Keeping students engaged with the library during the pandemic has been challenging. Over the past year as the building was closed or offered reduced hours, we haven’t been able to serve as the traditional third place where students can visit after school, gather to study, or meet for programs. However, our digital presence has remained constant and we have been able to meet many students where they are – at home.
Throughout this academic year, our library has continued having a dedicated core group of students who have participated in Teen Advisory Board meetings via Zoom. In many ways, meeting virtually has proved to be easier and more comfortable for teens. The students have offered ideas for our weekly Take Home Crafts and Teen Game Nights, and have participated in service projects such as a canned food drive, creating cards for seniors in assisted living and Valentines for local veterans, and a pet food drive for the Peoria Humane Society. I also have stressed to my members that if they have program ideas, I can work with them to make it happen.
One student took me up on that offer this spring. A Dunlap High School senior, Hetakshi Joshi, asked if she could partner with the library on a community advocacy project as one of her requirements for the Illinois Global Scholar Certificate.
The Illinois Global Scholar Certificate awards merit, on the state transcript, to students who have attained global skills and knowledge through specific academic coursework, globally-focused service learning, global collaboration, and the successful completion of a capstone project. Joshi decided to focus on the problem of plastic pollution and its impact around the world. The capstone project, which Joshi did for the library and for her Humanities course, is the performance-based assessment task part of this certificate.
Joshi planned a story time to target younger children and a Zoom webinar program geared toward teens and adults. For the story time, I worked with her to find picture books that would introduce the concept of plastic pollution to children. She recorded a storytime featuring the book, One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul and Elizabeth Zunon. I had been planning a Take Home activity for children that involved reusing plastic coffee pods as seed starters, and it was a perfect fit to market this activity with Joshi’s story time.
Joshi conducted extensive research for her webinar program, which we hosted on the library’s Zoom account. I promoted her program on the library’s website, in our newsletter, on flyers at the library, and through the Virtual Backpack on the Dunlap School District website.
Overall, the capstone project is a seven-step process through which students aim to solve a global problem or concern by developing a project that acts as a change agent.
"I want to start making the change from within my own community,” Joshi said.
And for this student, that first step toward change was with her local library.
Our guest blogger today is Amy Edgar. She is the Youth Services Librarian at Dunlap Public Library in Dunlap, IL.