Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Two Keys to Library Field Trips: Time and Bodies

This post is about our Library Stars tour FIELD TRIP ADVENTURE, and can be considered on its own or as a continuation of this post.

Very soon—perhaps alarmingly soon—after your grant has been accepted, it’s time to plan what the tour will actually look like. The schools, with whom you’ll be collaborating, will want to know intricate details about the tour.  In the early stages of planning and school collaboration, this may feel excessive; but having your hows/whys down will help solidify teacher buy-in and satiate all worriers.

And with the worriers, you may encounter two of the most worrisome hindrances to tours on the library’s end—Time and Bodies.


For teachers to buy into the Library Stars tour FIELD TRIP ADVENTURE, we needed to offer a tour FIELD TRIP ADVENTURE that was worth giving up part of the school day—both in quality and in length (think about it: 5 minutes to get the kids ready to go, 15 minutes to get them loaded on the bus; the same when they get back. So a 30 minute tour is not going to cut it).

Our tour FIELD TRIP ADVENTURE is 1hr 15 min long. That’s 10 minute intro; three  15 minute “stations” (department, book talks, behind the scenes); 5 minutes conclusion; 10 minutes for kids to “browse” (no checkout);  and 5 minutes allotted for those transition times.*

*This is a teacher phrase that means, “The time it takes to herd children from one place to another.” There is no planning or functions that can possibly prepare you for the amount of time any group of kids will need, so it’s best just to tack on 5-10 minutes of Unclaimed Dead Air time and hope for the best.

If your staffing allows, what’s worked for us is a “station trade-off” kind of tour FIELD TRIP ADVENTURE, with different people doing each section (three in total).  The reasoning behind this is two-fold:

1)      It breaks up the kids for you. An entire school’s second graders may number in the 60+ area, and they may not want to (or have no time to) come at two separate times. No matter how many parent chaperones accompany the kids, 25 is the absolute MAX you’ll want to lead around at one time.

2)      It breaks you up for the kids. There’s an old adage that a child can only pay attention, at most, for a number of minutes equal to their age in years. And no, that doesn't make them a horrible, doomed generation. We have 15 minute stations, so the kids’ attentions are reset every 15 minutes when they see someone/someplace new. Inside those fifteen minute stations, they’re moving around or changing topics every 2 minutes or so. This way, even though their attention span is 7 or 8 minutes, the constant change-up will keep their brains guessing and on point.
Now, when I say “staffing” I mean people capable of giving tours.  They don’t need to be youth services librarians or even librarians at all. Anyone that can answer basic questions about the library—an aide, staff from another department, and intern—can serve as a guide on one of the parts of the tour.

Q. How will they know what to say, to talk about and highlight things about the library that kids will find cool?

A. You write them scripts.

I am a huge proponent of scripts. In fact, I spent three years writing scripts for Florida teachers. The interventions I wrote were designed so that they could be successfully completed by anyone, right down to the length of time you allow the kids to possess pencils. That way, classrooms which were mandated to do specific interventions could use paraprofessionals or other staff to help meet their goal. At the very least, teachers didn’t need to spend extra off-time planning their own SBRR (Scientifically-Based Reading Researched) interventions.

There may be people concerned that writing scripts for other people to use is admitting that “anyone can do your job.” It’s quite the opposite, actually. You’re writing a script because everyone has their own professional and personal responsibilities, even you, and you respect that. Unseen circumstances can affect tours that have been scheduled weeks in advance, and the show must go on.  Believe in yourself as a professional—you’re more than just one tour, one script. If you couldn’t be at the library for a tour, which do you think your stakeholders(boss, grant providers, or teachers) would rather happen?

1)      Cancel the tour at the last minute? Or

2)      Have someone give the tour in your stead, after printing off and reading exactly what you would’ve planned on saying?

At the moment, we have six different people who have given different portions of the tour FIELD TRIP ADVENTURE, with more on the backburner if need be.  And surely, even though the behind-the-scenes is her favorite part, our Library Director still will print out the script beforehand, as a refresher. Not because she needs to read it, but just to prepare her as she’s switching gears over from the numerous hats she wears.

I know this isn't all you're doing. Hell, I haven't written a blog post since before my recent vacation, since there's been a lot to catch up on.  

But guess what? I had a Library Stars visit the day I came back, and forgot about it until 30 minutes before it started (I was at home and not dressed at that time. Thank God for my ten minute commute). I raced to work, did a sweep of the script, and was back in the game.

I'm sure there's someone out there who could do that without a script, but I sure was grateful to my own foresight at the time.

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