Columbus, Paper Boats, and Bean Bags

LIBM 6371: Designing Information Programs

Baldwin Elementary School's library provided the perfect facility for my Columbus Day program. Can you believe that this used to be the school's gym? The former library was smaller than a normal classroom; teacher's nicknamed it "The Closet".

Mrs. Melissa Williams, one of my main contacts for this project and the school's librarian, totally redesigned the new space from scratch, including the bookcases (half of which are mobile).

Yes, those are laser disks hanging on the wall. She even has a collection of square cd's!

When you enter the library, the circulation desk is directly before you; to your right, a reading area with bookshelves on casters, a bench, a rug, and special bean bags. To the left, little tables and chairs and the fiction section.

Mrs. Amy (my paper-boat-making assistant) and I arrived at 10:45 to set up the room. With the help of Mrs. Williams, we moved 22 chairs into a semi-circle audience position for kids to watch as their peers acted out parts of the book Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus.

We also moved the tables into a giant "U" shape so that the students could all have space to fold their paper boats after the story.

The two bean bags were make-shift thrones for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

We projected a picture of the book's cover during the reading/performance using Mrs. William's scanner and document camera.

I found an easy to follow paper boat instruction sheet from PBSKids; the night before my program, I made models of each of the steps so that the kids could use them as guides while we made paper boats together. I placed these, along with a few books about Christopher Columbus from the library's nonfiction section, on a bookshelf in the front of the room. When the kids walked in and saw the paper boat models, they were really excited.

The link to the paper boat printable is here:

I asked for volunteers to play roles. Out of twenty two students, I had twenty two eager volunteers, so everyone got to do something, even if they were seated.

The young man in the number 3 shirt played Christopher Columbus; King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella enjoyed their roles as they got to spend the majority of their performances hamming it up from two comfy bean bag "thrones".

Here, "Columbus" is thinking of a way to persuade King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to fund his voyage; the king and queen are pretty tough customers (see below).

After finishing the book and performance, and after the actors (all of them) took a bow, we all picked up our chairs and sat down at the tables for some paper boat making!

Trying to keep 22 excited second graders calm enough to stay on track with a multi-step folding project was a bit like herding cats, but with the help of Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Amy (neither of whom wished to appear on camera), we made it!

The finishing touch on the boat was the sail, made from a folded strip of paper and a coffee stirrer. Don't worry, I pre-made the sails!

While we helped kids attach their sails, we talked more about Christopher Columbus and why we celebrate his discovery. Since we were folding boats, I even got to mention the origami books in the nonfiction section!

The kids had a blast, and so did I! When they walked back to their classes, Mrs. Amy and I could hear them talking about whose boat was better, who had the bigger sail (even though the sails were pretty much the same size), how they hoped their boats would float when they got home, and, most importantly, how it was fun to learn about Christopher Columbus.

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