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Fifth-grade students at Williamson Middle School got out their figurative magnifying glasses and stepped into the role of literary detective in the Library — thanks to Librarian Olivia Schauf leading them through a sleuthing exercise using the Dewey Decimal System.

Students received a set of numbers in the Dewey system and were sent off into the stacks to determine what subject matter grouped the books together. By looking at titles, subject matter and theme, they reviewed six books in their set and came up with conclusions as to what the overarching bridge between them all might have been.

"The reason why we’re doing this is to activate their computational thinking — and what they’re doing is visualizing a data set and then finding the theme within that data set," Mrs. Schauf said. "So why this is important for fifth graders is so that they can really come to the conclusions themselves that each of the sections of Dewey are different, and they are different because they have a theme."

The inspiration for this particular exercise came from Mrs. Shauf’s participation in the Smart Start Grant Program’s 2023-2024 cohort. 

The Program is a partnership between Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES and the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, and encourages K-8 teachers in the program to take aspects of the state’s Computer Science and Digital Fluency Standards and apply them to the classroom.

"That Grant really focuses on integrating the computer science and digital fluency standards into content areas," Mrs. Schauf said. "Here at Williamson, we’re trying to be proactive with those standards and understand how they really fit into our specific content areas, and this is one of the ways we can do that. … And computational thinking is working through that kind of analysis and understanding how to do that independently, instead of just having that section handed to them and telling them that this is what the section of Dewey is and why."

There’s another added benefit to students, on top of the independence that comes with learning about how nonfiction books are stored and categorized, and how to navigate a library’s shelves by themselves: They might find something new that they truly enjoy! 

"One of the best things about my job is getting kids excited about books and reading — that includes nonfiction books, which sometimes get overlooked," Mrs. Schauf said. "This is one of the ways we can really expose them to different things that they might not actually gravitate towards."


Learn more and apply to the Smart Start Grant Program

Are you (or someone you know) a K-8 teacher interested in participating in the Smart Start Grant Program? Head to to get more information on how to apply.