Last year when Garfield School District Re-2 transitioned to a 4-day school week, the Garfield County Libraries looked for a way to fill the gap that elementary students experienced on Fridays.The Libraries created The 5th Element in hopes that offering free educational programming on Fridays would benefit those children in New Castle, Silt, and Rifle. The Libraries then hired a consulting firm to assess the impact of The 5th Element on participants’ in-school behavior and performance. We sought to measure bigger-picture student gains in knowledge, attitudes and behaviors via in-school teacher surveys, parent surveys and observation reports from The 5th Element instructors. Analysis found that students did, in fact, show overall improvements in their skills, knowledge and attitude towards learning after participating in the program.
Because of last year’s successes and continued grant funding, the Garfield County Libraries will once again provide The 5th Element program throughout the school year, beginning in late October. The Libraries plan to offer over 200 programs and expand The 5th Element to include middle school students in Re-2 schools, as well as those attending the Grand Valley Middle School in Battlement Mesa. Garfield 16 School District also transitioned to a 4-day school week last year, and the Parachute Branch Library is excited host the program this year for middle school participants on Mondays. The Garfield County Libraries have hired the same consulting firm this year and hopes to see even more growth with the addition of new age groups and a new school district.
Another change to The 5th Element program this year is the refocus to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) concepts. STEAM-based curriculums are designed to help students develop critical 21st century skills and incite a love of learning. The most successful programs last year were ones that got the students out of their seats and engaged, such as ice cream making, rocket launching or creating a life-sized game of “Angry Birds”. Last year’s 5th Element instructors were limited to a particular subject each month, and Garfield County Libraries hopes this increased flexibility to STEAM concepts in the curriculum will allow instructors the opportunity to teach the types of lessons that not only excite students, but also the instructors themselves. Instructors will also have the opportunity to utilize the Garfield County Libraries’ TabLab, a traveling set of tablet devices and tablet accessories, into their lesson plans.
The 5th Element will include two-hour programs for middle school students, and one-hour programs for elementary school students. Each program is limited to 25 students, on a first-come, first-served basis. Parents are encouraged to pre-register for this program by calling the library branch or going online to www.gcpld.org.
This program was funded in part with a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services which administers the Library Services and Technology Act.
— Lo Pauwels is program / volunteer coordinator for the Garfield County Libraries.