Little Free Environmental Libraries

School Context

Waterbury Career Academy (WCA) is an application-based public school housing grades 9-12 within the city of Waterbury. Only city residents can attend the school so all of our students reside within the city of Waterbury. The school opened its doors in 2013 with a focus on four career strands: IT, Health, Human Services, and Manufacturing. Our goal is to prepare students for colleges and careers within their strand. The school currently houses 792 students, and we hope to help our students make interdisciplinary connections both in school and within our city community through this project.

Curricular Context (All Grade Levels, All content-areas)

This project is bringing students and the community together through an interdisciplinary lens -- creating and stewarding upcycled Little Free Libraries that share environmental content and reused books, across our Waterbury community. We focus below on Chemistry, Spanish, Biology, and Human Services as a starting point, but we are allowing other teachers, clubs, and athletic teams to “adopt a box.” Over time, we hope to expand this idea into projects school-wide that will connect across multiple subjects while adhering to the curricula that each subject area has to follow. The projects connected to the Little Free Libraries can connect to many different classes over many years.

Environment

Our mission is to be a catalyst for building community, inspiring readers, and expanding book access for all through the strategic placement of 10 Little Free Libraries throughout the city of Watebrury. We believe all people are empowered when the opportunity to discover a personally relevant book to read is not limited by time, space, or privilege.

Our team consists of four teachers from four different disciplines: Biology, Chemistry, Spanish, and Human Services. We wanted to be able to reach our entire community by both exposing them to and providing autonomous opportunities for our members to engage with environmental justice issues in a literacy context. Our passions include sustainability, gardening, and food equity within our city, and we realized the Little Free Libraries initiative would be a great way to tie all of these ideas together. Traditionally, Little Free Libraries focus on book sharing and literacy; in addition to this, we hope to engage the community with seed sharing, student-created brochures, and literature surrounding environmental issues.

We have been lucky to connect with amazing community partners: The local newspaper (The Republican American) donated some old newspaper stands that we are able to convert into Little Free Libraries. The Little Free Library organization also donated some old real estate boxes. On field day last year, we worked together with the senior class to prepare one of these boxes as a prototype to place in front of our
own school building. We met with the Waterbury Parks and Recreation Department to see where we can place the remaining boxes, and at this time we have a plan to place the boxes in various parks throughout the city.

At this time, the Human Services students are collaborating with LFL. They are creating lesson plans aligned with the Educator Rising curriculum to deliver to the community through LFL boxes. This learning lab will have several components leading up to the delivery of lessons at the LFL boxes once they are in place in the parks. Students will also be required to reflect on the project at the end of this year-long project. Our prototype has been very popular with local families. Many teachers have seen groups of families taking books on environmental justice and environmental issues. We are placing books for readers of all ages.

This experience will deepen students’ connections to their community through the upkeep, management and supplementation of resources in their neighborhoods.

Expectations

What critical grade level NGSS and other content standards, as well as with other key learning outcomes that matter for your students, do students learn through this project? These can be framed as standards, essential questions/key understandings, learning objectives.

  • HS-LS2-7 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics: Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.*
    • Example: Chemistry Unit 4- ocean acidification, air pollution/gasses, carbon cycle, energy eiciency- have students research a problem/identify solutions- collect synopsis of student work on google website
  • HS-ESS3-6 Earth and Human Activity: Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.
    • Example: Have students collect data on what books/information are taken out- students can graph a variety of trends (topics of interest, number of books/pamphlets taken/ language of books) to determine what books are most appropriate for the boxes
  • HS-ETS1-3 Engineering Design: Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
    • Example: Chemistry “tiny homes” project at the end of the year- students have to design their own tiny home with considerations to energy eiciency.  Use as a model to apply to LFLs.
  • Educator Rising National Standards:  Learning Objectives: Describe the school and community resources available to support student growth in the classroom and beyond. Describe how accomplished teachers leverage school and community resources to support individual students and extend learning beyond the classroom. Students will compile a resource sheet of individuals and organizations available to support students.  Educators Rising Cross-cutting Theme(s) Alignment, Reflective Practice, Collaboration, Self-eicacy, Educators Rising Standard(s) Alignment, II: Learning About Students., V: Engaging in Responsive Planning, VII: Engaging in Reflective Practice

How is this project intentional about connections between the disciplines, to support deep and connected student learning?

  • Adopt a Box idea will help promote literacy in community- we are going to collect books that will target people of all ages and abilities
  • Adopt a Box can support NGSS objective “analyzing & interpreting data” by including student-created visuals/data/figures that illustrate the goals of the team & project
  • Student-centered learning models for each themed box will promote interdisciplinary approaches to learning
  • Students following up and maintaining the boxes will allow students to gain important skills regarding analysis and critique of methods in order to make improvements and/or adjustments

Exhibition

Culminating Product/Task:

  1. To use Adopt-A-Box Matrix for staff/student groups on how to participate in LFL creation/grant project
  2. To use Prioritized Task Matrix as guide for completion of project & satisfaction of grant requirements

Audience:

WCA staff/students

Real impact/contribution of students’ work on the urban environment:

Little Free LibraryValues align with our vision. Our grant team is dedicated to the Little Free Library’s goals and strategies:  By providing greater, more equitable book access in neighborhoods worldwide, we work to strengthen communities and influence literacy outcomes. We embrace working with Little Free Library volunteer stewards, as well as local and national partners, to build community and improve book access. We are dedicated to furthering diversity, equity, and inclusion through the programs we run, the books we share, and the community we serve, as well as in the internal operations of our nonprofit.  We value all people and communities, and we respect their wisdom in using Little Free Libraries in a meaningful, individualistic way suited to their culture and locality. We are committed to integrity and accountability in how we manage our assets, and we are proud to have earned Platinum GuideStar status.

How does the exhibition show evidence of academic rigor, adult connections, authenticity, applied learning, active exploration and strong assessment practices?

  • Our goal is to create an interdisciplinary project menu that will allow our staff and students to engage with our Little Free Library Initiative. We want to provide our staff with the opportunity to “explore the possibilities” of content-area projects that can promote environmental awareness, literacy skills and community improvement. Our project will initiate with the placement of our 10 upcycled newspaper box stands at our local parks. Following their placement, our school groups and clubs will claim “ownership” over a registered Free Little Library box that is filled with donated multilingual literature. Each student group will be led by a teacher, club supervisor or coach that will guide and facilitate interdisciplinary learning opportunities/projects through their “adopted” Free Little Library.
  • Applied Learning Across Various subjects:
    • Spanish: Juniors will create a children’s story that tells/describes a nature scavenger hunt using their Spanish environmental vocab. The students will investigate one of the local Waterbury parks where the LFL has been placed. They will create/design a directory map of their chosen park [which can later be added to their digital stories] in Spanish. Students will also investigate environmental factors within that park that may impact the community. Students will interview/survey people from that neighborhood/park in Spanish on environmental awareness issues. Students might also create a social media page for their “themed” Spanish Class LFL that could include: environmental awareness posts, book box updates, monthly treat drop-off notices, QR codes date, etc.
    • Biology: This project can reflect NGSS standard HS-LS2-7 (HS-LS2-7 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics: Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity) because we will be reusing old newspaper and real estate stands.  Repurposing or “upcycling” products such as these helps promote sustainable practices and offers one solution of reducing the negative impact that human waste has on the ecosystem and biodiversity.  In urban environments, showcasing the process of upcycling materials like this can have a dramatic effect on the community as a demonstration of how individuals can have a positive impact on their ecosystem.  Furthermore, students can observe and collect data about how the placement of the LFL within an ecosystem impacts the flora and fauna in the area, and use that data to make adjustments or modifications that aims to improve the ecosystem.  For example, students can document the wildlife they observe in the area around the LFL over time and discuss how the LFL may be impacting changes, if there are any. They can then brainstorm ways of fixing any issues that may come up, thus reinforcing skills like observation, data collection and analysis as well as communication.
    • Chemistry: This project can reflect NGSS standard HS-ETS1-3 (Engineering Design: Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.)   In unit 4, students have a culminating task of designing a tiny home.  In addition to the tasks they need to complete to satisfy the needs of the curriculum project, I can make each group design a website page attached to the QR code with information about low cost energy solutions, environmentally friendly designs/appliances, upcycling of furniture, composting, garden designs/tips, and more. If each group focuses on a specific topic, the pages could be diverse and informative.
    • Human Service: Students in the Human Service Strand will use the LFL as a learning lab. First students will conduct a literature review to identify books that meet the Common Ground requirements.  Students will research appropriate literature and create rubrics to assess the worthiness of book selection.  Students will regularly visit LFL to make sure they are stocked, and in line with oher role outs ( seed distribution, student created themed pamphlets).  Students will be required to create lesson plans aligned with the national Educator Rising curriculum and the specifics of the Common Ground grant.  Finally, students will create, market, and deliver the lesson plans at the LFL to create community, literacy and awareness of environmental concerns.

Experience

●               What is the sequence of learning experiences -- building background knowledge, case studies, field experiences/stewardship opportunities, workshops, and other components -- that build to your exhibition?

○      Educator Rising is a national curriculum addressing the teacher shortage.  It provides students an opportunity to explore teaching careers. LFL will provide a community classroom for our students to excel, creating planning and implementing lesson plans at the LFL about environmental issues.

Internships through the human resource strand will host “Laundromat Literacy'' which will focus on student-led reading workshops

○      Students in the Human Service Strand will use the LFL as a learning lab.

■      First students will conduct a literature review to identify books that meet the Common Ground requirements.  Students will research appropriate literature and create rubrics to assess the worthiness of book selection.

■      Students will regularly visit LFL to make sure they are stocked, and in line with oher role outs ( seed distribution, student created themed pamphlets).  Students will be required to create lesson plans aligned with the national Educator Rising curriculum and the specifics of the Common Ground grant.

■      Finally, students will create, market, and deliver the lesson plans at the LFL to create community, literacy and awareness of environmental concerns.

○      The culmination of implementing our 10 LFL throughout the city of Waterbury will be a celebration to coincide with Earth Day 2022. Creating community through a city wide celebration of our LFL will help promote multilingual literacy around the environment, as well as exposure to our project and allow students' work to be showcased.

●      Anchor Partners & Tasks:

Reflections

Project is still in progress. The 2020-2021 pandemic disallowed implementation of the project fully so it is ongoing. Once the LFLs are completed and distributed within the community, we can reflect upon what worked, did not work, and what changes would improve the project for the future.

Practice