back from break to tell me how much they had coded over their vacation. Some even completed the courses at! Did your student use any of the digital resources mentioned in this post over the break? If so, brag about them in the comments!

No warm-ups or slow starts here – we didn’t waste a minute getting back into reading. From pre-k to fourth grade and everyone in between, we were all happy to be reading, learning, and sharing our love for literacy in the Learning Leopard Library. As you can see, Johnson students aren’t exactly shy about using their library resources and sharing their favorite books. On the right, a third grade student shares her most recent checkout with a very lucky Lego man.


Students aren’t the only readers at Johnson. In our new I Mustache You… display, teachers get the chance to share their most recent read with the school. This week Mrs. Kamide rocks the ‘stache and tells us about the title she’s into right now.


In Learning Leopard Library tradition, Johnson third graders are starting off the new year with the reference tool tango. To help them tackle this tricky SOL, we go over each reference tool in detail and get to know it in a unique and engaging way, like dictionary races and almanac scavenger hunts. These fun, low-pressure activities allow students to learn the tools inside and out in a way that is both fun and memorable. Above, third graders use thesauruses to re-write a silly short story – think Mad Libs crossed with English class. But funnier!

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Did you hear the one about the dog in the library??? Earlier this month, Luna the Therapy Dog came to visit Johnson’s kindergarten and first graders, and we had a barking good time. Read all about Luna’s visit – and see a short video of her presentation with her owner and handler, Stacy Diaz – here.

Have you heard? The library is hiring! Earlier this year, I quietly placed Help Wanted posters in the fourth grade classrooms. Students who took the initiative to ask were given a job application, complete with essays, scheduling requests, and character references. From there, applicants underwent a rigorous interview process (in the middle, you can see that this particular interview happened to fall on pajama day – I don’t normally interview in a tiger-striped onesie…) and only the most prepared, determined, and hard-working students were chosen. On the right, you can see fourth grade applicants checking the posted Hired list to find their names. Spoiler alert – every student that interviewed was hired – but it was only because they all did such an excellent job! I was blown away by how prepared, polished, and professional my applicants were. Special thank you to Chase and Sahana, my awesome Safety Patrol workers, who helped me to carry out the interviews (when you want the best results, you break out the big guns)!

Their start dates have been pushed back due to snow, but our new twelve-member team should begin their training next week. They’ll begin with shelving graphic novels and fiction chapter books, as well as helping younger students to find books that are a good fit and check them out independently. I love sharing the library with students, and giving them ownership in the space. I can’t wait to see what they can do – expect updates on this awesome team in the future!

Speaking of Chase and Sahana, these two have really stepped up their library game. This team is such an excellent help in the morning that they are now beginning to take on more challenging jobs, like cataloging, labeling, and processing new materials.

If you follow our library on Facebook, you know that we have recently launched a brand new program in the Learning Leopard Library – a MakerSpace! MakerSpaces are designed to get students dreaming, designing, and out of their comfort zone making anything and everything. Cardboard and duct tape race car course? Awesome. Magnatile neighborhood? Sounds great. 3-D printed jewelry? Bring it on! Johnson’s resident STEAM expert (and past HackMaster) Andy Jones helped me to transform a quiet corner of the library into a state-of-the-art MakerSpace and engineering corner thanks to the tools from our recent DonorsChoose fundraiser, the results from our Alcoa Grant, and a few generous gifts from Charlottesville City Schools. Along with a huge selection of beautiful, educational, and oh-so-enticing engineering toys, Johnson is now the home to a brand new Silhouette Die-Cut machine and a 3-D printer. I’ll be working with teachers soon to introduce them to these materials and showcase how they can integrate them into their curriculum. I can’t wait to show you all of the amazing things our students can do with these new materials!

Speaking of engineering and STEAM, I’ve been testing out our engineering toy selection on some very happy fourth grade guinea pigs. From Cool Circuits to K’nex, it’s been so much fun watching fourth graders use their imaginations and learn through play in the library. This is just a small taste of what the Johnson STEAM Team will be working on during our Friday after school meetings. Learn more about the STEAM Team here. If you’re interested in registering your child, let me know ASAP – we have four more spots remaining for this session.

Even with the snow days, it has been a busy and exciting month in the Learning Leopard Library. And with STEAM Team starting up, the Festival of the Book on the horizon, and our new MakerSpace ready to go.. something tells the that February is going to be just as good!

Stay warm and dry out there! See you soon!

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