Buzzy’s Book Club


Beth White, University of South Carolina, Elementary Education,

Buffy Murphy, Irmo Elementary School Reading Coach,

How can we best support a vision of building community for growing empathetic readers, writers and human beings? As a PDS team at Irmo Elementary School, we knew that a shared text could engage students and teachers and afford time for dialogic talk.

With the recommendation of a colleague, we implemented a Book-of-the-Month structure and named it Buzzy’s Book Club after the IES mascot. Fariña and Kotch (2014) remind us “…that books were (are) a vehicle for conveying important messages through rich and beautiful language, strong moral themes, and a rhythm and timbre that bonded the community.” This journey began with a thoughtful selection of texts. The first was A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts.

Each teacher received a wrapped package with the book and an envelope that contained a letter. Teachers were charged to open the letter and package with their classes. The response was overwhelming.

An excerpt from the letter:

Dear Class,

The book we have selected to kick off Buzzy’s Book Club is one that was new to us, but packs a powerful message. Ruben learns an important lesson in this book: doing the right thing is not always easy. We hope you will enjoy reading A Bike Like Sergio’s together as a class and discussing the story. We know your classroom community will interpret this book in your own way, and we look forward to hearing some of those conversations and the insights you gain through this experience.

PS- … At a time when our plates and hands are full, we hope this fills your heart “fuller”… These books were selected very intentionally and with a purpose for our community. Please find a moment to slow down the pace just a little to enjoy a read aloud and have sincere discussion with your students. May this bring you together even more…may it unite our school community in a way that we, too, feel led to go out and do the right thing, even when it is hard.

At the NAPDS conference in Florida, the IES team was inspired by a presentation on schoolwide seminars. Using a seminar format, Buzzy’s Book Club continued with lyrics  from Michael Jackson’s song “Heal the World”. Students identified ways to “make a little space, make it a better place” as they named their own commitment to heal the world.

The school year concluded with What Do You Do with a Chance? by Kobi Yamada, a text that teaches the main character that amazing things can happen when one takes chances.

Teachers named book club and seminar as “critical incidents” that shaped their own learning. This exceeded the expectations of our intended goal. Shared texts shifted classroom instruction and engagement across content areas.

This schoolwide book club initiative provided a springboard for common language, deep synthesis and analysis, relevant and authentic discussion, and empowered citizens, tall and small, across our school community. Buzzy’s Book Club is here to stay, as it truly has created a buzz all throughout our Irmo Elementary hive!


Fariña, C. & Kotch, L. (2014). A School Leader’s Guide to Excellence: Collaborating our way to better schools. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

The Secrets of Moore’s Branch


Connie Hodge, Eastern Kentucky University-Corbin Campus,

Mary Lamar, Eastern Kentucky University-Corbin Campus,

Using the elements of nature to inspire children to learn creates an interest that is difficult to duplicate in the classroom.  Nature provides a real life laboratory for learning.  That was the educational opportunity created as a result of the Moore’s Branch that flows beside Corbin Middle School in Corbin, Kentucky.  Real life, hands-on activities stimulated seventh grade students in Mrs. TeNeal Rice, Mrs. Coreen Rougeux, and Mrs. Latisha Bryant’s science classrooms at Corbin Middle School to inquire, investigate, initiate higher order thinking, and be engaged in the scientific study of a wide array of water related experiments.

Under the direction of Mrs. Sharon Ball, Mrs. Judy Smith, Mrs. Mary Lamar, and Dr. Connie Hodge, instructors at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU), pre-service teachers worked with the middle school students in order to use hands-on, environmental learning and be exposed to experiences in order to learn about the local environment. The pre-service teachers are part of the Clinical Apprenticeship for Preparing Teachers (CAPT) program, a clinical model grant from the Council of Postsecondary Education (CPE).  This program places pre-service teachers in the middle school for an entire year of clinical placement.

The middle grades and pre-service teachers introduced the project by explaining that Moore’s Branch flows beside of the school and feeds into the Lynn Camp Creek that flows into the Laurel River and eventually into the Cumberland River.  They provided students with a history of the area and the ever-changing part that Moore’s Branch provided to the community.  Through the use of a series of questions, the teachers asked the students to brainstorm and identify “secrets” that could be found in this body of water.  In their cooperative learning groups, students identified different topics (i.e. effects of erosion, pH of water, water temperature variance, insects (life cycle), agricultural effects wildlife, etc.).

The NGSS science standard-MS-LS2-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem was targeted and the middle school and university pre-service teachers utilized the 5E Learning Cycle during the course of the project.  The 5E model provided an inquiry-based process so that students could construct their knowledge through a sequence of learning experiences (National Institute of Health, n.d.).  The components of the model lead students through this constructivist approach by using the five E’s (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate).

The students collected water samples, both upstream and downstream, in order to test the water to evaluate water quality.  These samples were tested for pH, temperature, conductivity, oxygen level, and bacteria.  Students visually inspected the stream bank for erosion, water clarity, and aquatic life.  The students then used their experiences to develop projects about water systems, plant and animal life, and a history of the area.

With the assistance of the classroom and university pre-service teachers, the middle grades students researched and documented their findings in a poster display.  Parents and members of the local community were invited to observe the “Mysteries of Moore’s Branch.”  This event provided the students an opportunity to discuss their research.


How does the 5E instructional model promote active, collaborate, inquiry-based learning? National Institute of Health (NIH): Doing science:  The process of scientific inquiry.  Retrieved October 26, 2017, from

National Research Council. (2012). A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas. Washington DC: The National Academies Press.

NGSS Lead States, 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For states, by states. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Mutual Benefits: A Service-Learning Project for Authentic PDS Partnerships


Christina Kaniu, Worcester State University, or

Hunter Hoobler, Worcester State University,

Erin Dobson, Tatnuck Magnet School, Worcester Public Schools,

The Professional Development Schools (PDS) partnerships between Worcester State University (WSU) and the Worcester Public School District create a community where reciprocal benefits are tangible. One example is evident within the elementary education introductory course at WSU. Enrolled students work with Tatnuck Magnet School, a PDS, to develop service-learning projects that not only benefit the school community but also provide WSU students with a chance to apply what they learn in a hands-on setting. These mutual benefits of service-learning are well known. An effective service-learning project is “an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and reflects on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility” (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996, p.222).

Tatnuck Magnet School plays a pivotal part in the training of WSU’s elementary education teacher candidates. Through the service-learning project, teacher candidates learn about issues that can arise in an urban school and explore potential solutions through critical thinking and problem solving. After considerable initial research on Tatnuck’s demographics, current initiatives, mission, and other relevant elements of the surrounding community, the class visits the school where Dr. Erin Dobson, its principal, provides an overview of Tatnuck, discusses particular needs and issues, and answers any remaining questions. In small groups, the WSU students use what they learn to develop proposals that outline an existing problem, their project idea or solution, potential outcomes, necessary resources, a timeline, etc. After the proposals are reviewed and approved, the WSU groups use the remainder of the semester to implement their projects at Tatnuck. A variety of projects have been completed. In spring of 2016, a group individually packaged 300 children’s books for Tatnuck students to take home. Each package included a note to parents about the importance of reading at home and promoted Tatnuck’s motto, “The most important 20 minutes of your day … Read with your child!” Other projects have included painting murals to help beautify the over 100-year-old building, redesigning its playground, writing books with first graders, and discussing career and school choices with sixth grade students.

The benefits of this project are truly mutual. As Dr. Erin Dobson suggests, “Tatnuck is so fortunate to participate in this service-learning experience with WSU students each semester. The college students sometimes create projects that benefit our urban school students in ways that we might not have otherwise thought about.” WSU teacher candidates see the learning benefits as well. One student said, “I liked going to Tatnuck because it was a real-life experience that could be connected to what we were learning in class.” Another student noted, “The kids were so happy to see us and being able to teach them new things and be a role model was amazing. I also now have first hand experience with the issues that face schools.” The PDS partnership projects have presented extraordinary opportunities for all involved.


Bringle, R. G., & Hatcher, J. A. (1996). Implementing service learning in higher education. The Journal of Higher Education, 67(2). Retrieved from