Paying it Forward: Share the Love



Last year I was named the 2016 School Library Journal’s School Librarian of the Year.  It was one of the proudest moments of my teaching career.  One of the incredible components of the award was $2,500 to spend at the Scholastic Book Store.  I am fortunate to work in a district that believes in and supports my mission as a school librarian.  My library is well-funded and properly staffed.  Because of this, I wanted to do something different with the Scholastic funds.  I’ve decided that I will donate them to five schools in need; each school will be awarded $500.


Do you know a school who’s library could use these funds?


The most democratic way I could come up for distributing these funds is to create a Rafflecopter page.  Here’s how it works:  if you tweet about the contest and/or leave a comment on the blog, you will receive an ‘entry’ in the raffle.  On March 1st the Rafflecopter ‘engine’ will randomly choose five lucky recipients.  The more entries you have, the better your chances.  So, go ahead and submit an entry on behalf of your school or a deserving school you know about.  Click the link below to enter the raffle! Share with as many folks as you can and I can’t wait to see how this turns out!  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Valentine’s Tutorial Part Two: Sewn Heart Cards


img_7127I’ve never been accused of taking the easy route.  That was especially true today!  I decided to try sewing with first graders today.  The project began with the idea of creating lacing boards.  I initially explored making them on our Carvey machine, but in the end, it took too long to be practical to make them for all of the first-grade students.  So, I started exploring other options.  To be clear, I have never done sewing with first graders, but I thought that they could do this project if they worked on concentration and focus.  So, I started by reminding them of these two words.  I’m actually impressed with how well they turned out given their lack of experience with the tools.


I began by showing them a completed project; I just so happened to have made a few in preparation for today as gifts for my amazing library associate and my wife.

Step one is to trace the outline of the heart on a folded piece of cardstock.


Step two is to use your needle to punch holes.  I showed the kids how to hold the section of the paper they are ‘punching’ with the needle over the edge of the table.  This helped them have control over the needle a bit more.  The second time I introduced this, I decided to have the kids space their holes apart by the width of their finger.


Step three is to use the threaded needle (we pre-threaded a ton of tapestry needles to speed this initial stage up a bit) from underneath through the cardstock.  This lets the large knot at the end ‘stick’ on the back of the card.

Step four is to begin ‘sewing’ up and down through the various holes.  I did not tell them to do a set pattern but instead, let them choose.  It was interesting to see who struggled with keeping the thread untangled or remembering to go up and down not ‘around’ the card.  These are great lessons to learn on cardstock because you can easily ‘fix’ it by going back through the hole.


Caden created a very interesting pattern with three different colors of thread.


We folded the second piece of cardstock and glued it on the inside to ‘hide’ the stitching on the inside of the card.


We couldn’t give the students really long pieces of embroidery floss because it was apt to get tangled, so we just tied off the floss underneath and then re-threaded the needle with their choice of color.  This ended up creating some beautiful contrasting layers.

All in all, this was a big success.  They now have an introductory project under their belts and when we learn all about buttons in our inquiry project, they’ll be ready to learn to sew their own 3d designed and printed buttons!


NOTE: In later classes, one of the kids chose to stitch around the outside rather than across.  It turned out that in some ways that were easier for the kids to do.  So, we had our last class of the day start with that and then early finishers could add the cross stitching. Turns out that very few had time to add the extras and that was just fine.  A good example of ‘going with the flow’ for both kids and our parent volunteers.We also figured out that we could tape the end of the thread on the inside if it were too short to tie off.  This was a very handy thing because many kids ended up only having a tiny bit of thread left.

Valentine’s Day Projects Part One: Simple Felt Heart Sewing Project


I decided to try sewing with my third-grade students this year.  I was emboldened by taking the phenomenal free class on Instructables by Jessyratfink.


If you want to know how to do just about anything, there is a tutorial for it on Instructables.  I was blown away how thorough and detailed this class was.  In addition to that, it was beautifully photographed with clear and concise instructions.  Well done Instructables and Jessy Ratfink!


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Image courtesy of


We began by doing a very simple project: hand stitching together felt hearts.  Our school has an Ellison Die Cutter so I was able to pre-cut the hearts on the machine.  You could easily have students draw their own as we are limited in size by the dimensions of the machine.  I cut several colors and made many extras just in case.  I decided to use a thicker thread and larger ‘tapestry’ needles.  I chose the tapestry needles for the size of their ‘eye.’  In hindsight, the tapestry needles were a bit dull and it was challenging for those with weaker fine motor skills to be able to pierce the fabric.


I taught the students to cut thread the length of their forearm and back.  We doubled the thread and tied a simple knot.  Next, we pinned the two pieces together to help keep them lined up while sewing.  I showed the students how to open the ‘felt sandwich’ and push the needle up and through one of the layers.  In this way, they were able to hide their knot.  The running stitch might not have been the ideal ‘first’ stitch to teach them.  Many of them began doing a ‘whip stitch,’ which students said felt more natural.


Link to image source:


Some students wanted to stuff their heart to make a pincushion or a heart pendant.  For those students, we stopped with enough room to stick our finger into the heart and used cotton batting to ‘stuff.’


I ended up using my own model as a great pin cushion for the kids!


The kids learned grit, resilience, and patience while learning a very valuable life skill.  img_6858

In the end, the kids were very proud of their work and eager to share their gifts!



How and Why You Need to Build Your Very Own Fairy Door or Fairy House


When my daughter was about eight years old, we heard about some mysterious fairy doors that existed in Ann  Arbor, Michigan.  Each summer when our kids were younger we visited Sault Saint Marie, Michigan where my in-laws have a cottage.  We decided to stop in Ann Arbor on the way up north on one of our trips and investigate these fairy doors.  We had done our research online and found the fantastic UFO Site.  UFO stands for Urban Fairy Operations.  This site is the all-inclusive site that helps visitors to Ann Arbor find the fairy doors in town and has a ton of other assorted information about building your own door and much more.


You can download a map that shows where each of the fairy doors are located.  It was tremendous fun for all of us to search the streets for these unique and fascinating little doors.


Some of these doors open, some of them also have windows and several even had electricity inside them.  To say it triggered our curiosity is an understatement.  We went home and immediately purchased and painted our very own Fairy Door.  We mounted it at the top of the stairs.  You can imagine the fun we had with the door as we invited fairies to move in.  My wife and I had enjoyed leaving trinkets on the step for our kids to discover.  They went as far to write notes on tiny pieces of paper, left gifts and special decorations for the holidays.

My daughter is now in college and the door has come down from our hallway.  I recently saw some images on Pintrest that fired my imagination.

I started thinking about how cool it would be to have a fairy door, maybe even a fairy house in our school library!  I knew I could ‘hook’ the girls, who are already fascinated with fairies, both Disney and otherwise.  What would be harder would be to find a way to link the boys to the sense of wonder.  More on that later.

It just so happened that our community’s giant rummage sale was taking place and a parent had emailed me and asked if we needed any items for the makerspace.  I asked her to be on the look out for some ‘big books’ and I sent her the above picture to explain why.  She found some and dropped them off and I immediately got started making my very own fairy house.  I looked online for a tutorial on how to make one out of old books and I couldn’t find one.  So, I hope that this step by step tutorial will help those of you who are as eager to create one as I was.

Step One: Find some great old books that are tall and thick.


Step Two:  Cut the covers off with a razor knife.

Step Three: Use glue (I chose wood glue because I had it on hand) to cover all four edges of the book’s pages.  I discovered a bit later that if you have a cup of warm water, it helps keep the brushes bristles a bit more pliable.  I also added a bit of the hot water to the glue and that helped make applying it a bit easier too.  I would also recommend that you put the books on wax paper or cardboard when doing this step as well.  I didn’t have any wax paper and thus had some cardboard that stuck to the edges a bit.

Step Four: Stack and place heavy objects on the books to help compress and set the glue.  Let it sit for 24 hours.  If you are impatient like me, this will be the hardest step!

Step Five:  Mark the book pages so that you can begin ‘hollowing’ out the book.  You don’t have to do this step.  Many have just added the doors to the books in other ways.  I wanted to have a physical ‘room’ inside the books for the fairies to live, so I decided I wanted to hollow them out.  This ended up being a much harder project then I originally thought it would be as you will see below.



Step Six: The book ‘blanks’ are now more like a chunk of wood than a book.  I added another layer of wood glue several hours after the first and that made the book ‘blank’ even more solid.  Make sure that you mark the book blank so that you are ‘cutting away’ the area that includes the spine.  This is so that the book will still look ‘whole’ when the fairy house is complete.  I was able to initially begin cutting the blanks with a saw.  In hindsight, what I should have done was cut several ‘slit’s in the book and then notched them with the chisel.  See the next step.


Step Seven:  After you have cut the two sides, you will use a chisel to begin chopping away the interior of the book.  This is a very messy step.  A heavy hammer and a very sharp chisel are essential.  This could also be done with a razor knife, but the chisel worked much more efficiently.  It is possible that a band saw or a scroll saw would have worked.  I tried using my scroll saw and it cut crooked and did not work well with the texture of the book pages.  I do plan on trying my band saw for the next project.


Step Eight:  When you have completely hollowed out the book, do this for as many books as you wish to have in your house.  I found that putting a piece of plywood under the book gave me a firmer surface to be able to hammer.  Plus, then I didn’t have to worry about damaging the tabletop.

Step Nine:  Stop and clean up!

Step Ten:  Purchase and prepare your doors and windows.  I found these at our local Hobby Lobby and painted them with regular acrylic paint.


Step Eleven:  Cut covers to fit the window and door sizes.


Step Twelve:  Dry fit the window and door.

Step Thirteen:  Glue the window and door into place.


Step Fourteen:  Electric?  I’m going to start with one of those candle lights that you can use in place as a tea candle light.  I might add a 12 volt power supply at some point, but for now I think just the notion that there is light inside the house will trigger the imaginations of my students.


Step Fifteen:  Invite Wonder!

I knew I could ‘hook’ my girls. They are devouring every ‘fairy’ type book I could put on the shelves, but how to hook the boys?  That was more challenging.  Then I remembered back to when I must have been ten or eleven years old.  I would visit my step-sister, who was much older than me.  I remembered that she had this one book on Gnomes that fascinated me.  It was a whole world of tiny people.  I poured over that book for weeks, filling my head with wonder.  There was just enough ‘naughty’ talk about trolls and farting and other silly things to get my 5-10 year old boys hooked for good.  If I could get them to believe that it was possible that we have a gnome living in our library, I think I might be able to get them to set aside their doubt and ‘wonder’ with me!  I’m building a bibliography of excellent ‘fairy’ and ‘gnome’ books.  If you have a recommendation for one, please let me know in the comments section below.

Geodesic Domes


Here in Winnetka, we have an amazing endowment called the Winnetka Public Schools Foundation.  It encourages teachers to push beyond the ‘regular’ and ‘dream bigger!’  Teachers write proposals for projects that they would like to explore with their students.

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This is how our television studio was kickstarted fifteen years ago.  Last year I applied for a grant to explore Buckminster Fuller with my students.  I’ve always been fascinated with his work around geodesic domes, but I knew very little about him otherwise.  As part of my proposal, I laid out my plans to have students explore his work and life.


What I found was that there are very few if any, resources written at an elementary level about his life and work.  I ended up finding a half a dozen documentaries and books about him and his work, but none worked to share with my students.  So, I pieced together bits and parts of what I found online and introduced the man and his work to them.

My fourth graders had the ‘deepest’ dive into his work.  After our introduction, I had the students attempt to build a dome out of newspaper tubes rolled up tightly.  I found several different tutorials on ‘how to’ to this.  Having never done this myself, I was pretty anxious about attempting it during IDEA Lab, especially with parent helpers.  In a word, it was a failure.  We coded our long and short tubes with tape, but the ‘hub’ where the struts came together was less than ideal.  After nearly an hour of attempts with three different classes, we abandoned the project because the tubes were just not strong enough.  While I am a big believer in learning from mistakes and especially failure, I knew I needed to give the kids a chance to experience success.

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I immediately began researching PVC domes.  I saw lots and lots of different kits available.  The one that was both reasonably priced and looked simple enough for nine and ten-year-olds to build was created by Zip Tie Domes.  I was very eager to have the kids experience success. I ordered it online and in just a few days the kit arrived.  After opening the two boxes, I found easily identifiable parts and very clear instructions.  I was ready for the kids!screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-9-14-43-am

The kids were excited!  We broke down the failure from the week before and discussed what we learned from it.

“Newspaper tubes are not rigid enough to build a solid dome.”

“We needed some sort of better system for taping the struts together.  We each did it differently which did not hold it together well.”

“Some kind of ‘connector’ would be very good to help us hold it all together better.”

When they saw the PVC pipes and hubs, they couldn’t wait to get started.


Per the instructions, we began by laying out a perimeter and connecting to the hubs.  It took the kids a while to figure out how the zip ties worked, but soon they were pros.  Mistakes were easy to fix with a cable cutter.  Soon the first layer was ready to be lifted.  The next two classes went on to completely finish the construction.  They needed ladders to reach the upper levels and having several adults to help ‘persuade’ the pipes into the hubs was very helpful.  I have three fourth grade classes and it took every bit of the three hours we had to successfully complete the project.

They have LOVED having it in our library.  In fact, the whole school has enjoyed reading in it.

Top Ten STEAM Related Gift Ideas for 2016


Top Ten STEAM Related Gift Ideas for 2016

By popular demand, I’m compiling my list of top ten gift ideas to share with Hubbard Woods families.  Most of these items are tools your students have been introduced to in the IDEA Lab or will be fantastic extensions of the learning that has taken place at school.  Without further adew:


  1. Rigamajig Jr.  Rigamajig is literally my absolute favorite tool for inspiring imagination and creative play.  I recommend it to every single educator, especially those who are building a makerspace.  These kits are quite expensive, however. Rigamajig Jr. is the perfect solution for home use.  This kit, with nearly 200 pieces of high-quality wood and dense plastic, is compact enough to be taken to grandma’s house for vacation, and expansive enough that several kids can play together in your basement.  The finger tightened nut and bolts are just like the ones we have in the IDEA Lab, but this kit has a few unique pieces that we don’t have.  It is sure to make all ages happy!screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-16-41-am
  2. Osmo: Pizza Kitchen; Coding; Monster  OSMO’s tagline is ‘Play beyond the screen.’  OSMO was on the list last year as too, but this year they’ve developed several more amazing applications and add-ons that make this tool even more exciting.  

The three new additions are Pizza Shop, Coding, and Monster.

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-16-47-amIn the Pizza Shop, kids learn to cook up math and use their money skills.  The app lets kids run their own pizza shop: they cook pizzas to order and calculate change using toppings and money tiles. They can invest their ‘earnings’ and upgrade their shop as they bake their way toward becoming the ‘big cheese!’

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-16-54-amThe Coding set allows students to the program, by ‘snapping’ together code blocks.  It’s expansive enough to allow kids to work with one or two partners to solve various coding challenges.

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-17-01-amOSMO Monster is the last addition.  In this app, you get to meet MO.  He is a fun, fuzzy character that loves magic, dancing and creating. Kids can interact with MO using the OSMO creative set. Additional activities are constantly being developed, which makes OSMO a learning tool that keeps growing with your children.  It is suitable for all ages and some of the apps, like Masterpiece and Newton will ignite creativity in your oldest student and even parents!


3. Sphero Sprk+ With Sphero Sprk+ students can expand on the basic coding learned with apps like OSMO Coding while developing advanced problem-solving skills.  They can: program a painting, navigate a maze, mimic the solar system, swim across the water or have a dance party.  The only limit to what can be done with Sprk+ is your imagination.  These robots stand up to abuse.  They are waterproof, shatter ‘resistant’ and a boatload of fun for ALL ages.screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-17-16-am

4. Sphero BB8: is a Sphero with an attitude.  If you love STAR WARS, and who doesn’t, then this ‘…is the droid you are looking for!’  BB8 does everything a Sphero can do and more.  There are a ton of cool features like the ‘Force Band’ which allows you to control your droid by moving your arm and the ‘force.’  This droid has a personality.  It is fun to program but you can also put it in ‘patrol mode’ and let it explore all on its own.  There are tons more geeky features, but I’ll let you discover them on your own.  With the newest Star Wars movie coming out there will be new features added for sure!  screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-17-23-am

5.  Parrot Cargo Drone:  The Parrot Cargo Drone is part of the Parrot drone family.  This nimble little quadcopter is easily programmed and flown using the basic app.  If you want to pump up your skills a bit, you can program it in a variety of other apps like Tickle or Tynker where you can develop highly advanced programs.  


6.  You can even program multiple drones at the same time with these advanced coding apps.screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-17-51-amMakedo: Building Kit  If you’ve been to either of the Cardboard Challenges, you’ve seen Makedo in action.  screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-18-06-am

This year I’m super excited about the Space Pod they have released.  I just ordered one for the IDEA Lab.  This model of a space capsule has tons of dials buttons and colorful details that will fire any kid’s imagination.  Buy your favorite kid one of the basic kits, throw in the holiday cardboard boxes and you can count on endless creativity.  screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-18-16-am

One special item that they have also just released is their new cardboard cutter.  While the ‘saw’ they have is okay for ‘hacking’ away at large pieces of cardboard, their new tool allows for intricate cutting without having to hand over a razor knife to young kids.screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-18-22-am7.  Bloxels: Bloxels was on my list last year too.  This year they’ve made it even easier for KIDS to create their own video games.  It literally is as easy to build, by arranging the colored blocks, scan, in the app, and play.  For those who love finessing every detail of a character or background, this kit is perfect.  

Kids can also share and remix games with creators from all over the world using the free app and the ‘infinity wall!’screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-18-26-am

8.  Dot and Dash:  These two characters were on the list last year too.  While they haven’t come out with any ‘new’ applications, the ones that are out there are still worthy of note.screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-18-31-am

You can add the launcher and xylophone and you’ve got your own catapulting musical band!  These two are perfect for a family with multiple kids.  The youngest can program through drawing and simple block programming.  The older students can use advanced block coding and even the applications Tynker and Tickle to synchronize and control of multiple robots (like Sphero, BB8 or a Cargo Drone) at the same time!screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-18-36-am

9.  Hot Wheels:  This one is a bit retro, but a must have on any kid’s wish list.  I’ve been amazed at the creativity both boys and girls exhibit with Hot Wheels here in the IDEA Lab.  Give them a big box of track, loops and cars and your kids will be creating and remixing their fantastic creations throughout the cold, snowy winter!screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-18-41-am10.  Legos:  You can never have enough Legos.  I hear over and over again how much parents love our Lego wall and organizers.  screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-18-47-am

Do you want to help your kid be more creative with the Legos you already have?  The best thing to do is help organize them.  Research shows that breaking apart ‘sets’ and organizing by color and type helps develop creativity in kids.  Here are the sorters we use in the IDEA Lab.  I wish I had these when my kids were growing up.  Also, if you want to build your very own Lego wall at home, you can buy these Lego-like tiles and stick them to any surface or THESE.  screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-18-51-am

Imagine an old dining room table covered in these, or a whole wall in your playroom!  

I hope this list proves beneficial to those who are looking for some great gift ideas for their loved ones.  Happy Holidays!

Illinois School Library Media Association Annual Conference



It was wonderful to be able to ‘remotely’ participate in the 2016 Illinois School Library Media Association Annual Conference even though I was visiting my daughter at our first ever parent’s weekend at The University of Minnesota!  I was part of an amazing panel of educators who are on the cutting edge of makerspaces in libraries.


Kristen Mattson @DrKMattson, Erin Wyatt @ejdwyatt, and Pattie Fleser @pafleser and I gave an overview of our space and then took questions from the jam packed room in Tinley Park.

Most of the questions were about getting spaces started in a variety of settings and bringing teachers on board.  You can see some of the notes from the session HERE.


Sure wish I could have been there to see and hear these phenomenal educators and author.  I’m there for sure next year!

Thanks again for letting me be a part!


How to Make a Simple Homemade Stamp to Create Your Own Custom Stationery


I like the idea of sending thank you cards.  It wasn’t something that I grew up with doing as a young person, but my wife did.  It is now second nature.  I think it is pretty wonderful to get a hand written note from someone and so I try to send them as often as I can.  It’s easy now days to pick up a pack from the dollar store, but imagine how much more special the receiver feels when they know you personally made the card and took the time to send it.  In this post, I’m going to show you a very simple way to make your own personalized stationery for basically no cost.

I like 5″ x 7″ cards.  I sometimes print an image at Walgreens, glue it to the card and then find a quote that enhances it.  I’ve been wanting to try something different, so I decided to make my own stamp.

I began with a block of scrap lumber, approximately 4″ x 6″ in size.  I screwed a smaller block to the wood to give it a handle.

Next, I took a handful of rubberbands and created an interesting pattern.  The handle actually helps create different designs on the underside.


As usual, patterns and designs pop up that I didn’t see before test printing.  The star was a surprise!


I tried a few test prints and was very happy with the design.  I tweaked a couple of the rubber bands to enhance a few lines.

I used tempera paint that I had on hand and a foam brush to dab it on the underside of the stamp.  I found that I could actually make several ‘prints’ from one coating of paint.  In fact, neat effects evolved with the decreasing amount of  paint.  I also experimented with turning the stamp different directions to see what would emerge.


I received a package earlier in the day and didn’t want to simply recycle the packing material.


After unrolling, I decided to make my own wrapping paper with the packing material.  This was a lot of fun to try all sorts of different techniques.

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This was a simple project and I think I would love to try it with students.  We have tons of ‘scrap’ material left over from all sorts of projects.  Add some rubber bands and you’ve made an instant stamp!  It would be fun to see how students experiment lines and patterns as well.  This would be a neat holiday gift for students to make!


I know I would appreciate getting a card like this.  How about you?  Do you have any suggestions for how to make this activity even more fun?

Mr. Burleson Goes to Washington Part Three: SLJ Day Two and Meeting Special Folks!

She was so taken by the card that the kids made for her.

I’m going to combine the last two days into one installment.  Sunday began in a bit of a frazzled way.  I had planned on waking early and having plenty of time to practice my presentation for later that day.  Well, that didn’t happen.  In fact, I completely forgot to turn on the volume of my phone and woke up to a beautiful, sunny Sunday; three hours later than I wanted to!  So, I quickly got things together and rushed to the conference ballroom.  Once there, I was able to re-gather myself and work through my presentation notes a few times.

There was an excellent panel on what it means to be a ‘Future Ready Librarian.’ The presenter John Chastra of Every Library, share these awesome graphics that help communicate what it means to be ‘future ready.’

I was honored to be the final keynote speaker.  If you want, you can see my presentation here:

There were so many people to thank, and of course I needed to capture the moment in photos!

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After a nap, I headed out into DC on my scooter!  The first stop was the Smithsonian Gallery of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery.  It’s amazing how quickly you can cruise through a gallery on a knee scooter!  I had several of the security folks do a double take.  They initially wanted to scold me for bringing a scooter into the gallery, but then realized I needed it because of my knee.  I barely made it into the DC Public Library, in fact, I only had time to visit the main entrance and see the incredible art work that focused on MLK Jr.

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The exposed aggregate sidewalks and brick pavers took their toll on my knee and body.  I was exhausted and decided to stop and have dinner at a very cool Cuban themed restaurant called Cuba Libre.  It was an early night for me.  I had big plans for the next day!

Here are just SOME of the incredible books I brought home with me!

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The next morning I met my good friend Jim, who lives in Baltimore.  We headed to the Library of Congress where I was eager to meet the Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden.

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It probably sounds like hyperbole to say that meeting the Librarian of Congress was one of the biggest events of my life, but it is not.  We got there a few minutes early and were invited in to her main receiving room area.  My friend Jim and I struck up a conversation with the library of Congress photographer and her administrative staff.  Turned out that Dr. Hayden had spent the morning at the brand new Museum of African-American History and was running a few minutes late.  When she arrived, she greeted me with a giant hug and as we walked into her main office she clung to me like a mom or a grandmother would do.  We spent the next 45 minutes chatting about libraries, the award, the state of STEAM education in America and what’s next for school libraries.  She was an amazing listener.  I kept trying to pull the conversation back to her and her work and she turned it right back to me.  She was warm, inviting and kind.  I felt like she and I had been friends for years.  She briefly reflected on her time in Chicago, her work to renew the Library of Congress and her desire to continue to be on the cutting edge of what’s coming.  She actually invited me to be on an advisory board with her for bringing not just STEAM, but adding the ‘R’ for reading to the equation.  I immediately said, “YES!”

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I floated out of her office and could have probably carried myself home without the airplane.  My next stop was the Kaboom! headquarters.  Kaboom! is the company behind both Rigamajig and The Imagination Blocks.  I have been a HUGE fan of both for the last year and a half and Rigamajig even made it onto the cover of School Library Journal with me.  The young staff members at Kaboom! have been tremendous to work with over that time and I was eager to visit their unique and very cool workspace.  It did not disappoint!

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You can kind of see it in the image of me with my friend Jim and the Kaboom! staff, but the Rigamajig team made me an amazing award out of Rigamajig!

I totally love how this is done to look like a smile!  It sure did make me smile!

After a trip to the airport and balancing my suitcase, which now weighed over 50 pounds due to all the books that were in it, I hauled myself and my luggage through the terminal and flew home to Milwaukee.  It was an incredible experience, one that I will never forget.  I am incredibly grateful to my family for putting up with my insane schedule the last year and a half and to the Winnetka community.  If it were not for the constant support and encouragement from colleagues, parents, administration and most importantly, the students,  none of this could have happened. To all of them I offer a hearty THANK YOU!

And now, I’m back to reality.  I need to put my ‘librarian’ hat on and get back to work; there’s no resting on laurels here!

Mr. Burleson Goes to Washington Part Two: SLJ Day One


The first day of the Summit was fast and furious.  Panels and speakers and focus groups filled my mind with ideas, questions and excitement.  All of these were focused on leading toward greater advocacy and empowerment of librarians at all levels.  I can boil down the day with one quote:


After a brief nap, I was ready for the afternoon/evening.  There was a rooftop gathering where I was able to meet up with and finally get a photo of the two finalists for SLJ SLOTY and myself.  These two women, Laura Gardner and Annita Cellucci, knew each other from their library association and were two of the coolest people I’ve ever met!  They each are doing amazing work in their spaces.  It’s an honor to share the SLJ SLOTY with them!  I hope we can collaborate in the future.


I was able to meet for dinner with my college roommate and then was off on a moonlit tour of Washington, DC on an Old Town Trolley.


The air was crisp and cool, the moon was bright and the monuments were mesmerizing.  Here are just a few of my ‘impressions’ of DC.  I figured that the phone images were pretty ‘blown out’ so I would ‘make lemonade out of the lemons!’

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That’s a wrap on part two.