Bringing the Classroom Outside: Determining the Information Needs for Students in a Tree Library
Many special libraries work to fill one need, but the library that we have created will support many needs of a variety of people. Our library is working to fill a hole that London – “The Forest City” desperately needs to have filled – a Tree Library. This library will work with various aspects of the city including developers, farmers, gardeners, and arborists, but I will be focusing my information needs report on the services we will be providing for students and teachers of London.
The Tree Library, operated in partnership with the City of London and ReForest London will be located at the Civic Garden Complex and will be accessible to all members of the community who would like to use it. The library will be working most evidently with the City of London’s Forestry division which are already working hard to protect and maintain the trees within the city. We will be supporting them by being a place to house their records, hold samples of the trees that exist within the city, and provide information for the people that want to learn more about the reason why London is called the Forest City and the trees that we are home to. ReForest London is a non-profit organization working to plant more trees within London and increase the knowledge of the community which we will partner with them to provide. By having a location where samples can be stored and programs can be held we can help ReForest London reach a greater population. The information and knowledge that these two organizations already have will help us to create a complex and complete collection that will best serve everyone in London.
Our library will include books about the history of the trees that are in London, how to take care of trees, and the types of diseases and pests that effect the types of trees we have in London. We also will have archives and newspapers on local history to do with trees that will help researchers and developers as they look at how London has changed. Beyond typical library material the Tree Library will have an extensive collection of leaves, seeds, bark, cones, and other tree material that are from the trees native to the area to compare to other samples and look at. As the library is in the middle of a forested area we will also create a walking tour with labeled trees around the library to introduce users of both the library and park in general to the trees that exist in London. All these different materials and uses will make the Tree Library a place where many people can find different information for any question that has to do with trees.
With our diverse collection we anticipate being able to serve many different members of the community with our Tree Library. This includes city developers and surveyors, local farmers and agriculturists, professional and hobby gardeners, as well as members of the community wanting to know about trees on their property or just learn about the Forest City. The group that I will be focussing this assessment on however is students and teachers that we will work with to create curriculum and learning about the environment and trees. We are hoping to create programming for all ages of students working with both the City of London and ReForest London, along with the already existing school curriculum to take learning outside of the classroom and into nature. We anticipate this will mainly be elementary school classes, but we will have resources available for all age and learning levels. It is part of the Ontario curriculum for teachers to integrate learning about the environment into their teaching and we feel that the Tree Library would be the perfect place to help them do this. “Throughout the grades and strands, teachers have opportunities to take students out of the classroom and into the world beyond the school, to observe, explore, and investigate” (Ontario Curriculum 37). We will hold programs for classes and children at specific times during the day and as they will not be dropping in our main focus and main audience will be those working for and with the city with the trees and forests.
There has been much data collected on the information needs of students and teachers, and also their needs relating to hands on scientific learning which the Tree Library is hoping to provide. “Elementary science learning environments must provide students opportunities to engage in sense making about science, of which comparing and evaluating evidence-based explanations is a fundamental component” (Biggers, Forbes, Zangori 2013). By providing a place in which students can learn hands-on about science and the environment we are supporting the students, the teachers, and the community in general. In other studies on the information needs of students it is shown that when students stop being engaged in their learning, they stop being interested and excited about school. The Tree Library is an environment where “playful activities contributed to fulfillment of their needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, all components contributory to fostering intrinsic motivation” (Crow 2015). It is well documented that students need to experience hands-on learning in addition to the teaching that happening within the classroom and with our tree samples of seeds, leaves, bark, and other tree materials as well as our labelled walking tour outside of the library we are able to provide that. For all ages of students, “the benefits of ecological exercise on or near the school campus, and for field trips to comparable sites away from the school grounds” help to improve students’ knowledge and retention of learning (Dresner & Moldenke 2002). We will also be able to help the teachers by being an authoritative source on the environment and trees of London and be able to provide knowledge that they are not as comfortable with.
There are multiple ways that we can assess the needs of the students and teachers that we are hoping will make use of the Tree Library. As the Ontario Science curriculum guidelines is freely available we can start by looking at the recommended learning outcomes and seeing where we can be of use for the community and the students. We will be working with both a wide survey to teachers and administrators asking about their information needs and how best we can support their learning outcomes as well as specific focus groups across teachers of all the age ranges that we may be able to support. The survey will be beneficial as we will be able to get answers from a large amount of teachers, principles, and support workers (around 7,600 currently working for the Thames Valley School District) as well as get timely results from the moment we release the survey in a format that we can easily read, analyze and work with. The downsides of using a survey is that we either must make multiple surveys for various jobs, age groups they are working with, and other differences or the survey has to be vaguer in order to cover all of the areas. Also while we are able to have comment box or two, we can not address all of the comments and ideas that the survey participants may have, which may cause us to miss critical information. Focus groups are a positive way to gather information as we can tailor the groups to be similar in positions or different. This can help us to see a wide variety of responses in one group or have them work ideas off of each other because they have similar experiences. We also are able to work with the direction the conversation is going and allow everyone to speak what they are feeling without being constrained to certain questions. The downsides to focus groups is that they take more time to complete and longer to analyze the data that is provided as it is qualitative and needs to be transcribed before it can be put to use. Though most of our research will be done through the teachers and administrators we will be conducting some research into what the students themselves want. The programs that we will create will be of little help if the students are not engaged and do not learn anything. This can be done with focus groups as well with the positives being that we can reach a large variety of ages and interests of children, but the downsides are that it is hard to interview children as they do not always give the answers that you are looking for and are not always reliable sources of information. As we are creating this library with them in mind however, it is important to include them in our research.
Some questions that we would include in our survey to teachers and administrators would be.
- What format would you like our material in?
- How can our programs help supplement your curriculum?
- What services would you most like to see from us? (On site workshops, field trips, tree tours, etc.)
- What types of information would you like to get from us?
- Samples (Bark, leaves, seeds, etc.)
- Digital Publications
With the focus groups we would start with much of the same questions but can also expand to include questions on how they see us working with the current science curriculum and we would be able to find out what they would like even more that just through a survey. We know generally what the information needs are, but it is the people in the community that will help us truly shape our library and our programming. All this we believe can be done within a three-month time period and then with a few months time for analyzing the data and putting together the library we would be able to start providing library services and programs by September 2017. When we send out our surveys we will have a two week deadline for them to be completed so that they are not forgotten about and we will have a few focus groups over a time span of one to two months to gather all of the data that we will need.
There are many needs that our Tree Library will be able to fill, just one of them being that of students and teachers. By working with the City of London, ReForest London, and the Thames Valley School District we can create a library that informs the community while also preserving and protecting the trees and environment around London.
Biggers, Mandy, Forbes, Cory T. & Zangori, Laura. (2013). Elementary Teachers’ Curriculum Design and Pedagogical Reasoning for Supporting Students’ Comparison and Evaluation of Evidence-Based Explanation. The Elementary School Journal, 114 (1), 48-72.
City of London Urban Forest Strategy. file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/London%20Urban%20Forestry%20Strategy%20Final.pdf [Accessed January 25, 2017]
City of London Website. Trees and Forests. https://www.london.ca/residents/Environment/Trees-Forests/Pages/default.aspx [Accessed January 25, 2017]
Crow, Sherry R. (2015). The Information-Seeking Behavior of Intrinsically Motivated Elementary School Children of a Collectivist Culture. American Association of School Librarians, 18, 1-30.
Dresner, Marion & Molden, Andrew. (2002). Authentic Field Ecology Experience for Teachers. The American Biology Teacher, 64 (9), 659-663.
Henczel, Susan. (2001). The Information Audit as a First Step Towards Effective Knowledge Management. Information Outlook, 5 (6), 49-62.
Perrault, Anne Marie. (2007). The School as an Information Ecology: A Framework for Studying Changes in Information Use. School Libraries Worldwide, 13 (2), 49-62.
Reforest London Website. http://www.reforestlondon.ca/about-us [Accessed January 26, 2017]
The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8. Science and Technology. http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/scientec18currb.pdf [Accessed January 26, 2017]