Walking with the Washingtons


As a  lifelong learner, I think it is important for educators to continually challenge themselves by seeking out new (and unique) learning  opportunities.

I have just returned from a wonderful week at Mount Vernon, where I was accepted into their fabulous George Washington Teachers Institute Summer Residential Program.  In addition to being treated like guests of Mr. and Lady Washington, we participated in an exceptional week of multimodal education.








Each day had a theme:

  • Welcome to the History of the Washingtons
  • George Washington’s Early Years
  • Washington and the American Revolution
  • Washington and the Exemplary Farm
  • Setting Forth a Nation:  The Constitution and Presidency
  • Washington’s Legacy


and the agenda was packed full of hands-on activities, lectures from early American history experts, field trips,private tours, and living historical interpretations. We were immersed in the colonial time perioFB_20150914_08_33_31_Saved_Pictured, and it was completely A-W-E-S-O-M-E (can you tell I am excited?). I mean, how cool is it to have full access to  the grounds of Mount Vernon, and sit on the mansion’s piazza with amazing educators watching the sunrise (or the moon rise) over the Potomac, speculating what the Washingtons thought about as they enjoyed the natural beauty?



I attended week 3, and dedicated educators from Arkansas, Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Ohio were the invited guests.  Each of our trips was paid for by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association Regent from that state, and we stayed in the ladies’ quarters. One requirement of participation was that we must present the program to other educators, which I plan to do at my MCPS School Library Media Program professional day on August 19, 2015, and again at the Maryland Association of School Librarians annual conference on October 16, 2015.

WP_20150731_19_42_14_ProWhether you apply to this summer program, or one of the many others around the United States, I highly recommend taking advantage of your extended break by participating in a summer residential program!



To view pictures from the week, click here.

To view resources and my MASL presentation, click here.

Guest Post: On Digital Citizenship

Guest Post: On Digital Citizenship

This post appeared on The Media Specialist’s Guide to the Internet on July 31, 2015.

Our 21st Century libraries are the perfect place to explore, and what better way to practice digital citizenship than by connecting with others around the world!

Common Sense Media’s vast website is chock-full of resources related to kids, tweens, teens, parents, and media. Their Digital Literacy and Citizenship educational resources and curriculum are well written, aligned with the Common Core State Standards, and they are kid, tween, and teen friendly.  Their Power of Words, Pause and Think Online are great videos to share with elementary school students, and Oversharing: Think Before You Post is perfect for tweens and teens.

One way to incorporate the Digital Citizenship curriculum and to honor the Digital Citizenship pledge is to connect with other schools via Google Hangout or Skype, and practice what they have learned in a fun way.   By celebrating various literature-inspired holidays with other schools within your district, the United States, or worldwide, elementary students can  hone their 21st Century communication skills.

In September, we celebrate courage, creativity, and collaboration with International Dot Day, We read books about art and taking risks, and share dot-inspired art with other schools.

In October, we celebrate Read for the Record and collaborate with other schools to share the book of the year.  Also in October is Digital Citizenship Week – the perfect time to teach this topic, and practice new skills like communicating kindly with someone else online.

In March we celebrate  World Read Aloud Day where my students connect with other classrooms around the United States to share information about each other’s state and read aloud to one another. Mo Willem’s Elephant and Piggie books are perfect books for Gerald, and the other, Piggie, Older students can the younger grades – one school can read the part of read two-part poems such as Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman  or read a Readers’ Theater version of a book, such as Judy Schachner’s  Skippyjon Jones- Lost in Spice, dividing the parts between the two schools.

Another favorite holiday I celebrate with my students Poem in Your Pocket Day.  This year, after reading a few examples of list poems, we collaboratively created list poems, using Google Hangout, and typing together on Google Drive as our students created and dictated the lines of the poems.

As students go farther and farther into their exploration of cyberspace, powerful digital citizenship lessons such as these will serve them well.

My collection of Digital Citizenship resources can be found here, or check out Julie’s blog!

Melissa McDonald is the School Library Media Specialist at Flower Hill Elementary School in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and is the author of the blog, The Creative Librarian – Adventures in School Librarianship.