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 Work has begun to renovate media centers at Lake Shore Public Schools’ elementary schools, like this one at Rodgers Elementary.

Work has begun to renovate media centers at Lake Shore Public Schools’ elementary schools, like this one at Rodgers Elementary.

Photo provided by Amanda McCarthy

Green screens, collaboration spaces coming to Lake Shore elementary media centers

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 14, 2019


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Aiming to “make a space that is more in tune with what the 21st-century skills are for our kids,” Lake Shore Public Schools is gutting the media centers at its three elementary schools as part of its 2016 bond issue.

“It’s really to create a high-tech, high-collaboration and communication space,” explained Superintendent Joe DiPonio.

The newly redesigned media centers will instead have spaces for small group and large group collaborations with writable walls and surfaces where students can brainstorm ideas in spaces where they can still be visible to teachers while they are working. There will also be a green screen space for video production, reading nooks and other spaces that students can use to “fit their individual and personal learning styles,” as well as maker spaces in each media center for creative work.

“We want to bring it up to speed a little more with what a 21st-century media center will look like and just a learning space for our students,” DiPonio said. “Certainly, there will be traditional aspects of the media center, but we don’t want it to be a place that just warehouses books.

“We’re going to want more out of this space.”

Amanda McCarthy, media coordinator and instructional coach for Lake Shore Public Schools, said that the district hasn’t gotten rid of all its books, just weeded out titles that were no longer relevant or outdated. For example, there was a set of encyclopedias and a dictionary from 1998, and then also a version from 2010 — both were not needed. A copy of “Where the Red Fern Grows” from the 1930s was eliminated, but a newer copy was kept. Science materials should be taken out if they are older than five years, she said, because information can become irrelevant, so staff did that as well.

But in the largest elementary library, at Rodgers Elementary School, after the titles were reviewed and pared down, there were still 12,000 books, meaning that there are at least 20 books for each student.

Some of the books have been moved to classrooms so that students can have easier access to the titles, and most will still remain in the renovated media centers.

Of the books that were eliminated, McCarthy said that district families had opportunities to take home as many books as they wanted. In addition, a group from the International Academy of Macomb came and boxed up books to be donated to low-income schools, and she and other staff members have distributed other books to local Little Free Libraries.

The new media centers will allow students to work on projects in ways that they already have been, but in a dedicated space instead of in a hallway or the corner of a classroom. For example, third-graders at Masonic Heights Elementary recently produced a video to educate parents and students about the hazards of dumping in drains in connection with a project on the water cycle.

“They did this in the corner of their room, and now we’re going to allow them to have a space to actually (create videos),” McCarthy said. “Same thing with the maker space. A kindergarten classroom with 24 students is a little tight if they’re working on a ... project. It will allow materials and access to space and access to work with their co-teacher partners.”

DiPonio said that the media centers will also allow students — who all have an assigned Chromebook or other device because of the district’s one-to-one technology initiative — to plug in and see each other’s screens when they are working together on a project.

The work is estimated to cost just over $1 million for the three libraries. Construction began at the beginning of May, and the media centers are expected to reopen in October.

“It’s not just a matter of high-tech. We also want it to be high-collaboration and high-creativity, sort of a think tank environment,” DiPonio said.