Leader Librarians: Students as Part of the Budgeting Process Part 2
Last year, I blogged about a project I did with 3rd-5th graders who were reading below grade level called Student Voice, Student Choice. These students had individual budgets to buy books for the media center that they were interested in reading. My hope was for these students to begin finding what they enjoyed in our media center and hopefully inspire other students to find things they enjoyed in the media center, too.
This year, I continued my plan of having students as part of the budgeting process, but I focused my attention in a new direction. Our school began school-wide enrichment clusters this year. Every Wednesday from 9-10AM every student in the school goes to a self-selected cross-grade cluster. The cluster topics are chosen by teachers, but the students make the decisions about what happens within those clusters. At the end of 8 weeks, students must have a product, performance, or service to showcase.
This structure gave me the perfect opportunity to try out a new way of involving students in the budgeting process. Once again I wrote a grant for $1,000 and matched that grant with $1,000 from our book fair profits. Twelve students in grades 3-5 selected my cluster, leader librarians, as their choice. It was interesting that 10 of the 12 students were male and 3 of the students were participants in last year’s student voice project. To begin our time, I told them our budget and that it was for books for the media center. From there, the students started brainstorming how to spend the money. I shared with them my thought process of how I set goals and assign percentages to each goal. I shared the challenges I face in limited funding and making tough decisions about what to buy and not buy.
In the end, their plan was to buy books that could be for anyone in the school instead of only buying books that they wanted to read themselves. They set out with clipboards and paper and began asking students at every grade level PreK-5 what they like to read. Next, we took this data and looked for patterns and themes. Eventually, we came up with the following categories: scary stories, mysteries, superheroes, comics, sports, nonfiction animals, pop stars, and Star Wars. Students divided into pairs and assigned themselves categories to focus on. The budget was divided equally between categories. The students were interested in what last year’s group did with Capstone Press and sales representative Jim Boon, so we invited him back. We also invited Frieda Julian from Children’s Plus, Inc. Both individuals brought book samples and catalogs for students to look at and helped students create lists of books to use in the final selection. Frieda Julian even took the students’ paper lists and made list on the Children’s Plus website. Before the order was placed, students sat down with calculators and narrowed their lists down until they spent as close to their budget allotment as possible.
As students waited for the books to arrive, they worked on an Animoto video of the process and eventually made an Animoto video of the books to use on our morning broadcast. When the books arrived, students made two assembly lines: one Capstone and one Children’s Plus. In each line, one student unpacked, one highlighted the packing slip, one checked for damage, one stamped the books, and others displayed books for photographs. Finally, we all grabbed some books, sat down, and began reading.
This month, we held an enrichment fair where the students showcased their 108 books to students, parents, and community members. They showed their Animoto videos and talked about the process. Some students were even interviewed by the local newspaper. The next day the books went into circulation and only 24 books remained by the end of the day. The next day the rest of the 108 books were checked out.
The projects over the past two years have been so much more than just asking students what I should buy for the media center. They have given students control in the decision making process in the media center. Students have faced the same dilemmas that I face as a media specialist and they wrestled with the best way to spend the money they had. Most of all, when students buy the books and materials in the media center, they create a buzz of excitement among the student population because they have a real connection to what students like. Whether I write more grants or not, I am committed to preserving a part of my budget for student decisions, especially profits from book fair. After all, it’s the students and their families that shop at our book fair, so why not allow them to make decisions about how the profits are spent? I look forward to continuing this work and seeing how this process grows over the years.
David C. Barrow Elementary