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  • Writer's pictureThe Mischievous Librarian

(Original Post March 23, 2020)

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Literacy Initiative 2020

Blacklock's Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego Event has hit a whole new level of library mischief and we are loving every minute of it!

In the spirit of creating a love of reading culture in our school this year, we have used the Carmen Sandiego Event to encourage on and offline reading, fiction and non-fiction texts, and shared literacy experiences. We took time to honour identity and diversity while integrating the whole experience through a fine arts lens.

I tried to mimic the themes of the old computer game/ TV show from the '80s and '90s. Recently, Netflix has resurrected Carmen and given her a "Robinhood" queen of thieves persona. While I love the artistry of the reboot, I prefer her old, mischievous ways.

I created our official website for the staff and students using

Event Preparation

Lady Di and I decided there would be six locations where Carmen and her gang of crooks would hide with the button blanket.

Each location needed:

  • A picture book

  • 1 -2 artefacts (to touch and hold)

  • Related dances, music, videos, artwork, and webpages for students to explore

  • A crook

  • An arrest video

A great deal of time was spent choosing the perfect picture books. It was important to us to have books that would be accessible for all of our grades (K - 5) while also honouring identity and diversity. We hoped siblings and families would talk about their personal connections and reflections to the picture books since everyone was reading the same books for the event.

We chose the following books:

  • Location #1: England: Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick

  • Location #2: Paraguay: Ada's Violin by Susan Hood

  • Location #3: Malawi: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

  • Location #4: Syria: Stepping Stones by Margriet Ruurs

  • Location #5: Australia: Circle by Jeanne Baker

  • Location #6: Russia: The Littlest Matryoshka by Corinne Demas Bliss

The Cast

The crooks' names were based on the original computer game and TV show with the exception of Eartha Brute's twin, Be​rtha. Lady Di wrote all of the biographies and the staff were in charge of finding their costumes.

The taping and head shots were filmed Friday after school. (If that's not teacher dedication, I don't know what is!)

Friday's agenda:

  • 2 Head shots: normal and jail (green screen)

  • Arrest Videos (green screen)

  • Burglary Scenes with button blanket (outside, hallway)

  • Custodial Scenes with button blanket and Mr. Pickles (gym)

  • Mr. Pickles Cameo (Green screen/hallway)

  • Detective Scenes (hallway)

My husband, Grade 3 and Music teacher, played Vic the Slick.

Here are his headshots:

Evidence Boxes

Blacklock's classes are grouped in 3 pods (K/1 Pod, 2/3 Pod, and 4/5 Pod) so we purchased three file boxes for each pod from The boxes were emptied and filled with items for each new location by a very supportive and helpful parent volunteer, Mrs. H.

Each box contained:

  • Picture Book

  • File Folder with QR Codes (enough for each student in a class)

  • 1 - 2 Artifacts

  • Reminder Notice from Library (re: reading extra books for clues)

  • ​Evidence Tag and QR Code for the website (on the lid)

Download PDF • 52KB

Extra Clues

We wanted to encourage students to read books about different geographical locations and from various international authors.

​We created a display of "Extra Clues Books" inside the library. Depending on the length of the book, students received 1 - 4 clues about Carmen Sandiego's final destination.

Extra Clues Sign
Download DOCX • 211KB

Hallway Decor

Luckily, I have access to a display case and a huge empty wall just outside the library.

The display case housed the crooks' biographies along with some fun decorations!

The empty wall held the giant blank map, the "Classes Guessing Board," and Mr. Pickles' Adventures Map. The giant blank map kept track of locations were the crooks were captured. The country's name and a picture of the crook in jail were pinned to the map.


  • Shared Reading Experiences: As it turns out, it was not just the students and families who enjoyed discussing the picture books! My heart burst with happiness as I listened to the staff discussing their personal responses to Finding Winnie in the staffroom at lunch time. It proves that adults need opportunities to share reflections about literature as much as children do.

  • Geography Skills: I witnessed parents and other family members pointing out specific places on Mr. Pickles' Adventure Map to the students. Connections to vacations, relatives overseas, and world events were made as people pointed out places on the world map. I even heard one of our Reading with Seniors volunteers pointing out to his reading buddy the places where he was stationed during his military career.

  • World Events: Students learned more about the places that have been in the news recently. Australia became more than just a country that was suffering from wildfires and a renewed interest in Syrian refugees prevented their plight from being forgotten by our school community.

  • Research Skills: It was exciting to walk by classrooms and eavesdrop on the learning that was taking place. I watched teachers help students find places on Google Earth, create class lists and eliminate possible places, and encourage students to search for additional information about artists and authors. One teacher even signed out an "Extra Clues Non-Fiction Book" to read aloud to her partner as a bedtime story as she wanted to know more about Machu Picchu.

  • Connecting with the Global Community: During our second week, a school in Salmon Arm, BC joined our pursuit of Carmen and her thugs. I added a short welcome video for the students and they are working through the books and clues right alongside us. We are hoping to set up Skype sessions between the two schools eventually.

  • Writer's pictureThe Mischievous Librarian

(Original Post: December 1, 2020)

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The financial struggle is real.

Especially when it comes to public school library funding.

Then, add a little pandemic and you have yourself a serious lack of moola for your library.

No Scholastic Book Fair = $0

No Used Book Sales = $0

Cancelled PAC events = $0

​Ugh. Silver Lining…? There sure is. Let me show you!

My First Read-A-Thon

The read-a-thon was birthed from a book room request. One of my side jobs is keeping the Intermediate book room updated after being given a district grant in 2017 to overhaul the entire collection. Since then, Lady Mac and I have been diligently adding 1-2 new book sets each year.

Enter pandemic.

With no extra money, I went to my staff to see what we could do to purchase a few books to complete two sets of novels for the book room. My plight was heard loud and clear by a senior staff member, who proposed a read-a-thon fundraiser. Her hope was that not only would the fundraiser fund the book room sets, and anything left over could go towards library books.

Download DOCX • 17KB

Tip: Set a Reasonable Monetary Goal

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the incomes and budgets of many of our families so we decided to set our goal at $1000. This may seem like a lot and it is. However, our calculations were based on each student raising $5.00, which was deemed possible by the admin and staff.

Tip: Recruit the Students

The most powerful part of this fundraiser was student involvement and ownership. Two intermediate divisions took on the advertising tasks which included iMovie Trailers, posters, and ballot boxes. The iMovie trailers were viewed by whole school during library blocks and were available for community viewing once uploaded to the school’s Youtube account. Posters were hung all over the school and featured reminders of dates, events, and prizes.

Brochures and reading logs were sent home with each student along with an email blasted out to all the families outlining the events.

We chatted a lot about owning the fundraising and discovering what each of us could do rather than only asking for money. Even the Kindergarteners brainstormed ideas such as raking leaves, picking up toys in playrooms, and playing with baby siblings while parents cooked dinner.

The students enjoyed watching the Money Thermometer slowly rise as donations came in via cash donations and School Cash Online Accounts. The fruit of their labour truly was a sight to behold!

Read-A-Thon Events

The read-a-thon took on the this year's library theme, Blacklock in Wonderland. The staff came up with daily events for the Wonderland Read-A-Thon Week:

Mad Hatter Monday

Wear a hat while reading

Topsy Turvy Tuesday

Read in odd and strange places or positions

Wonderland Wednesday

​My weekly school-wide podcast of Alice in Wonderland took on theatrical "one woman show" element for this special Wednesday.

Thankful Thursday

Bring a book from home to read that you are thankful for

Flashlight Friday:

Reading in the dark by flashlight

​Classes took part in each event at some point during the day.

It was so much fun!

  • Writer's pictureThe Mischievous Librarian

(Original Post: March 24, 2019)

​I had the pleasure of creating a culminating activity for Division 1 and 3’s Natural Resources Unit just before spring break. I decided to expand upon an idea that was presented at the BCTLA Conference last October 19, 2018 in Richmond, BC… Space Mining!

I wanted to combine the students’ learning surrounding mining and rock formations along with the coding practice we had been learning in library class.


Introducing Mars Base Alpha

​I began with creating videos to introduce the activity and team roles. I am still a novice at creating videos using screencasts and green screens so the videos are very basic. Students formed teams, signed up for roles, and came up with team names. It was very neat to see the students think deeply about which role suited them the best and would benefit their team the most.

Creating the Surface of Mars​

Lady D (my spunky library technician and I used painters tape to create a grid on the library floor.


Do not use cheap dollar store tape. BIG mistake! I ended taping down the original dollar store tape because it wouldn’t sick to the carpet.


Just use FROGTAPE!

Rock specimens were placed in the left hand corners of the grid squares thanks to our incredible Grade 5 teacher, Queen Troll. This allowed room for students to walk without accidentally kicking the specimens. There were a few fun life signs in the squares: Martian rubber duckies, graffiti art, a skull, water, and a plant.

Tip: Healthy Dose of Fear

We used the skull as a reminder that the surface of Mars is a dangerous environment. It was also a reminder to respect the “Evacuation Count Down” (a.k.a. space mining is over & go back to class) or you’ll be left on the surface of the moon indefinitely!

Tip: Lighting

We realized our iPads do not have flashes during the dry run. Oops! To provide enough light to take pictures, we opened the electric shutters a little bit, projected a Youtube video of Mars on the screen, hung Christmas lights, and placed battery-operated tea lights on the grid corners. We are planning to invest in headlamps for next year!

Authorized Access Only Tunnel

The tunnel was definitely an example of the indulgence I am afforded by my principal, Aussie Gal, and Lady D. Using rolling bookshelves, a rolling whiteboard, and 2 huge blue tarps we created a tunnel from the library to the gym. The Technical Engineers and the Astronauts used the tunnel; it was completely unnecessary, but so much fun to use!

Tip: Nails and Butterfly/Binder Clips

I used nails to attach the tarps to the bulletin boards and my amazing administration assistant, Ms. Gate Keeper, suggested using binder clips to hold the tarps together. Brilliant!

NASA Mars Base Alpha Workstation

Our Fine Arts School has large black curtains in the gym that became the perfect backdrops for our NASA Mars Base Alpha Workstation. We were a little short on tables, so two teams worked at single table with a divider in the middle of the table with the teams' names on it. The Mapping Engineers had a clipboard with the blank grid of the library floor, pencils, erasers, pencil crayons, and NASA ID badges. The Master Coders had a clipboard, a stack of paper, erasers, pencils, and NASA ID badges.

A table with rock and mineral books for reference along with a table of astronaut uniforms were set up to the side of the workstations. A NASA sign and a Coding Example poster adorn the walls.

Tip: Recycling

We realized quickly that the students needed to a place to throw out their used code papers to avoid confusions. Have a big paper recycling bin handy!

Space Mining

The Mapping Engineers examined the blank grid and chose one square to be photograph by the astronaut. The Master Coder wrote a code to take the astronaut from the starting square to the square that was to be photographed. The Master Coder gave the iPad and the written code to the Technical Engineer, who transported the iPad and code to the Astronaut. The Astronaut waited in the tunnel with fellow Astronauts.

The Astronaut walked the code, knelt down, and used the iPad camera function to photograph the desired square.

The Astronaut returned the equipment to the Technical Engineer, who delivered the equipment to the NASA workstation.

The Mapping Engineers viewed the image on the iPad, drew the image in the square on the blank grid. Another square was then chosen and another code written. The Technical Engineer erased the previous image before returning the iPad and new code to the astronaut.

Tip: Use 2 iPads

While the astronaut was using one iPad, a second iPad was being prepped for the next mission by the Mapping Engineers and Master Coder. This kept everyone constantly working and reduced waiting time.

It was a success!

As with any first attempt, there were a few bumps in the road. However, the students were super focussed for 2 hours, codes improved throughout the activity, rocks were correctly identified, and everyone work as a team.

As for yours truly, I ended the activity happily exhausted!

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