Building the Epic Castle

It’s been an engineering creation zone in the library lately.

3D Magna Tiles

3D Magna Tiles

The MagnaTiles are the most popular item in our Makespace area. Sometimes huge castles are built using every tile available.


Today a group of students documented the process for building one of their MagnaTile castles, using the Lego MovieMaker app on the iPad.  I received the iPad last spring after one of my Donor’s Choose projects was funded. 


This Lego app simplifies the process for making stop motion movies.  At recess all I had to do was open the app, hand over the iPad to the students and get out of the way.

 epic castle

They quickly set up the photography station and worked together to build this castle. In about 20 minutes they had their castle built and movie created.

Here is the building of the “Epic Castle.”

Now I’m wondering what other kinds of stop motion movies will be made in the coming weeks!

It’s Edublog Award Time!

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It’s that time again! Nominations for the Edublog Awards are open for the 11th year!

The purpose of the Edublog Awards, also known as the Eddies, is promote and celebrate the educational values of social media. One of the benefits of educational blogging is to give students an authentic audience for their ideas, writing and projects. Blogging gives them the opportunity to become educated global learners, connected and ready for the 21st century world. I urge you to participate in celebrating those educators and students you respect in the social media world. Share your nominations with the world!

The process is really simplified this year. Simply fill in this nomination form and you are done. If you also have a blog, you can publish your results, but it’s not required this year. Get the word out!

*Nominations will close at 11.59 PM EST USA on November 24th

It’s never easy to make a choice because there are so many fabulous blogs and teachers to choose from. My nominations all stem from how their posts, tweets, or influence made a difference in how or what I taught this year.

Best Individual Blog –

Best Group Blog-

Best Class Blog-

Best Ed Tech-

Best Teacher Blog –

Best Library Blog –

Most Influential Blog Post –

Best Individual Tweeter –!/coolcatteacher

Best Hashtag -#comments4kids

Best Free Web Tool –

Best Use of Media –

Best Open PD –

Best Mobile App – Goodreads

Lifetime Achievement – Vicki Davis

Now it’s your turn! Give a voice to your favorites and make a nomination today! *Nominations will close at 11.59 PM EST USA on November 24th

Makerspace Mondays

It’s new! It’s fun! It’s creative!


What are Makerspace Mondays? Every Monday during the lunch recess students can come to the library and participate in a Makerspace event. Makerspace Mondays are all about dreaming, creating and inventing. The activities focus on  Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art and Math.  Think Legos, K’Nex, Cardboard creations, origami, LED light crafts, 3D MagnaTiles.

In September my Makerspace Monday Magic Donor’s Choose project was fully funded. Within days, the materials began arriving and the fun began. Each Monday, I include the topic for the makerspace event on the morning announcements. Then I post an update on the Makerspace Monday bulletin board with a photo of what we are doing.

makerspace weeklyy poster

The topic rotates from week to week. It is introduced on Monday, and then the students can experiment with the materials all week when the library is open at recess. Sometimes, as in the case of the Duct Tape Roses, the activity is not offered to all grades at all times because it’s not appropriate for the age range of all of my students. I either modify the project or choose a completely different one. The younger students are completely enamored by the Legos and K’Nex right now, so I chose not to offer duct tape crafts to them this week.


Where do I get my ideas? Mostly through posts from my PLN on Facebook, Twitter and on Pinterest. I can lose hours sifting through ideas for lessons, centers and makerspace ideas on Pinterest. Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher on Twitter, recently published an article Essential Information on Maker Movement on her blog explaining what the Makerspace Movement is all about. I’ve been reading about the idea online for the last year or so, but thought if I didn’t have a 3D printer,  a laser cutter or other expensive equipment, then it wouldn’t really be a “makerspace”. I don’t have a regular classroom, so I couldn’t figure out how Genius Hour could fit with my circumstances. Then I attended the Puget Sound ESD Teacher Librarian Summit, where one of the sessions was on Make Room for a Maker Space. In a video presentation, Sylvia Martinez, coauthor of Invent to Learn, explained that that libraries are perfect places for makerspaces. Students can come to a safe learning environment and have the freedom to create and experiment. Between her explanation and the hands-on projects we did with Conn McQuinn and others, I was convinced. The rest is history.

ad6c3853-c6e2-40f0-808e-8d9facc3c061Is it working? Absolutely! Sometimes I have to limit the number of students who come on Mondays now or it would be too crazy and crowded. I worried about this at first, but then I watched the authentic collaboration that happened every Tuesday. Once a few children learn, they all teach each other during the rest of the week. I’m also getting lots of feedback from students like, “What’s next week Mrs. Hembree” or “That was really fun!” or “I can’t wait to try this at home!” They are continuously asking me to take a photo of their creation and post it on our closed library Haiku Learning page or on this blog.

One STREAM area I have neglected so far has been Technology, not because I didn’t want to incorporate technology, but rather because I’ve had to figure out some logistics in making the technology available to students during recess. The entire month of December is going to be devoted to technology, and especially coding. I’ll be the first person to admit that I know absolutely nothing about coding.  The other thing I’ve ever done is minute adjustments with HTML code on this blog. Other that that, coding is a language that is a complete mystery to me. Luckily, the Hour of Code organization has lots of resources to help out.  Between their resources, what the kids already know and some parent help, I know we’ll be fine.

Here are some examples of the Makerspace Mondays we have held so far this year.

Feather bookmarks1

Paper feather bookmarks

cup challenge

Plastic cup Tower Challenge

cardboard structures

cardboard square structures

3D Magna Tiles

3D Magna Tiles


Everyone loves the Legos!


Duct tape roses

What makerspace activities have you added to your library or classroom? Leave a comment and let me know!

Thank you for your service


Today is Veteran’s Day.

This national holiday is a day honoring all veteran of the armed services. A veteran is a person who has served in the armed forces: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy or Marines either in peace time or during war or conflicts.

This year we honored some guest veterans at an all school assembly. The students gave them handmade cards, and we sang songs and thanked each person numerous times for serving their country.

14 crop assembly

Veterans recognized at school assembly. Photo by Julie Hembree

As they gathered at the front of the school, my mind wandered off. Looking at these men standing in front of the school children, I wondered who they were and what were their stories.

I thought in honor of Veteran’s Day, I would share one of their stories. Like most veterans, his story isn’t written down in a book or featured in a magazine. Yet, he has great stories to tell if you sit down with him to listen and learn. My father-in-law, Mr. Buell Hembree was one of the men standing in front of our gym. He’s been to every Veteran’s Day assembly since I’ve been at our school and is proud to represent the veterans, and especially the submariners of World War II. He served on the USS Pogy in the south Pacific during the Second World War.  The USS Pogy was a submarine. When you think of a submarine, you might think of one of the modern ones that are bigger than two football fields.


However, in those days, submarines were small and cramped. There wasn’t much room and it was easy to feel claustrophobic in such tight quarters sailing underneath the surface of the ocean. He’s told us that two men could stretch out their arms and touch either side of the submarine. It was THAT small.  His bed was a pull out bunk. The crazy part was that it was above two torpedoes. No fancy sleeping quarters in those days!

buell and mike

Buell Hembree explains what it was like to be on the USS Pogy.Photo by Julie Hembree

Despite the danger of serving on a submarine, Mr. Hembree loved his work on the USS Pogy and the years he spent in the USS Navy. He came home safely and spent the remainder of his working years designing interiors of planes for Boeing.

Buell and Joe Hembree get ready to fly to Washington, DC for the WWII honor flight.

Buell and Joe Hembree get ready to fly to Washington, DC for the WWII honor flight. Photo by Julie Hembree

In October, he was flown with 28 other World War II veterans ages 92 to 96 on a free Honor Flight to Washington, DC, our nation’s capital where they could visit and reflect on the memorials build in their honor. His son and my husband, Joe, was his guardian and helped him and the other gentlemen on the trip to ensure they would have the best experience possible. For Veteran’s Day, here are a few of his photos from his honor flight.

October Honor Flight gathered at Seatac, photo by Joe Hembree

October Honor Flight gathered at SeaTac. Photo by Joe Hembree

Veterans honored at the World War ii memorial in Washington,DC. Ohoto by Joe Hembree

Veterans honored at the World War II memorial in Washington,DC. Photo by Joe Hembree

Buell Hembree at the President Roosevelt Memorial. Photo by Joe Hembree

Buell Hembree at the President Roosevelt Memorial. Photo by Joe Hembree


Veterans are greeted at SeaTac on their return home. Photo by Margaret Howell


Each veteran was given a handmade Quilt of Valor to keep.Photo by Julie Hembree


One of the Quilt of Valor volunteers signs Buell Hembree’s quilt.Photo by Julie Hembree

  Today, tomorrow or anytime in the future, I hope when you see a veteran, you will stop and thank them for their service to our country. These women and men have made huge sacrifices for us and deserve our thanks. “Thank you for your service” means so much to so many. If you know someone in your own family, talk to him or her and find out their stories. They will be glad you care.


November is Picture Book Month



November is Picture Book Month and once again the Bulldog Reader Blog is a Picture Book Ambassador. Picture books are the most important books written. Why? Because they help children start their love for reading. Think back to when you were young and reading with a parent, family member or maybe an older brother or sister. What were you reading together? I bet it was a picture book. One of my earliest reading memories is sitting with my grandmother as she read Go, Dog, Go to me. I loved the photo of the dog party up in the tree and wanted to be in the tree with my own crazy hat.


To support the importance of the picture book, we are celebrating them in the Bulldog Library and throughout the month of November. Each grade will be learning something new about picture books and the school will be filled with photos of students holding their favorite books. You can celebrate at home of course too. Visit the Picture Book Month website where you can read posts written by the 2014 Picture Book Champions.


What is your favorite picture book? Check back soon to see some staff and student favorites. In the meantime, please leave us a comment about your favorite picture book and why you like it.

Books Shipped to Africa

Look what we sent in the mail!

2014 shipment 1

On Wednesday we sent our first shipment of books to our partner schools in Africa! Four boxes of books began their journey from our school to Ghana, Lesotho, and South Africa. For the past few weeks we have done fundraisers to raise enough money to pay the postage for these four books to books.



By the end of October, we raised over $350! That’s enough to send books overseas.

2014 fundraising poster

Then our students signed each book and make cards to insert into each box. In the past, our Books to Africa was only for students in grades 3-5, but this year it has expanded to all grades. Anyone can come to our meetings on Tuesdays and participate.

2014 books and cards

We have been working with these schools for the past two years. We send books to Mrs. Adei in Akosombo, Ghana, Mr. Malakane in Lesotho, Mrs. Dunstone  and Mrs. Ragophala in South Africa. Sometimes people ask me why I this project. There are lots of reasons, and you can read the history of this project here, and here, and here, and here. However, the ultimate reason is that I believe that all children deserve books and the only way that can happen is if we help.

2014 be the change

I think it is also important for us to learn from each other.  I hope to visit some of our partner schools next summer. I want to make this trip a learning trip. With this blog, I hope we can open up conversation between the students at our partner schools and ourselves. What do we want to learn from each other? What are you curious about? What do you want to know? What books to do you love to read?

I hope you will leave a comment and let us know. To leave a comment, press on the conversation balloon next to the title of this post. That will open a comment box. Type what you want to say, fill in the requested information, and push post comment. I moderated all posts to make sure they are appropriate for our blog.

Just Say No to Bullying


What do orange cookies, an enormous Green Giant statue sporting an orange toga, and Ellen DeGeneres wearing orange on national TV have in common? These are all ways people have celebrated Unity Day, a national event developed by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center to show support for students who are bullied. This year, students, schools, organizations, businesses, and communities across the country will wear orange in support of Unity Day on Wednesday, Oct. 22.


This includes our Bulldog Readers! We will be showing our support by wearing orange at school on Unity Day on Wednesday.


Everyone can take a step toward ending bullying, which is why this year’s theme The End of Bullying Begins with Me is so powerful.

“Unity Day is a great time to send an orange message of solidarity against bullying,” said Paula Goldberg, PACER Center’s executive director. “We encourage everyone to come together in schools, communities, and online to unite against bullying. When we stand together, no one has to stand alone.”

Besides wearing orange, we will be reading bully prevention stories and handing out special bookmarks in the library.


There will be a special display of books for students to check out as well. Can’t stop by? Here is a list of wonderful books you can find at your local library or bookstore. One book I will definitely be reading this week is The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig.


Trudy Ludwig is a Pacific Northwest author who wrote her first book My Secret Bully after her own daughter was bullied by her friends. Visit Trudy Ludwig’s website for more information.

“Choose Kindness” is part of Disney ABC Television Group’s efforts to create a bullying prevention campaign to encourage kids and parents around the country to help put an end to bullying by choosing kindness. Club Penguin has teamed with 14-year-old Alex Angelo, host of Radio Disney’s “Saturday Night Party” with Alex Angelo (Saturdays, 8:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. PT), who is a big supporter of the bullying prevention cause. Watch Alex’s video as he shares the message to “Be Heard” and stand up against bullying.

*All photos and portions of the text of this blog post came from the official National Bullying Prevention Center press release. When you visit their website, you will see lots more information including stories, videos, resources, and ways you can become involved.


How does wearing orange help prevent bullying?

What anti-bully or choose kindness books are your favorite?

Leave a comment and let us know!

We Love Bookfairs!

Do you know that if you read for 14.2 minutes per day, you will be exposed to 1,146,000 words per year? That’s a LOT of words!
Reading every day builds a stronger foundation for success in school and in life. That’s why I always have a Bookfair!

It was so terrific to see so many students and families stop by the Bookfair during before conference week! Our library profit from the fair was $1500. Wow! That’s the best we have done in many years! That money will be used to purchase new books for our library.

If you weren’t able to come to the Bookfair in person, we have an online fair available too. It will be available until October 20th.
You can visit

Thank you again for supporting our library!