2023 Arrowhead Library System Mini Grant Round-Up Part 3

Here’s a round-up of Arrowhead Library System Mini Grants that were completed in 2023 at Falls Elementary School Library, Proctor/Hermantown Nature-Based Learning, Cook Public Library, Lincoln Elementary School, Virginia Public Library, Merritt Elementary School Library, Iron Range Historical Society, Lake of the Woods School Media Center, Duluth Public Library – West Duluth Branch, Greenhaven Elementary School, Hibbing Public Library, Bigfork High School Library, and Hermantown Early Learning Center:

Project: STEAM Lego Wall
Feedback from Ariana Zahradka, Falls Elementary School Library
The ALS mini-grant program allowed us to purchase and build a LEGO wall for our library.  The Lego wall was created to be an alternate creative activity for students in the library. The Grant program benefited our library by providing an exciting space for our students to use their creativity during their library time. It has also helped to reinforce classroom management procedures as it is often used an incentive/reward for student who are following directions and library rules.  Their excitement about using it is contagious. The opportunity to use the Lego wall has helped improve behaviors in the library for the overall student population, and has also given us an alternate activity to keep students occupied that might otherwise find it difficult to sit still and listen to a story for an extended period of time.

Project: Life Cycle Learning
Feedback from Michaela Johnson, Proctor/Hermantown Nature-Based Learning
We used this grant to purchase materials for life cycle learning for preschool students. With these materials, we were able to create five resource kits with the $250 grant (frogs, chickens, butterflies, plants, and general) filled with books, figurines, and instructional materials that early childhood teachers can reserve to use in their classrooms.  This grant benefits multiple preschool classrooms and teachers by putting books and materials in the hands of students. Like most teachers and programs, we have a tight budget and are not always able to purchase all of the materials we would like to. With these resource kits, teachers can check them out ahead of time to supplement their life cycle teaching and students benefit from life science learning.  Four teachers (with up to 20 students each) have already signed up to check out these life cycle resource kits, and they will continue to be used throughout the years, especially in the spring season! The teachers are also excited about the figurines, which can help to make the life cycle concepts more concrete to students.

Project: Fiber Arts Month Weaving Take & Make Kits
Feedback from Crystal Whitney, Cook Public Library
The Weaving Take & Make Kits were distributed during our annual Fiber Arts Month in October. The kits were designed for beginners and included two sizes of looms, yarn, needles and thread. This was a unique project that attracted those who wanted to start weaving. We had several adults take kits for children and grandchildren to try at home. Take & Make kits have been extremely popular and we see patrons come into the library just to see what the kit on the month is. We created 31 kits and all were distributed within three weeks in October. We had examples out for people to see along with books to checkout with more weaving ideas. 

Project: 2023 Minnesota Library Association Annual Conference Registration
Feedback from Tina Trullinger, Lincoln Elementary School
The grant was used to pay the registration fee for me to attend the MLA annual conference in St. Paul.  At the conference, I attended sessions and gained valuable information on a variety of topics. Some of these topics included how to deal with book challenges, differentiation for student projects, reading promotion, school wide library programs, curating digital content in MackinVia, graphic novels and research skills in the 2020 English Language Arts Standards. I was also able to attend the ITEM membership meeting in person. This allowed me to connect with other library media specialists from around the state. I learned about efforts to educate others about the role and importance of school library media specialists. The sessions provided me with a lot of valuable and relevant information. I was able to take something out of each session that I attended that I will be able to use in my position to help my students and teachers.

Project: Button Maker for Library Events and Programs
Feedback from Stephanie Wichlacz, Virginia Public Library
After many years of use, the library’s well-loved button makers had broken. We were in luck, however, as this Mini Grant opportunity came to the rescue! Using a combination of the Mini Grant funds and library funds we were able to not only replace one, but two button makers!  We replaced the makers in the same size and dimensions to be able to use our already owned button supplies. After receiving both button makers we immediately put them to use at our December 6th Make and Wrap Presents event where children, teens, and adults turned their artwork into waterproof, durable buttons to share with friends and family.  Many used phrases like “We love you Grandma!”, or drew things that had sentimental meaning to them. This grant helped the library continue to provide artistic opportunity and no interruption in our usual popular and well attended events where button making is key.  We have found that children and teens in particular enjoy the opportunity to make art that is then able to be displayed proudly, and in a durable fashion. When teens attend these events they often create art of their favorite shows, media, or memes. We’ve also seen lots of teens express their pride in making art with pride flags. This was so popular a theme we decided to bring our button makers to the local Pride event held in Virginia last summer. All in all, button maker events have an inter-generational appeal, allow attendees to express their unique creativity, and build connections between the community and the library.  

Project: Picture Book Reorganization
Feedback from Anna Roen, Merritt Elementary School Library
With the grant money, I was able to purchase 60 book baskets and colored stickers to label books by reading level. I added picture labels to each basket to organize books by interest/subject, and added a variety of reading levels within each.  This has created a more inviting experience for our youngest students. They hurry to the baskets with their favorite characters and subjects. I’ve noticed an increase in circulation with the books in baskets versus those on shelves with the spines showing. Teachers have expressed their excitement over being able to more easily assist students in finding good-fit books. Additionally, this has made maintaining organization simpler for me with my limited time, and building a wish list for new books has been easier to do.  Much of the success has been measured through observation and conversations. Students have been able to make their selections more quickly, and have shown more excitement for the books in the baskets. They know where to look for books that interest them.

Project: Iron Range Historical Society Annual Meeting Speaker
Feedback from Michele Lammi, Iron Range Historical Society
In 2023, the Board of Directors hosted a luncheon to coincide with the meeting as IRHS is celebrating its 50th year. The ALS mini-grant was used towards the guest speaker expense. We believe having a luncheon with the annual meeting and engaging a great speaker will encourage more people to attend to help celebrate our mission of collecting, preserving, and sharing Iron Range history for 50 years. Making more people aware of what IRHS does will benefit our patrons as we continue to be a source for people, organizations, and local units of government for history of the area.  We had just under 50 attendees to the presentation and many had positive comments.

Project: Chill Time
Feedback from Muriel Crandall, Lake of the Woods School Media Center
We were able to purchase a Chill Sack Bean Bag chair and some puzzles for our school library.  The kids love it! They come in the library during study hall hours and are able the sit and relax doing work.  They also have been putting together the puzzles and are able to work together on them.  I have students 6 of the 7 hours. I have 3 to 6 using the chill corner every hour and puzzles at least 3 a day working on them. It is a definite hit for our library!

Project: Updating the Teen Scene
Feedback from Elizabeth Bloch, Duluth Public Library – West Duluth Branch
We asked teens for feedback on how to improve our teen space. There has not been a sense of ownership or belonging with teens when they come to the library, and we wanted them to feel like this space was truly curated just for them. We hosted an event to celebrate the improved teen space. We featured new strands of colored lights, a custom sign labeling it a Teen area, added fluffy pillows, hung a bulletin board with teen news, and more. There are new kits with skills and games, such as a writing/drawing set, magnet play sets, tabletop roleplaying tools, and beginner guides to crocheting/knitting.  This project benefited our teens by improving their space with fun, engaging, and educational aspects. Prior to this project, the teen space consisted of computers, comfy seating, books, and coloring supplies. Now, there is a big sign clearly showing it as the teen space. We have added fluffy pillows to the seating area.  Teens also asked specifically for LGBTQ2IA+ representation, so we offer stickers for a wide variety of identities. As a result, teens feel more at home and have more things attracting them to spend time in their own special zone. Some area teens often don’t have afterschool places to hang out that are safe and free. By making the library more appealing to their teen patrons, they know they can come to our building and find a safe, warm, and fun place to meet friends, learn new skills, and practice their hobbies.

Project: Grades K-2 STEAM Projects
Feedback from Kelly Belleville, Greenhaven Elementary School
I was able to purchase various supplies for a variety of STEAM projects I do throughout the school year in my classroom: Straws, cotton balls, various kinds of markers, rubber bands, glue sticks, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, and toothpicks. I use these supplies for grades K-2 (a total of 12 classes) on many STEAM projects; holiday themes, Martin Luther King, Jr, Fairy Tales, Dr. Seuss, and Earth Day to name a few. I would not be able to purchase enough supplies for 12 classes with my small school budget. Many of my projects are funded out of my own pocket. This helps ease the burden of trying to fund a Specialist classroom (multiple grades/multiple classes) with supplies to create fun engaging projects that promote critical thinking and teamwork. I put many pictures up on the school district’s Facebook page and try to promote my classroom as much as possible with these projects. All supplies will get used and I am so grateful for the opportunity to receive such grants to help aid the learning process for my students.

Project: Take-and-Make & Programming Supplies
Feedback from Martine Cianni, Hibbing Public Library
We were very thankful and fortunate to receive a mini grant to help with our programming expenditures. We used this grant to help fund our take-and-make programming supplies.  This grant was a great benefit to patrons of all ages. Free Take-and-make kits help get patrons in the doors, and that in-turn encourages them to utilize our other services as well. Patrons discover what the library has to offer, and then we can instill a love of reading and learning into their lives. Libraries truly are the heart of the community. For every program we offer we in person we take a head count of the people who attend. We place the numbers in a spread sheet for statistics for our annual reporting. For the take and make kits that we hand out if they are for kids we usually put the kids on the children’s side of the library. If they for adults or teens we put them on the other side of the desk closest to those sections. We keep track of how many take-and-makes we hand out in a spreadsheet as well. Thank you so much to the Arrowhead Library System and the Arrowhead Governing Board for awarding the Hibbing Public Library with this grant! It has helped us to enhance our programming.

Project: Expanding the Imagination
Feedback from Allyssa Pitzen, Bigfork High School Library
Our project was to help fill our non-fiction section in our library with some current titles. We had recently updated our library so in doing that we went through all our books and recycled books that hadn’t been checked out in nearly 20 years. Our goal was to get some current books that the students could use as a current resource and get some newer fiction books. These books are more current and will help as an asset to be used for a resource in many of the students projects. I sent an email to the school staff about the ALS Mini-Grant and the books we were able to purchase and have received great feedback.

Project: Literacy Resources
Feedback from Sarah Klyve, Hermantown Early Learning Center
Our students have benefitted SO much from this grant! The new materials have been rotating through all of our early learning classes and helping our 4 year old students succeed with learning their letters. The materials are not only developmentally appropriate but also SO engaging for our students! These materials have and will continue to benefit over 100 4 year old students this school year and hundreds more to come. They are used in large group instruction for 10 school readiness classes as well as intervention (small group instruction) for the classes as well. We were actually able to have a long conversation (in person!!) with Representative Natalie Zeleznikar about this specific grant and the positive impact on our program!!

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