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The teachers and specialists in Provo City School District are our innovators. They are innovators, companions, and caretakers. The Provo City School District Foundation wants to recognize and support their efforts to make our schools a better place.

The Foundation awards mini-grants to many deserving district teachers each year. To receive the grant, teachers must submit a two-page application detailing their concept for an innovative project in their school. After receiving the completed application, the Provo School District Foundation Selection Committee picks the mini-grant recipients for the year.

It’s a process that isn’t required of educators, instructors, or specialists. Yet, each year, many go the extra mile for their students.

This year, we’re speaking to a few around the district who have received mini-grants to ask them about their perceived need, their mini-grant product, the impact of their mini-grant, and lastly, advice for new and struggling professionals on how they can differentiate and extend learning in our schools.

We spoke with Centennial Middle School Librarian and Media Specialist Colleen Harker about her “Maker Kits,” hands-on projects and activities to entice students to visit the library during lunch and keep them busy with something productive. Read our conversation below to learn more about how Centennial students are putting phones away, producing projects, building new bonds, and laying down new roads for reading.

Q: What was the class issue, or where did you see a perceived need?

A: We generally have 50–60 kids in the library during each lunch period, and we like giving them something to do. Our library has a room we call our Maker Space. We have hands-on projects we rotate through our Maker Space every few weeks, and they’re super popular! 

My assistant actually grabbed these numbers for me. We had a two-week period where students made keychains, and more than 125 students came to make those chains. 

(We looked over several student signature lists from the Maker Space logs, and they were equally jam-packed. Pretty impressive!)

Next week, we’re doing crocheting—you wouldn’t think it wouldn’t be popular, but students cheered when we told them!

(It’s worth noting that more than a handful of boys participated in the crocheting activity, too.)

Q: How do these Maker Kits aid your library? How did the mini-grant make a difference?

A: We have some older, less popular kits. We used our mini-grant on more popular activities. It gave us options. Taylor Swift bracelets are extremely popular, and having activities that are a little more current or popular can draw students to the library. 

We just want to get kids in the door. If they’re in here, they’re more likely to look around and find books they’re interested in. Even students that don’t express a love for reading have their picks—even those kids like graphic novels, for example. Once we get kids in the door, they’re picking out books, and I think you can see that improvement in our circulation numbers.

(Colleen has a seventh-grade daughter who’s in the know for popular activities and accessories. Looking at these photos, it’s clear that they’re working.)

We thank Colleen for all she does and for our many mini-grant recipients for enriching our schools. Keep an eye out for follow-up articles on mini-grant recipients in the following weeks, and thanks for reading!

Spencer Tuinei
  • Communication Specialist
  • Spencer Tuinei