Thursday, January 16, 2020


A class research project on the history of our school has utzed me (at last!) to unframe some of our archive photos for some decent scans.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Video version of my lesson for 4th graders

First-time video

A student introduction to creating a video began with staging a variety of about 20 assorted shots without a story line. The student then created a "story" from the pool of available takes. As a final version, he labeled the type of camera shots; establishing his knowledge of these building blocks and their usefulness.

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Subsequently, he has created a voice-over video based on a very structured script about kitchen safety. In this project, the challenge was quality control and attention to detail; not fun, but a useful rehearsal for the expectation of any job.

Featured Readers: Design

Our Elementary Librarian asked if I would work up a design for her "Featured Reader" incentive program. The series of wall posters will have a "book" format. Here's the cover and introduction. The reader pages will feature a student photo on the left and their accomplishment on the right.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Lest we forget

A small plaque commemorating the naming of this library after the bequest for this library's first automation system, Dynix, by Harriet Carr VanValkenburg, Class of 1940.

Friday, December 20, 2019


    I am no expert, but I have been infatuated with the intricate, innocently frank first-stories of Greek myths; reading several versions of the Iliad and Odyssey, Ovid’s Metamorphoses (including Ted Hughes' elegant retellings), and recently, Madeline Miller’s inspired, Circe.

    Nearly every page of Miller’s book reminded me of my first reading of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby or Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek; where each sentence, impossibly, managed to be a work of art as priceless as the story. How could someone frame so many insightful, original, beautiful sentences?

    Which has led me to Miller’s earlier book, The Song of Achilles. It is the love story of Achilles and Patroclus; all the more poignant for knowing the vortex of the story from Edith Hamilton-days in high school. I have picked it up and set it aside several times in my reading because, I think, she has made such a moving human story from such an overshadowing epic; and so I fear for both of them, hope for both of them. There is a fragility to my page-to-page expectation.

    I have not finished it yet, In a way, I don’t have to. I know the outcome. But Madeline Miler has taken me inside the story where all the hurts and foibles of the characters create something new for me to inhabit. It is not an ancient world. It is as expectant and beautiful, and as terrible and temporal as our own. And so it sings.

Best foot forward

Provided the setup/infrastructure for the annual recent-alumni/senior-class convocation. The over-riding message was " you need to be an advocate for yourself." Good tip for everyone.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Planning your next move

Chess is one of the cornerstones of the middle school experience in this library. It seems they all play. I believe it is a constructive use of time; cultivating their faculties of visualization, planning, reflection, resilience.
This recent Vimeo video of elementary students reflecting on the benefits of chess says it all:

The Magic of Chess from Jenny Schweitzer Bell on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Holiday greetings

I am using my own chap-book video to make up a short gift-book of poems for folks who supported our poetry reading in November. Doing the assembly in the library has prompted plenty of questions from students passing by.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019


The architects for our next school building project sent along some fly-thru videos of their proposals. It brought to mind the fly-overs Middle School students created in the library with SketchUp back in 2013 or so. #proud

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Monday, December 9, 2019

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Mapping Crimea

So, I am reading through the print New York Times that arrived at school over the Thanksgiving break. This article about Apple Maps redrawing the border of Crimea so that it is included in Russia rather than the Ukraine, even though the US and the European Union do not recognize the annexation, intrigued me. (I'm often asking whether the world is ruled by states or companies.)

And indeed when I called up Apple and Google maps, there was the border (red in Google maps while all other national border were yellow). I had a problem, however, getting myself oriented between the two maps (in truth I haven't ever used Apple maps in the 6 years I have had the machine) because of the amazing difference in the contour of the area due to the drop in the level of the Black Sea!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Pages to PDF

Commenced scanning the 1993-1997 yearbooks to make digital versions. These are the ones for which I was the advisor. Fond memories.


The day before Thanksgiving break is traditionally an "open" day in this library: chess, legos, puzzles, drawing, etc.  I added a few more chess/checker  boards this morning:

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Allowing each other to contribute

Doing some project-brainstorming with my Period E class; can we build on a suggestion? can we visualize tasks, possibilities, outcomes? who might be a resource, stakeholder? who are we teaching with our research? what will me make to demonstrate what we are learning: videos, flash cards, exhibits, games, mock-ups, events?

And, importantly, do I sense a willingness and enthusiasm to embrace this opportunity as their own?

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Post-poetry glow

Many thanks to the friends, colleagues, and students who came to our library Coffee House last night and were such comforting listeners as I read a selection of my poetry. It was good to be among their warm company and to share so many diverse conversations about the community, books, and history.Looking forward to the next Coffee House in february.

Rockin' the Library

Some good community friends of ACSLIB brought in their rocks & minerals for a display in support of our Coffee House night. There are some awesome samples here! (Importantly, this very morning the display unlocked an opportunity for me to connect with two students; a fellow rock-hounds!)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

NYPL Map Warper

I followed up on a NYPL tweet about their Map Warper service. It's very cool!

Using their huge collection of digitized maps and atlases, you can "rectify" historic maps so they align with current ones. This is done in side-by-side windows by indicating a number of mutual "control points".

The results can be output in several formats, including as a .kml file which popped open my Google Earth program and nested itself over the aligned landscape. Cool!

Ode to Childrens Books

Because this blog is (among many things) a place a put things I don't want to lose, I am posting this post that my daughter made yesterday. I don't think I need to say anymore, in fact, words fail me.

A long post with a purpose! And a bit of self promotion! And lots of advocacy for literacy and making books a part of your life. And also lots of appreciation and love for my family, I can't help it. They're a good bunch.

Children's books are so important to me. Personally, they hold some of my favorite memories. From before we could walk and talk, our parents had been reading to us, my brothers and I. Family favorites like Burton and Dudley, Two Bad Ants, White Dynamite and Curly Kidd, My Rotten Red Headed Older Brother, Firemouse, Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear, Wild Wild Sunflower Child Anna, or any Bill Peet book, to this day fill me with wonderment and entertainment while giving me a sensation of home, comfort, and love. 

When we reached elementary school, part of our morning routine, along with breakfast, chores, packing our lunch bags, and in my case, brushing and braiding my 2.5 foot long hair, was sitting in Mom's lap as she read to us from chapter books. Over the years as we waited for the bus we heard all about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family as they moved west through America, from their little house in the big woods, to the dugout house in the plains. Then we heard stories from the other side of the wardrobe as we traveled to Narnia and back, then all the way to The Last Battle. From Beverly Clearly classics, the escapades of Ramona Quimby, Ralph S. Mouse, Henry Huggins and Ribsy to loooots of horse stories. You know, Black Beauty, My Friend Flicka, Misty of Chincoteague, etc. 

When my older brother was six, soon to turn seven, I was born, so I had the benefit of hearing stories read from him as I grew up! And then I was eight when our youngest brother was born, so he enjoyed a houseful of accumulated stories and books! There are cassettes of us reading our favorite books we taped, as we anxiously anticipated a new sibling, bursting with excitement to share with them our favorite books! The idea being that the baby would want to hear our voices at all hours of the day, maybe when we're gone at school and couldn't actually hear us, that this tape and these stories would bring comfort. 

Go through our family library of children's books, you'll see inscriptions inside the cover, books from my Dad to my Mom, before they ever even had kids! Books wishing us happy birthday or a merry Christmas from grandparents, aunts and uncles. Books with our handprints drawn inside, nesting in each other. Books with our names scrawled in them as we learned to write. Now looking back, stamping the books with another layer of story to tell.

I remember the first ever real chapter book I bought myself from a Barnes in Noble in second grade (Chasing Redbird). I remember as I advanced as a reader, still wanting to go to the children's section in our elementary school and local library, because, well, I like the illustrations and I wanted to revisit some old favorites! I remember listening to Harry Nilsson's The Point and illustrating it as the story was told and sung on giant rolls of kraft paper with my dad. I remember listening to my little brother retell stories he had been read, cute, backwards, and sleepy. I remember my dad home from the hospital and being worried at six years old, but we snuggled right in and he read me a story to calm me down and return us to normalcy. I remember Jim doing the voices spot on as he re-read aloud his favorite childhood series to Joe. I remember everyone taking their turn at making up bedtime stories for Joe. I remember my grandparents reading me a story they read to mom as a girl. I remember flipping through an animal encyclopedia and each choosing a side to draw in our own sketchbooks with Jim. I remember being in middle school and going downstairs with some other classmates to read to the kindergarteners, where Joe was a student. I remember dad coming home from a meeting at Barnes and Noble and when he came in to say good night he gave me my first Harry Potter book (which was the third one, Prisoner of Azkaban!) just as JK Rowling was taking off when I was in third grade. I remember other kids saying, "Well of course you like reading, your dad is the librarian, you have to read!" Sigh, no kids, I like to read because it's awesome and there are so many stories out there. I like reading because I am so lucky to be a part of this family. Where reading, storytelling, imagination, creation, drawing, thinking, playing and making are all connected and a part of life! Dad being a librarian is just a perk of this life!

Where I'm going with this is reading is awesome. Children's books are wonderful windows, influential and memorable. I have been lucky enough to meet an author who wanted me to illustrate her story, and now that book is done and ready and it's very exciting! I think you should read the story, and look at the illustrations. Support an artist and an author and buy our book:

Read aloud, read quietly, be read to, create a story, draw that story, retell that story. You can take reading with you YOUR ENTIRE LIFE!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Extending the message

We have so many good ideas and lessons on character education and such, but always the challenge of keeping them before the awareness of our students. So I usually try to extend the message, at least a day or two.

Yesterday our PBIS group did an exercise where we matched up word-cards (honesty, loyalty, compassion, ...) with people that we knew, and then talked about how they exemplified those attributes, and whether we had ever told them how much that meant to us.

So this morning I taped those same cards along with that question on my library/lobby door, as well as taping a word to each of the gym overlook-windows; just a little visual-jog to connect yesterday to today ... and maybe to tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Alumni Art

I won this beautiful ink drawing by Cully Van Buren (Afton Class of 1987) at his daughter's coffee shop in town! (BTW I see by the yearbook that Cully was Most Artistic in his senior class.) It looks great on our library end-cap and it makes a great introduction to our fiction and nonfiction "wolf" books. Thanks Alexis!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Autumn Reading

Started sharing, mailing, and posting my reading handbills.

Monday morning coffee klatch

Made a "neon" sign for the Monday morning coffee klatch we'll be hosting in the library!
Made some table runners from my old American heritage covers, too.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Geo-based bulleting board

A Bierstadt and Cole landscape (each garnished with a Google Earth image)  headline our conversation about U.S. geography.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Book talk about a book talk

I was reading this recent book review in the New York Times; Lakota America by Pekka Hamalainen. The reviewer, Parul Sehgal, pointed out two characteristics of the book which intrigue me and draw me in as a reader of histories:
The challenge of writing this history, Hamalainen notes, was making iconic events and figures unfamiliar again, which is never more necessary than at the twilight of the Lakota empire.
I like that idea; making the iconic events unfamiliar so that we have the chance to reorient our perspective; becoming more open, hopefully to new ideas.  And then this other:

In retrospect, history often seems preordained; vulnerabilities seem garishly announced, outcomes a matter of course. Hamalainen seeks…to infuse a sense of chance and contingency in the narrative, to remain “alive to the ever-present possibility that events could have turned out differently.” He sows this feeling of uncertainty into the composition of the book, replacing a traditional arc with “a more unpredictable narrative structure that is full of triumphs, twists, reversals, victories, lulls and low points, big and small. If the book’s Lakotas — haughty and imperial at one moment, fearful and vulnerable the next, prudent and accommodating the third — seem strange and unfamiliar, this portrayal has succeeded.
Chance and contingency frame so much of our lives, it seems entirely appropriate and strategic to frame a history the same way.

Gotta get me this book.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Book talk

    I don’t know how Svetlana Alexievich gets people to relive memories like these. Perhaps it has less to do with trusting her, than with the mourning process. In Last Witnesses, she has strung the anguished WWII recollections of now-grown Russian children into a work that transcends page-after-page of horror and misery into unspoken testament to the persistent miracle of their life-force; even as it has left them in its wreckage.

    The memories of these children, ages 2 -15 at the time the war ended their childhoods, recount the specific personal experiences that destroyed their dear families and home-life as the ravages of Nazi occupation marched through their lives.

    It is humbling to read and yet cathartic to acknowledge such crushing despair, yet desire to live.

    Again and again, children witness the death of their mothers, the destruction of their villages. Children of six become caretakers for siblings of  two. Hunger, homelessness, constant running and fear are their very real lives for years. But again and again, distant aunts, fearless neighbors, and the “community” of war offer food, provide shelter, become “mama.”

    The crimes of armies become imaginable for me in these wrenching memories.  The losses are children’s losses; dolls and sweets, then the reality of security and mama; always mama. The tragedy, dislocation, and cruelty they survived are never really balanced in later years by reunion, rebuilding, or time - their words.

    If the testament of their retellings can never serve them, then let it serve us. These human beings had so much taken from them, that when they decide to give, so painfully, the memories they have left, I must read them; their “last full measure of devotion.”

Friday, October 25, 2019

How our perspective influences what we might see

Made this little video montage to illustrate these wonderful Agamographs (Yaacov Agam) that 6th grade art student created; currently exhibited on one our library's tri-fold displayers in the lobby.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Just like that

Our OverDrive ebook site made it very easy to accommodate a student request for an audio version of Around the World in 80 Days, his current classroom reading assignment. I was able to locate an inexpensive 48-month "lease" version which was available for download within the hour. Cool beans.