Westmoreland libraries to blend core standards into summer programs

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Four Westmoreland County libraries will be the first in the region to blend the newly adopted Pennsylvania Core Standards into summer reading programming.

Librarians and volunteers from libraries in Murrysville, North Huntington, Mt. Pleasant and Trafford met with coordinators from the Math and Science Collaborative last week to learn more about the standards and how they can enhance the library's programs.

“This will help students outside of school know how to implement this type of reading into their lives in the summer months,” said Jamie Falo, director at Murrysville Community Library. “It's a great opportunity to bring common core into our library.”

The Pennsylvania Core Standards were adopted in September and are the state's version of the national Common Core Standards, which have been adopted by 45 states nationwide. The standards change the focus of core subjects in all grade levels.

The standards cause a fundamental shift in how math and science are taught, said Nancy Bunt, program director for the collaborative.

“There are some real instructional challenges in PA Core,” Bunt said. “To meet those challenges, the more people who are helping, the more ways students are coming in contact with these new expectations, the more likely they are to achieve them.”

The Math and Science Collaborative, a program founded at the Carnegie Science Center and based at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, works with schools in 11 southwestern Pennsylvania counties to provide support to teach math and science to children and young adults. Bunt said her group has pitched the idea of blending the standards with summer reading programs to the Allegheny County Library association and has a proposal pending to extend the training to all Westmoreland County libraries.

The group brought its training to Murrysville Community Library through Charles Greenburg, a member of the library board who previously was a PPG representative on the collaborative. The program teaches librarians to help students look at nonfiction stories based in science and math through outside activities.

Traditionally, library summer reading programs have heavily focused on fiction. PA Core Standards in literacy require students to focus more on nonfiction than before. That's a struggle for children sometimes, said Carol Siefken, coordinator of youth services at Murrysville Community Library.

“It's important that the libraries operate within the (state) standards,” Siefken said. “We're the bridge with the community in the summer. Every single person is important to us.”

Diana Falk, director at Norwin Public Library, said she hopes summer reading can become more connected with what is going on in school classrooms.

“Our goal in this partnership is to see if we can sort of raise the game for summer reading,” Falk said. “It's a fun time for the kids, and I hope we will be able to build a stronger bridge by incorporating science and math.”

Franklin Regional Superintendent Jamie Piraino is thrilled with the program.

“I think it's absolutely wonderful that our community partner has engaged in a systematic initiative to support the work of our school district,” Piraino said. “The more people that are thinking about our students and how they're interfacing with texts, the better. The more we work together, the stronger our efforts will be as a community and a school district.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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