By Susan Palmer, Head of Middle School
It’s easy to look around the Middle School and identify all of the ways in which we partner with our colleagues in the Library, and it’s easy to convey how rich our partnership makes the learning process. Head Librarian Donna Woody and Librarian Katie Beth Miller have developed critical elements of the Middle School curriculum: media literacy, research skills and strategies, and thorough knowledge of Young Adult fiction in order to foster a love of reading in all Middle School students.
The path between the Middle School and the Montgomery Library is worn thin by students checking books in and out. They naturally and effortlessly confer with librarians on the latest releases, the impatient wait for a sequel, and the enthusiasm generated by just the right book. Eavesdroppers are astounded by how well the librarians keep up with the newest books on the market and how they easily match the book to the reader. Fantasy, contemporary, historical fiction … it’s all there for the taking. Aligned with English Department goals of a lively free choice reading program in the Middle School years, the librarians are critical to the success of that program.
Our librarians also collaborate closely with Middle School teachers in all subject areas to develop and teach age-appropriate research skills. Identification of effective resources, critical assessment of those sources, note-taking, and summary skills are all elements of good research. Our librarians work with the teachers to craft projects that align with both content and skills expectations. The seventh graders are deep into a research project on the Holocaust following their reading of MAUS II. In order to guide students away from simply assembling facts, the librarians teach them to ask critical questions and to create a thesis which must then be proved using their research. It’s a lengthy process with an impressive final product, all because the librarians teach and coach the students through every step.
Critical evaluation of the vast amount of information available today is a life-long skill that must be tried out and practiced in Middle School. At Greenhill, we want our students to weigh all arguments, evaluate them for accuracy, and determine their effectiveness in conveying information or opinions. Critical thinking has to be practiced, and collaborations with the library staff allow this practice towards mastery to take place.
From “just browsing,” to ebooks to intense research projects and papers, the Montgomery Library is central to our development as learners and teachers. It’s true that the architecture is gorgeous and every Middle School student likes reading around the fire on a cold day, but the real work of the library and of the librarians is of the mind. And this work can lead to a lifetime of thoughtful understanding.