"Does anyone know what an online database is? Let me give you a good analogy," said Jefferson Middle School librarian Julie Livengood to fifth-graders in Amy Tousley's Spanish class. "Who selects which books are the good ones to have in our library? Right! I do because I'm the librarian! Now, think about the Internet. Who determines which websites are good and which are bad? No one! There is no Internet librarian, but luckily there are collections of websites called databases that have been created by companies of experts. A database, like the one we will use today, is a collection of reliable and accurate information and is often a good place to start our research."
Mrs. Livengood went on to explain how to access an online database through the Jefferson Library online website using a specific example from their upcoming Spanish project. Mrs. Livengood and Mrs. Tousley collaborated to create an interdisciplinary unit that meshes Spanish, social studies, science, and English Language Arts and Technology. By exploring animals of South America, students used laptop computers to access Grolier's online encyclopedia to research a specific mammal that lives in South America. Their task was to locate information about a mammal's habitat and the class of mammals to which it belongs, record physical characteristics and behavioral characteristics, and use inference to determine how these characteristics and diet are impacted by habitat.
"I have the Emperor Tamarin from Peru," said Jefferson student Jack Arthurs. "I like learning this way because you actually get to research the answers yourself and learn more about things, like databases, so you can more easily find out the answers you are looking for. So far, I've found out that my mammal has a long tail compared to its body."
Jefferson Middle School fifth-grader Gavin Long works on his South American animal research using an online database with Library Media Specialist Julie Livengood in Amy Tousley’s Spanish class.
The teachers understand the importance of collaborating to help students better learn the information.
"It's so easy for students to learn in isolation by subject, but it is important for them to see that all subjects are interrelated and transferable. Part of the curriculum in Spanish is to learn about the countries of South America. Students love animals and may remember the information better when it is presented visually and through technology," said Mrs. Tousley.