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At last week’s Hopewell Borough council meeting, Michelle Hamilton’s third grade class at Hopewell Elementary School (HES) asked permission to install 2 of their 3 “Little Free Libraries” on Borough property — one at the train station and the other outside of Gazebo Park at the kiosk. The third library will be on school property on the exterior of the building.

This project came about from a measuring unit in math. “When I get to this unit I like to engage the students in real-world situations whenever I can,” said Ms. Hamilton. “I like these situations to be not only the math standards that need to be covered but also other curricular areas as well as the engineering design process.”

Using the Little Free Libraries’s website for reference and, with the help of Mr. Alexander, a former 5th grade teacher at HES, the students created blueprints to scale and made a prototypes out of poster-board for each of the little libraries. The students also collected data about sizes of books and bookshelves and where other children spend time in the community to determine where they should be located.
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Students Sofia Swindell, Megan D’Allesandro, Olivia Isaacson, Justin Jamieson, Toby Lear, and Joshua Hanan presented the project before the council, each taking a turn explaining various parts of the project showing that the lessons far exceeded a simple math lesson.

“For me, it’s important that students understand and are part of all the steps needed to see a project come to fruition. I also try to include outside or community help whenever I can,” explained Ms. Hamilton. “In this case we needed to ask permission from the town council so the students had to learn about our local government and how it’s run (which is part of our third grade social studies curriculum) before we started thinking about what we wanted to say. My students were learning how to write essays using claims, evidence and reasoning so we used that when writing our piece for the town council.”

The students explained that the little libraries will be helpful, even though there is a public library and a bookstore in town. “These little libraries don’t have any late fees and you don’t need a library car and you can go visit them any time of day or night because they are never closed. You also don’t need to buy the books,” explained one of the students. “The difference between these little libraries and our town library is that with these libraries you take a book and give a book. We wanted to extend the excitement for reading and literacy as well.”

The class anticipates installing the libraries by the end of spring and will maintain the libraries until they graduate from HES, at which time the responsibility will be handed over to another of Ms. Hamilton’s classes.

“Ms. Hamilton’s little free libraries project is a wonderful example of how HES teachers provide hands-on and relevant STEM-related experiences to our students,” said HES Principal David Friedrich to MercerMe. “I could not be more proud of Mrs. Hamilton and her students for this exciting contribution to the Borough of Hopewell. My sincere thanks to Mayor Anzano and the other members of the council for their genuine support of this initiative.”

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Mary Galioto
Mary Galioto is the founder, publisher and editor of MercerMe. Originally from Brooklyn, Mary has progressively moved deeper and deeper into New Jersey, settling in the heart of the state: Mercer County. Formerly the author of an embarrassingly informal blog, Mary is a lifelong writer and asker of questions and was even mentioned, albeit briefly, in the New York Times and Washington Post. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from SUNY Binghamton and a Juris Doctorate from Seton Hall Law School. In her free time, Mary fills her life with excessive self-reflection, creative endeavors, and photographing mushrooms. Mary also works as the PR Coordinator at the Hopewell Valley Arts Council, serves on the volunteer Board of Trustees of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT), holds a seat on the Hopewell Borough Board of Health, and is a member of the Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance.

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