Kindergarten Community Library Project

By: Lisa Davis, Vas Pournaras, and Xani Pollakoff
from JPDS-NC

Development of Critical and / or Creative Thinking

Subject(s) of entry:
Art, History, Literature, Math, Science, Social/Emotional

PBL - project based learning, Design Thinking Model

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
K, Elementary school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
K, Elementary school

Using the Design Thinking Model, the Kindergarten classes redesigned and created a more efficient and organized library based on the needs of our school community. The children researched, interviewed, and engineered in order to enhance our JPDS-NC South Campus Community Library which houses picture books, non-fiction, fiction, easy readers, Hebrew, and Jewish values books in an inviting environment which is conducive to learning and reading for fun.

Entry Narrative

The Kindergarten Library Project is described through the following sections:

Introduction and Goals

Planning: Analysis, Evaluation, and Creation


Student’s Work including attached videos, documents, and pictures

Introduction to the South Campus Community Library Project

The Kindergarten explored different aspects of community. As part of this exploration, Kindergarten noticed a need for an updated South Campus Library. This created an opportunity to better understand our own community by interviewing an array of community members and finding out how they utilize our library.Our students visited libraries in our community including the Library of Congress, Noyes Library (a Maryland public library devoted to children’s books), and Mt. Pleasant Public Library in D.C.  Using the Design Thinking model, the students planned and designed an updated community library. Based on research the children completed, the students recognized the need for many adjustments. Some of the key components the children noticed regarding the physical layout were the need for a comfy area, an island to house books and displays, and a bookcase with student-made books. The children also saw a need for a return book basket, a book hospital, a community award system, and reading buddy area filled with soft plush toys. After establishing these needs and empathizing with the users in the community, the children made small individual prototypes and then designed large communal models. From these, the children measured, constructed, and painted functional pieces for the library.

*Note of explanation – JPDS-NC is housed on two different campuses, North Campus and South Campus. North Campus houses grades 2 through 6, and South Campus houses grades Pre-K to 1.

*Note of explanation – “Kikar” is stated many times throughout our documentation. The “Kikar” is a Hebrew word referring to our campus community area which the library is housed in.

Planning: Analysis, Evaluation, and Creation

Each week the Kindergarten teaching team met to set goals, create weekly plans and reflect on the student’s work. Part of planning was to make sure we were meeting and exceeding our Kindergarten competencies and the students were meeting Kindergarten benchmarks. Please see K Team Planning Guide-Library Project.docx for an example of our planning including our initial goals and our essential/guiding questions.

  • Interviewing & Town Hall Meetings

An important skill the children gained during our Community Library Project was learning how to interview people. The three committees (South Campus, North Campus, Local Libraries) interviewed people connected to these places in order to find out how they use libraries and their needs for one. The children met Michelle Davis, a local journalist who writes for newspapers, magazines and different publications, in order to learn how to interview people. Ms. Davis talked about the type of tools she uses and then gave the children interviewing tips and suggestions including: collect information ahead of time in order to ask good questions, save the hard questions for the end of the interview, and be sure to listen carefully. Having this knowledge, helped the children interview people in the community in a more effective and skillful way.

In order to share the knowledge gained from the interviews, Kindergarten had three Town Hall Meetings. Each one recapped what each committee learned in their interviews. To prepare for the Town Hall Meetings, the children in each class met with their committee and looked at their interview notes. They decided what important piece of information they wanted to share with the rest of Kindergarten and practiced. At the beginning of the Town Hall Meeting, we said the Pledge of Allegiance and HaTikvah inspired from real world Town Hall Meetings. The committee members from each class then stood in front of their peers and shared their information through words and drawings. The children in the audience listened respectfully, asked clarifying questions, and took notes through drawing and writing. By having the Town Hall Meetings, the children practiced the important skills of speaking in front of an audience and being good listeners.

*Note: We have three sample videos attached in the YouTube sections and an explanation and pictures in our document section.

  • Prototyping the South Campus Community Library

Using the Design Thinking model, the students began by planning the creation of the community library. Based on the children’s research, through interviews and field trips to multiple libraries, the students recognized the need for many adjustments to the current library. Some of the key components the children noticed, all regarding the physical layout, that we needed to add to the South Campus Community Library included a comfy area, an island to house books and displays, and a bookcase fireplace with student-made books.  After establishing these needs and empathizing with the users in the community, each child prototyped one of these constructions. Each class chose a different piece to prototype: comfy area-Gan T’marim, library island-Gan Rimonim, and fireplace bookcase-Gan Anavim. Once everyone made an individual prototype, each class collaborated to make one large prototype of their final piece. From the final prototype, each class decided in their own way how to make their contribution for the South Campus Community Library. All classes planned their final area a bit differently-all designing and modeling after their large prototype. The final pieces can be seen in the new South Campus Community Library and attached documents.

  • Writing Book Reviews

As part of our Kindergarten Kevin Henkes author study, in Writer’s Workshop each child wrote a book review about one of Kevin Henkes’ books. In addition to writing book reviews, the children created a reference section that they worked on in both Literacy Studio and Writer’s Workshop. This reference section tells a little about the characters, setting, and plot of each book. These reviews have been placed inside the books and are located in our South Campus library.

  • Multiple Drafts and Peer Critiquing

Inspired by the video “Austin’s Butterfly,” (link included in YouTube section) the Kindergarten focused on creating multiple drafts of work though attention to detail and peer critiquing. Each class created multiple drafts of different things-all with the same skills in mind. As children were creating their drafts, they were encouraged to slow down and pay attention to the detail in the drawing. Once a draft was finished, peers gave specific critiques on how their good drawing could be made even better. Children then used these critiques to create a second and, at times, a third draft-each time going through the critiquing process. Positive peer support enabled the children to feel comfortable and confident with receiving feedback on what they had created.  With each new draft, children noted their improved ability to capture more realistic versions of what they were drawing. Because of this process, the “simple” act of drawing became more meaningful, and the children experienced a melding of executive functioning (planning), art, and science.

*Note: More information and pictures are included in documents.

  • South Campus Community Library Return Basket

Gan Anavim was tasked with figuring out a system for returning books in the redesigned library. As they gathered information from local libraries, the children took note of what each library wanted people to do when they returned books. At the Library of Congress and the Noyes Library, “people put books on a table or the librarian’s desk.” At the North Campus Library, “people put books on a cart.” Some children said they put books in “slots” at the libraries they visit with their parents. They considered all of these ideas when figuring out what should be done in the Kikar Library.

Mrs. Davis, offered them a large wicker basket with a lid. She said it could be used for returning books if the children wanted it. They thought it was a wonderful idea. Jonah wrote “RETURN BOOKS HERE” on a piece of white paper which was glued in the center of the board as a sign. A group of children then looked through old Scholastic Book fliers and cut out pictures of both fiction and non-fiction books and glued them around the “return books here” sign. A layer of Mod Podge was applied to make it shiny and strong. The board was attached with wire to the basket. The basket was immediately tested in the Gan Anavim classroom with many books. It worked!

  • Community Favorite Award

This year Share the Nachas Day (Grandparents Day) coincided with the 60th day of school. As part of our celebration, we connected our 60th day activity with our exploration of community through the lens of the South Campus Community Library. One of the many activities that we did this day was to explain our journey with our grandparents and special guests. We also challenged them to add their favorite children’s book title to a running list, with a goal of collecting 60 unique book titles. To our amazement we collected over 60 titles.

After deciding that we were going to order these books for our library, we wanted to somehow honor them and give them special meaning.  After learning about different types of awards books, the children in Gan Rimonim wanted to create a “Community Favorite Award” for the books from Share the Nachas Day. Each of the children were given a small piece of paper to design an award. The only guideline for their designs was that it needed to say, “Community Favorite” somewhere on the design. After our class voted to narrow it down to their favorite 5 designs, we asked for all the Kindergarten students to vote on their favorite using graphing, one of our competencies. You can tell which books in our South Campus Community Library are truly “Community Favorites” because the seal adorns the books telling you so.

*Note: Please find more information about Community Favorite Awards in our attached documents.

  • Community Book Hospital

As the Kindergarten students began categorizing the books in the redesigned library, they came across many torn book with missing pages. Eager to mend these books, Gan T’marim recognized the need for a “Book Hospital” in the library. They created a form in the “Book Hospital” box for visitors to fill out to accompany each book that explains what needs to be fixed. Gan T’marim came up with four rules for taking care of the books. These rules are to be careful, to make sure books are not on the floor, not to purposely break a book, and to refrain from further tearing a torn book. The book hospital box can be found on a shelf of our library.

*Note: Please find more information about the book hospital in our attached documents.

Here are some reactions to our Kindergarten Open House event for families: 

This morning, I was totally blown away the moment I walked into the building.  Every exhibit I saw would have been impressive on its own – the combination was even more powerful!  The documentation and explanation of the process, the children’s work, the drafts, the products – was all very thoughtfully presented – and that was even before the children’s presentations in person!
I know that the beginning of the year was a bit disconcerting for you and that we asked you to take on significant adjustments to the way we do things – you came through in a big way!!talking to each one of you separately, I heard that it was a struggle and that now it is starting to come together.  Judging from what I saw today – everywhere! – you made the adjustments in big ways and the results (what the children created and what they got out of it) exceeded my most optimistic dreams.  Kol hakavod and thank you – for all you give the children in your care and for how you make our school shine!
Naomi Reem
Head of School
Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital
Kay and Robert Schattner Center
I second everything Naomi said. The two of us found ourselves alone this morning in the Ulam before the event and couldn’t stop marveling to each other. I wished that all of the North Campus faculty could suddenly appear to see the way you combined Design Thinking, Making Learning Visible, An Ethic of Excellence, using DC as your classroom, seeing children as capable, fostering student ownership of both learning and the products of that learning, creating a community, giving to one’s community – well, I think I could go on and on. Seeing all that you and your students did (I also feel privileged that I was able to watch and participate in some of that) and listening to what you and your students had to say was genuinely moving. Amazing is right!
Thank you!
Janet Collier
General Studies 2-6 Instructional Leader
Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital
Kay and Robert Schattner Center
All I can say is, “Wow!” The event was a huge success. From the Hebrew presentations to the prototypes to the ribbon cutting. All of your thoughtful planning and your expectations for excellence was on display today. I will say it again, “You made all my dreams come true.” When we first moved in, I had a vision for the library; however, your vision and execution surpassed my wildest dreams. Thank you!
Melissa Davis
Director of Early Childhood
Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital
Kay and Robert Schattner Center

Entry Videos