Out & About: Hartland students design Little Free Libraries

  • Olivia Roberts and Cassie Merwin designed a Little Free Library with signs to magical places and Maddie Waller and Aurora Walker designed one resembling a monster from Monsters Inc. as part of a project in a seventh-grade class at Hartland Elementary School. Courtesy photograph

  • Olivia Roberts and Cassie Merwin designed a Little Free Library with signs to magical  places and Maddie Waller and Aurora Walker designed one resembling a monster from Monsters Inc. as part of a project in a seventh-grade class at Hartland Elementary School. Courtesy photograph

  • Olivia Roberts and Cassie Merwin designed a Little Free Library with signs to magical  places and Maddie Waller and Aurora Walker designed one resembling a monster from Monsters Inc. as part of a project in a seventh-grade class at Hartland Elementary School. Courtesy photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/5/2022 9:21:41 PM
Modified: 1/6/2022 8:42:07 AM

HARTLAND — This spring, Hartland Elementary School is planning to add two Little Free Libraries to its grounds.

And it will all be due to a group of determined seventh-graders and an educator who encouraged them to apply the skills they’ve learned in school to community projects. Over the course of about five weeks, students in Tina Skehan’s interdisciplinary learning class designed and made cardboard models of Little Free Libraries. The tiny book repositories are part of an international movement that lodges books in public places to encourage people to take and leave reading materials. After building the models, the 30 Hartland seventh-graders voted on their favorites and those teams presented their ideas to the School Board, which approved both.

“It was a little bit difficult in some ways because we didn’t just have to design it we had to (figure) out the measurements and the cost and then design it in a way that would appeal and work for younger kids and older kids along with appealing to different people,” said Maddie Waller, who along with Aurora Walker designed a Little Free Library resembling a monster like those seen in the Monsters Inc. films to appeal to younger children. “My favorite part was probably getting to make the cardboard model because I like doing more hands-on things and building stuff whereas I think (my partner) enjoyed doing the presentation more.”

Skehan is the STEAM coordinator at Hartland Elementary School, where she is also the school’s librarian. Her eighth-grade class put together a StoryWalk — pages of a picture book that are spread along a walking trail — for the community this fall and she was considering a project for the seventh-graders when she decided on the Little Free Library project.

“I tend to like getting kids doing hands-on activities,” Skehan said. “It’s much more engaging than sitting with a textbook.”

Skehan’s classes are 90 minutes long and that allowed the students to really get deep into the projects. Most of the students worked in pairs.

“You have time to get the glue guns out and think and really heavy problem-solve through things,” Skehan said.

Olivia Roberts and Cassie Merwin worked together to create a Little Free Library that has an open book for a roof and signs to magical places like Hogwarts, Neverland and Narnia.

“It was a lot of fun, but it was also challenging,” Cassie said. “Measurements were really challenging because you’ve got a range of kids from itty bitty kindergarten to eighth graders who are almost 6 foot. Being able to make a size that fits and encompasses all those different heights is quite challenging.”

The project was a good practice in teamwork and learning how to work with each other’s strengths.

“I liked all of it, but I liked designing it the most,” Olivia said, adding that her partner Cassie excelled at the math part of the project.

They were all nervous about presenting in front of the School Board, but it turned out well and they were pleased to get the OK to go ahead with both designs. Being comfortable speaking to the public can also serve the students well in the future and it is just one more skill this project taught them.

“The school is really supporting this new way of getting kids to apply their skills,” Skehan said. “I think it’s very engaging. They seem very engaged in these challenges.”

In the spring, the class will start asking the community for the supplies they need to build the Little Free Libraries. They will use listservs and ask area businesses. What they can’t find, Skehan will pay for using the class’s budget. Then, the students will use the shop at Windsor High School to build them. It’s something they’re all looking forward to.

“We designed something and now we get to actually put it to life and make it so that other people can enjoy it,” Maddie said.

Cassie acknowledged that finding the materials and building it will be a challenge, but it is one that she welcomes.

“At the same time being able to take a model and turn it into something real is incredible,” she said.

Skehan said the plan is to put one library near an entrance for younger grades and another near an entrance for older students. As a librarian, she has book donations waiting to fill their shelves.

“Not all homes have the financial support to go out and buy books, so I think it’s a good way to offer reading materials,” she said. And it’s another opportunity to show the students the positive impact their actions have on the community.

“It was really fun,” Olivia said. “I really enjoyed doing hands-on stuff like that rather than staring at a computer screen all day.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.




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