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Berkshire Middle School (Birmingham Public Schools)

Berkshire School Spotlight Berkshire School Spotlight Berkshire Wildcats

MeL Spotlight Educators from Berkshire Middle School:

  • Mr. James Stearns, 6th grade Social Studies
  • Ms. Barbara Babich, 6th grade Social Studies
  • Ms. Candace Greer-Jefferson, Media Specialist
  • Ms. Laura Garbutt, Tech Support Specialist
  • Mr. Jason Clinkscale, Principal

Background: Mr. Stearns, a 6th grade Social Studies teacher at Berkshire Middle School, is always encouraging his students to challenge themselves.  For every unit worked on in class, he asks his students to come up with some sort of challenge project; it could be anything from organization of notes to a special presentation to the class.  This past May, one of his students, Tiffany, decided her challenge was to introduce other students to MeL and the great research tools available.  She had just completed a unit about the Silk Road and used Britannica School to research the unit.  This challenge project eventually evolved into our first MeL K-12 pilot program.

The pilot program: Ultimately, the goal of the pilot program was to create a lesson plan or additional material that any teacher or media specialist in Michigan could use to introduce students to MeL resources.   After a few weeks of planning with Berkshire staff, a team from MeL spent Friday, May 13, 2016 with all of Berkshire’s 6th grade students.  Each hour, we met with the combined social studies classes in the media center and presented MeL, Britannica School, and Research in Context to the students. Every student had an iPad and they were able to work through scavenger hunts that exposed them to the two databases.

What we learned: First, do not try to introduce more than one database in a class period.  Each database has a wealth of information and tools; a 50 minute class period is just too short for students to really explore all the features in more than one database.  Second, make sure to explain what a database is and the purpose of it before showing one. Finally, it is very helpful to the students if the scavenger hunt is related to a unit they just finished learning about.

Material we created:

It is recommended to use one class period to introduce either Britannica School or Research in Context and the next class period to work on a related scavenger hunt.  The other database can be presented in the same way at a different time, either the next week or later in the year.

In Conclusion: A very special thank you to the staff and students at Berkshire for the invitation to present MeL and for challenging students to think outside the box.  Thank you Mr. Clinkscale for supporting MeL and allowing staff and students to participate in our pilot program. And finally, thank you to Deb Renee Biggs (MeL Coordinator, Library of Michigan), Judy Hauser (Oakland Schools), and Gale staff Janet Witalek and Nicole Licovali, all of which assisted with presenting to the students!

Congratulations to Berkshire Middle School staff and 6th grade students for being showcased in MeL’s K-12 Spotlight!

Lisa Kelley, Rochester Community Schools

Lisa KelleyTitle: Media Specialist/K-12 Media Curriculum Coordinator/Information Literacy Rochester Community Schools LogoSpecialist

School building: University Hills Elementary

Principal: Amy Grande

School District: Rochester Community Schools

Brief bio:

Ms. Kelley is the current president-elect of Michigan Association for Media in Education (MAME) and K-12 Media Curriculum Coordinator for Rochester Community Schools. In her K-12 role, she teaches library/information literacy skills for K-5, as well as provides professional development on technology integration to her teaching colleagues and community members.

How do you use MeL in K-12?:

MeL is very useful in providing databases to help students learn how to do research effectively with the direction of a qualified instructor. In particular, in personal interest or “Genius Hour” applications, where the topics are extremely varied; the eBooks and articles are invaluable for extending the resources of our school libraries. 

After showing the classroom teachers the wonders of BookFlix and the paired texts, they could not live without it! It brings books to life for our younger students and helps to create a passion for reading. Another way that we use MeL is for empowering students to explore literature in a personalized way using Novelist K-8 to find their next read or to explore topics of interest through fiction.

One of the best ways that I have found to integrate the use of this resource into our students’ lives is to show its value and applications to their parents. I frequently use the LearningExpress Library as a portal to meet the needs of community members, who then share this resource with others. It helps to make this comprehensive resource ( one that parents naturally turn to when attempting to help their students at home.

What is your favorite MeL resource and why?

I could not choose just one favorite; all of the resources are incredible! The improvements to the Gale resources have made them invaluable. Britannica is a great way for students to learn to find vetted information. BookFlix is a constant favorite with the students, many of whom choose to go there if they have any free time on the computers. LearningExpress Library is a valuable resource for our upper level students for anything from career exploration to college or professional entrance exam practice. Another favorite is the eBook collection; in a time where budgets are strained or non-existent, this is a powerful way to extend the resources of the school library in a way that is very familiar and comfortable for our students.

In your opinion, why is MeL an important tool for K-12?

We, in Michigan, are so fortunate to have MeL as a resource for our students. In an age of digital access for knowledge acquisition this resource is well organized, has readily available support and is varied enough to meet the needs of many. Having a resource that grows with our students helps them to understand and value the role of the library in knowledge aggregation and dissemination whether that library be in the school, online or in their city center. MeL, with the assistance of certified school librarians, helps to create lifelong learners who are effective digital citizens. According to our principal, Amy Grande, “MeL offers wonderful resources that support and enhance student learning; helping to grow student learning and understanding in multiple ways.”

5th grade students totally engaged in creating websites to showcase their research on ecosystems. One frequently used resource was MeL.




Students working together using a visible thinking routine (See, Think, Wonder) to explore “The Problem We All Live With” by Norman Rockwell as part of a civil rights movement study. This was followed up by doing research on MeL about the civil rights movement. Students were thrilled to find a video of Ruby Bridges with President Obama, looking at this painting and discussing what it meant to both him and her. “It all of the sudden made it a real thing, with real people, with real feelings...I now know that this could have happened to someone I know, not just someone back in time. This is part of who we are.”(Juliette).


What is your recommendation to teachers new to MeL for incorporating these resources into their classroom?

My very first recommendation to any educator is to make friends with that educator in the media center (school library media specialist) and collaborate on ways to integrate technological resources into your practice. In the absence of that powerful resource, I would recommend that you explore the website and pay particular attention to the Help sections. A lot of great ideas can found right there! Choose one lesson which will benefit from the addition of researched information. Let the kids explore. You would be amazed at what they will figure out and can teach you!


Thank you, Lisa Kelley, Principal Amy Grande, and Rochester Community Schools for supporting MeL in K-12 and congratulations on being showcased in MeL’s K-12 Spotlight!

Ashlie O’Connor, Alpena Montmorency Alcona Educational Service District

Ashlie O'ConnorTitle: Instructional Technology and Data Specialist

Alpena-Monmorecy-Alcona Educational Service District

Association: Alpena  Montmorency Alcona Educational Service District

Brief bio:

Ms. O’Connor is entering her tenth year in education.  Prior to her current position as an Instructional Technology and Data Specialist, she taught Social Studies and Physical Education at the secondary level.  She is passionate about integrating technology into classrooms. She states, “By utilizing data and technology to help drive educational decisions, we are helping transform education to meet students needs.”

How do you use MeL in K-12?

In working with schools and teachers, I want to help schools discover resources that connect to curriculum and are applicable in everyday use. does exactly that with a variety of tools and resources that teachers of any grade level can use with their classrooms.

What is your favorite MeL resource and why?

I really enjoy using the career explorations (LearningExpress Library) with secondary students to create conversations about what they envision their future profession to be.  I also feel the exams and guides help support the student career preparation.

In your opinion, why is MeL an important tool for K-12?

MeL is incredibly dynamic with all the components it has to offer.  From primary sources, to electronic databases, career explorations and free professional development, it is a great electronic tool for both teachers and students.

What is your recommendation to teachers new to MeL for incorporating these resources into their classroom?

Go slow to go fast.  MeL has so much to offer, so choose one database and become familiar with all of its features. Once you feel ready to explore another database, make sure to continue the conversation with what you have already learned and develop ideas on how you can utilize each in your classroom.

Thank you, Ashlie O’Connor and Alpena  Montmorency Alcona Educational Service District for supporting MeL in K-12 and congratulations on being showcased in MeL’s K-12 Spotlight!