Gratitude – Just say Thank You

IMG_0123-2It was hard going for explorers of the past. Just imagine the hardship they endured to find new ways to get spices and silk. Just hearing about the food they ate on board the ships that sailed the unknown parts is enough to make anyone reconsider – hard tack, moldy food and scurvy caused by lack of vitamin C. The promise of riches was enough to make sailors brave the hardship.

Today, explorers set off on a different sort of adventure. They do a different sort of work. While they may not have to eat hard tack or suffer from scurvy, they do apply themselves to their search. Whether a person finds the cure for a disease, finds a way to use solar power to power a school, creates a painting, writes a book, a song or a poem, that discovery or creation is their reward. It is also their property.

The ideas and words of people who created them are called Intellectual Property. Intellectual Property is protected by the law. That means that you cannot use the information and pictures you find without proper attribution. Sometimes you need to ask permission. Just like you wouldn’t use your friend’s phone without asking, you need to ask permission to use the product created by another person.

There are some exceptions. You can use a certain amount of a product for educational purposes. Copyright law is complicated, confusing and always changing. The rule of thumb is, if in doubt ask for permission.

Giving credit to the creator of the material you used to get your information is like saying thank you. I’m sure you have excellent manners. I’m sure you say thank you when someone feeds you a meal. I’m sure you say thank you when someone lets you take your turn. I’m sure you are a thankful person who likes to let people know how much you appreciate their effort. Citing your sources is your polite way of saying thank you to the person who helped you to know more.

“What is Citing Your Sources?” you may ask. It is telling where you got your information from and who is responsible for having created it.

An easy way to cite your sources is using the website Noodle Tools.

So each time you find some information that will help you on your search make sure you write down enough information to get back to the original information. Here are some of the things you will need:

The title of the book, magazine or web site

the person who created it

the publisher

the date

if you found it online, the URL

You want to know what standards you are covering by doing this?:

MSLA 4.20 Using a provided format, create correct citations for text and images.

MSLA 4.21 Adhere to the provisions of the school’s Acceptable Use Policy.

MSLA 4.22 Independently create correct citations for text and images used.

MSLA 4.23 With assistance begin to demonstrate understanding of copyright law, e.g., fair use and intellectual property rights.


Step Four – What are you looking for?

Let’s be honest, patrons don’t sponsor explorers to just go and wander around until they bump into something. People with money sponsor those who have a focus and know what they are looking for. So early explorers had to know why they wanted to take a journey if they wanted the supplies they would need.

Young explorer, look at your list of words you have developed, the list of things you believe are facts and the opinions you have. Just before you go out and explore there are two things you should do:

  1. Identify the information you are missing. What do you need to know to answer your great, big, wonderful question.
  2. Make a map, a web or diagram of your subject. Make sure you have a main subject and  supporting subjects. You can probably simply arrange the information you have to complete this. I hope, however, you will find you were missing something and are able to add it before the search is on!

You are almost ready to go!

Here are the standards you are covering:


MSLA 1.16 Identify pre-existing knowledge, as well as additional information necessary to solve the problem.

MSLA 2.13 Web, map, or diagram a main topic with sub-topics.



Dear Explorers,

You are looking for something. Why? Why do you want to know? What will you do with the things you learn?

The early explorers were looking for a way to make their food taste better. Their goals were:

  1. Find a quicker, safer way to get to the spices.
  2. Get the spices (and have better tasting food along the way)
  3. Sell those spices and get rich.
  4. Eat better tasting food.

It seems really complicated to those of us who can run out to the store and select spices from shelves of little bottles or cans. The early explorers risked life and limb to get cinnamon.

You, dear Explorer, probably don’t have such high stakes. Your future may not rest upon your findings. Yet it is lonely to have gained information about your passion and have no one to share it with. It is much more satisfying to share your knowledge and have people to share the thrill of discovery.

So what are you going to do with this new knowledge you have? Hide it in a cave? Don’t be silly.

There are so many ways of sharing your passion with the world. Here are simply a few things to make to get you thinking:

  • a video
  • a slideshow
  • a puppet show
  • a board game
  • a playground game
  • an app
  • a poster
  • a paper doll
  • a sculpture
  • a mobile
  • interview questions and interview with a leader in the field
  • an article for a magazine or journal
  • wallpaper for your computer
  • a song
  • a greeting card
  • a guide for a newbie
  • a party or event
  • a report to your boss about the state of….
  • an advertisement
  • a newspaper or magazine article

Before you start your exploration give it some thought. Write down the focus of your exploration and what you hope to do with that information.

Project Format Worksheet

Want to know what standards you are covering? Here they are:

Massachusetts School Library Association Standards:

1.5 With assistance, list the criteria for a research assignment.

1.6 Demonstrate overall understanding of the final product, e.g., “I need to create a multimedia presentation, poster, essay, etc.”

1.11 Understand the criteria for the research assignment.

1.12 Explain what the final product will look like.

Gathering Your Tools


No sailor goes out to sea without a rope. No pilot goes without a radar system. No driver of cars goes without a steering wheel. Travelers need their tools.

Dear Explorer,

You must gather your tools before you set out on this exciting journey of exploration.


You don’t know what tools to gather?

I encourage you to pause and think about what you are setting out to do. What information do you want to find? Christopher Columbus set out to find a quicker route to India. He ended up bumping into “The New World” instead. You can think of that as a “happy accident” if you like, but he didn’t find what he was looking for.

On your journey you will find many things that are interesting. This is a happy thing. Yet remember your purpose. Set a specific goal and make sure you stay on track to achieve it.

So today you are going to prepare your tools.

Step One

Look at your questions. Circle the important words in the questions. Now think of the types of information you will need to have to answer the question. Make a list of information you will need to find your answers.

For example, if you want to study the history of the toothbrush you can make a list like this one:

definition of a toothbrush

origins of the toothbrush

how the toothbrush has changed over time

the pros and cons of toothbrushes

toothbrush maintainence

current trends in toothbrush manufacture

Step Two

Get another piece of paper and  draw a line down the middle. At the top of one column write “Opinions” and label the other column “Things I think are facts”. Now brainstorm everything you already know or opinions you have. Get it on the page. Don’t worry. If you think of something later you can still add it to this list.

Step Three

Brainstorm all the words you can think of that relate to your topic. Focus on those words you circled.

You will be looking for words to act as keywords for your search. Early explorers used the stars. They knew they were off course when the stars didn’t line up. The words you use as you search are like the stars – they help you move toward the object of your search.

So think of all the aspects of your search. What words come up for you? What other topics come up when you think of your topic?

Now go to Tag Galaxy and type in some of those words you came up with. Did you think of any of the tags that come up? Click on one you would like to explore and you will see more tags. Do any of them apply to your question? Write down any discoveries.

Questions and keywords

Want to know what Standards you are covering? Read on, Dear Explorer

MSLA 1.10 Identify existing knowledge as well as additional information necessary to solve the problem.

MSLA 1.16 Identify pre-existing knowledge, as well as additional information necessary to solve the problem.

MSLA 2.11 Identify key words to find information on a topic.

MSLA 2.16 With assistance, select and modify keywords and phrases for information seeking purposes.

So you want to be an explorer….

Explorers of the past didn’t have the Internet to guide them. They used the signs in nature and learned how to read them and use them to their purpose. The North Star was the tool that sailors used to navigate their way across oceans and led escaped slaves to freedom. It is my hope that you will find new ways of gathering information and using it to create something meaningful for you. I hope this will teach you tools that will act as the North Star for you as you learn to navigate the sometimes wondrous and sometimes frightful world of information.

Welcome aboard, sailor.

First Steps

The first step in finding out about something you are passionate about is figuring out what you want to know. Many of us don’t do this. We type a word into google and sit back and take whatever google gives us.

I wonder whether we would do that in a restaurant. Imagine, you go into the restaurant and say “Lunch” and then sit back and see what they bring you. We might not be so very pleased with the results.

Sometimes typing in “cute kitten” and seeing those sweet faces may be enough. However, if you want to know how to take care of a cat or you want to be a vet that is not going to be enough.

Much of the time you want to be in charge of what you learn. You also want to look intelligent when you are telling others about what you know. If this is you the next step is clear.

Information Seeking

Step One

Choose your topic.

Now you probably just thought “Dolphins. I want to learn about dolphins.”

Really? A one word topic?

Now refine that topic (one word).

To do this you will create a question.

What? (I heard you. You know you thought it.)

Why do I have to make a question?
The research question will help you narrow down the topic and help you develop a focus for your research. Here are some examples:

How do dolphins use their environment to find food?

How do dolphins communicate with each other?

How are dolphins different in different parts of the world?
Just how smart are dolphins?

Your turn:

  1. Think of something you have a great interest in.
  2. Make a list of at least 20 things you might like to know about that subject.
  3. Choose one or two to consider.

Now you are ready for the next step!


Celebrate your step. Maybe we should….hey look at that cute kitty on the internet. LOL.

(If you want to know what standards you are applying when doing this lesson look below.)

Massachusetts School Library Association Standards:

1.5 With assistance, list the criteria for a research assignment.

1.7 Use the teacher selected essential question to develop a topic focus, e.g., “why do leaves turn different colors in the fall?”

1.9 As a class, develop a student driven essential question.

1.13 Select a topic from a range of possibilities.

1.14 Use the teacher provided essential question to develop a topic focus, or develop a self-selected essential question.