For immediate release | April 23, 2013

Scott Middle School educators win AASL Collaborative School Library Award

CHICAGO – The “Make a Difference” research project team from Scott Middle School in Lincoln, Neb., is the 2013 recipient of the American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Collaborative School Library Award. Sponsored by Highsmith, the $2,500 AASL Collaborative School Library Award recognizes and encourages collaboration and partnerships between school librarians and teachers in meeting goals outlined in “Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programsthrough joint planning of a program, unit or event in support of the curriculum and using school library resources.

The team – consisting of Jean Hellwege, school librarian, and sixth-grade teachers Kim Ridder, Debbie Beran and Eric Nelson – sought to improve an existing research project in the sixth-grade reading and writing curriculum, which teaches the research process and how to write a research paper. They also wanted to engage students in something meaningful. Through face-to-face meetings and online collaboration, they created the “Make a Difference” research project. The project asks students to choose a social issue to research with the essential question "What can I do to make a difference about it?"

The educators, wanting the students to develop the guiding question, taught the writing questions lessons by having the students brainstorm possible questions in table groups before sharing with the whole class. Armed with the questions to answer, the students completed the entire research portion of the project using online tools. This allowed the project team to give formative feedback throughout the process, and the students were able to peer evaluate and self-assess. When it came time to write the research paper, the classroom teachers guided the students in their writing, and the school librarian assessed the citations.

The students were so passionate about their topics that they asked to hold a “Make a Difference” fair and invited the community to learn about the issues they researched and what could be done to help. In addition, the school created a monthly “Make a Difference Award,” giving staff and students the opportunity to nominate community members who make a difference in Lincoln by being kind, serving others or meet a need. The project has also been introduced at other middle schools in Lincoln.

“From my first read of all the applications, the ‘Make a Difference Research’ collaborative 6th grade project struck a chord with me,” said Harriet LaPointe, awards committee chair. “This effort went beyond your typical research project to researching and learning in an authentic way. Through their research, the students embodied the key components of AASL’s learning standards – think, create, share and grow.”

The “Make a Difference” research project team and other AASL award recipients will be honored at AASL's Awards Luncheon during the 2013 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. The luncheon will be held Monday, July 1. Ticket information can be found on the AASL website at

The American Association of School Librarians,, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library field.


Jennifer R Habley

Manager, Web Communications

American Association of School Librarians (AASL)

800-545-2433 ext.4383