Category Archives: Activities

Wangari Maathai: Black History Month

 While perusing the children’s section one of those massive chain book stores, I stumbled upon picture books featuring Wangari Maathai.  (A side note: I check the children’s section of book stores regularly, even when on vacation, to gather ideas for books to order for my school’s library.)  When I saw the picture books, I thought: “WOW!  What gems!  I simply must have these for our school’s library!”

Wangari Maathai’s story is amazing.  In 2004, she was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her Green Belt Movement in her home country of Kenya.

There are four books I recommend for elementary school students:  Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa, Mama Miti: Wangair Maathai and the Trees of Kenya, Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai, and Seeds of Change: Wangari’s Gift to the World.  The simple text and beautiful illustrations in each book will appeal even to the youngest students.

Last year I read the books during Black History Month to my classes, kindergarten- 5th grade.  Then I tweaked the lesson depending on the grade level—you can keep it simple, or make it as complicated as you like.  If you dig around on the internet, you can find videos and pictures of Wangari Maathai, her movement, and the trees she and her group have planted.  Youtube has a clip of her receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, which I showed to all my classes.

But Wangari Maathai and the books about her life and movement are not just for Black History Month.  Indeed, these books can be used as springboards to other topics.  With books about Wangari Maathai, you can develop lessons about: geography (focusing on Africa) and mapping skills, character education and the Nobel Peace Prize, women’s rights, sustainability and the Green Belt Movement, the life cycle of trees,  and how important trees are because of all the wonderful things trees do for us and give us.

Follow the link below so you can look inside some of the mentioned books.


Anja Tigges, Ed.S.


Scott Elementary School (Atlanta Public Schools)

1752 Hollywood Road

Atlanta, GA 30318

TeachMeet Georgia

The Educational Technology Center at Kennesaw State University is very pleased to be participating with an enthusiastic group of teacher volunteers to host TeachMeet Georgia at the KSU Center on January 21-22, 2011 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day.

Just in case you are not familiar with TeachMeet events, they are free professional learning opportunities organized by educators for educators. Teachers will share and learn about ideas and resources that will engage students as citizens in a technologically rich society. We are very pleased the have Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal on Twitter) as our opening keynote speaker. Eric and his school were featured in a video on Scholastic Administrator’s Tech Talk last spring (see:

TeachMeet originated in England a little over a year ago with a group of teachers coming together to share about effective classroom practices. These types of “unconference” events are springing up around world, both in the TeachMeet format and the less structured Edcamp events. We are very excited to offer the first TeachMeet event in Georgia and would appreciate your help in spreading the word to schools within your service area.

TeachMeet will offer a variety of quick, fifteen minute sharing sessions related to use of technology-oriented tools. Some presenters (teachers and students) will be live at KSU, others will connect via Skype. All will be webcast! You don’t have to be at KSU to participate!

There will also be panel discussions, round table discussions, and a computer lab setting to explore resources shared during the event. All sessions will be live streamed and recordings archived for later access.

For those at KSU, lunch will be provided and many fantastic door prizes have been donated by various vendors, including Edutopia, TechSmith, Solution Tree, Mindsteps, Herff Jones, Glogster EDU, Apple, and Ed Voyles Automotive Group. The generosity of these sponsors has made it possible to provide this event free to educators.

Participation AT KSU is limited to 200, but anyone can tune into the live stream. Presenters can be at KSU or connect via Skype.

You can find both the participant and presenter registration forms and additional information about TeachMeetGA at  Remember, it’s FREE!

Back to Basics

After reading The Book Whisperer at the end of the summer, I decided for library orientation I was going to return to the basics.  My decision was four-fold: 1- sometimes all the technology doesn’t work properly; 2- sometimes the point of a presentation gets buried in technology’s bells and whistles; 3- I was inspired by The Book Whisperer not to get bogged down by too many rules; 4-  I wanted the students to move, and to have some fun.

So, I cut poster board into big flash cards, and in bright and bold Sharpie pens wrote library words on them.  Words like: author, illustrator, call number, spine, Accelerated Reader, biography, easy reader, non-fiction, graphic novel, fiction, and more.  I laminated the huge flash cards, and taped them to an empty wall in the library.  When the students came in, we first filled in a graphic organizer together about the things you can do in the library.  They came up with “do research on the computer,” “read a magazine,”” check out a book,” among other things.  Then I read some books that had to do with the library, like Library Mouse (Daniel Kirk), Lola at the Library (Anna McQuinn), Dewey There’s a Cat in the Library (Vicki Myron and Bret Witter), D.W.’s Library Card (Marc Brown), Manners in the Library (Amanda Doering Tourville), Read It, Don’t Eat It! (Ian Schoenherr).  Next, we talked about the words on the wall— we practiced how to pronounce them correctly, and we defined them.

Now the fun could start!  I put the classes in two teams.  Each team got a fly swatter.  One member from each team would come to the line I had on the floor.  I would say the definition of one of the words on the wall, and they had to find the word that matched the definition.  Once they located the word, they had to run to it and hit it with their fly swatter.  The first person to hit the right word earned a point for the team.

Basic rules were followed: you could only swat one time, so make sure you make the correct choice, and no body blocking in an attempt to keep the other team away.

I did this with almost every grade level, first through fifth.  Some teachers enjoyed the activity so much themselves, they said they would use it in their classrooms to review vocabulary words, practice important history dates, and a sundry of other ways.

It was an extremely low-tech lesson, the students were engaged, and the students were moving around.  All the way around, it was a success!

I would like to give a shout-out to Jim Randolph for recommending The Book Whisperer  on the GLMA blog, July 18, 2010.

I would like to give Andy Plemmons a shout-out for his GLMA blog entry on March 25, 2010, about Student Voice, Student Choice.  I tweaked his grant idea to fit my school, and we earned a Target Grant.  Thanks Andy for sharing, and the great idea!

Also, if there are any runners or walkers out there, or any who wants to give to a good cause:  Room to Read, a non-profit organization that builds and stocks libraries in developing countries, is having a 5K Caterpillar Crawl this weekend in Atlanta to raise money.  Go to their website and check it out:

Thanks for reading!

Anja Tigges, Ed.S.


 Scott Elementary School, Atlanta Public Schools

Summer in South Africa


Circulation Desk

Elephant in Kruger Park

On my first day back after summer vacation, my elementary school teachers usually required us to write a one-page essay about what we had done during our 12 weeks of freedom.  I would dread the first day of school, because I knew we would be required to complete this mundane assignment.

This year, though, I willingly write about my summer adventures.  I volunteered for almost 8 weeks as a librarian at South African Wildlife College.  The college is located right inside Kruger National Park, and has students from all over Africa.  The students are older (25-55 years old), and already work in some capacity in a national park in their country—in tourism management, as an environmental education, as a field ranger, etc.  They were tapped by their managers to attend the college so that they may take classes and earn more certificates, and in turn can be promoted at their work place.  Thus, the students are motivated and have a high work ethic.

My responsibilities included the usual librarian tasks: cataloging and processing books, checking books in and out, getting books back on the shelves, changing the bulletin boards, and helping students in the computer lab.  I also held English tutoring sessions, so the students could practice their language skills.

I was lucky enough to be able to join the students when they went on field trips.  Some of the things I got to do: join a village celebration when they opened the 2 new classrooms and 6 new toilets for the school; drive deep into Kruger National Park; visit the Elephant Museum; participate in some Environmental Education classes in Kruger National Park; attend an African dancing and drumming celebration; go out on game drives to look for the Big Six, even at night; go out on morning walks at dawn to learn about tracking animals.

One of the reasons I went to South Africa was to see animals, but what made the trip was the people.  South Africans are soft-spoken, kind, and gentle. 

Every aspect of my time in South Africa was amazing.  Some days, I felt like I was the luckiest person in the world, and that life couldn’t get any better.

Anja Tigges, Ed.S.


Atlanta Public Schools

Scott Elementary

Searching Beyond Lesson Possibilities

While pondering what kind of “goodie” to post for this month, I came across these 10 suggested search engines. David Kapuler’s listing here provides some excellent alternatives to google searching. Now, google is still my (and his) favorite engine, but educators might just find some of these to be better for various educational requirements. For example, Eyeplorer is outstanding!! Hits are “sorted” by content in a pie shape so that you can quickly go to the content area of hits that will most likely answer your search question. And Oamos entertains you with music when searching…I searched “Georgia weather” and automatically listened to Rainy Night in Georgia playing as the hits were displayed. Check these out, because they may be well worth integrating into specific lessons for students!!

Kapuler’s top 10 search engines other than Google:

1. Eyeplorer – A unique and excellent search engine designed around a wheel format that lets a user take notes via an online widget.
2. Oamos – A wonderful visual experience that is unlike anything else around.
3. Quintura – A fun “tag cloud” style site that lets users embed word chains into a site.
4. BevyFind – A search engine that speeds up the searching process by combining different elements into one page.
5. Kngine – An excellent “Web 3.0” search engine built on semantics.
6. Spezify – Get visual results with a sticky-type interface that incorporates all sorts of media content.
7. Scoopler – One of the best real-time search engines on the way w/ a built in button to share results across multiple social networks.
8. Webkruz – Get search results in visual thumbnails w/ blurbs of text underneath.
9. Sputtik – A great way to search for results on the web w/ a variety of content covered in different visual ways.
10. Feedmil – A nice way to search where users can adjust their results via a sliding panel that controls the searching criteria.

David Kapuler was the media and technology specialist at Greendale (Wis.) School District. Read his blog at

Phyllis R. Snipes,
University of West Georgia