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Bloomington librarian receives national award for work teaching students about Russia's invasion of Ukraine

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Posted at 10:49 PM, Jan 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-23 17:16:43-05

BLOOMINGTON — A Bloomington librarian is receiving national recognition for her work in helping students understand what is happening in Ukraine.

Julie Marie Frye works at Childs Elementary School and says after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, her students came to her with questions.

"Our students are so curious about the world, not just our local community, but our global community," Frye said. "We have some students with heritage and actually who have lived in Russia, as well as Ukraine, so we had a lot of people concerned about what was going on."

Frye worked with students, their families and colleagues to create an exhibit focused on Ukraine culture.

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Librarian Julie Marie Frye sketches buildings in Ukraine

In addition to seeing paintings, clothing and other items, students had the opportunity to make various crafts and express their feelings.

"[It was] a storytelling space ... writing our thoughts about this artwork and writing our thoughts about what Zelenskyy is saying about what leadership really looks like, and our thoughts about how many people have lost their lives," Frye said.

One student made a watercolor painting that shows blue and yellow tears, representing the colors in Ukraine's flag.

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Because Childs School is part of the International Baccalaureate school system, students were able to connect with Ukrainian students who were attending schools around the world.

"We were able to actually share our students' letters, their sunflowers, their paintings, all kinds of things," Frye said.

They even got a response from a sister school in Poland, who wrote "it is wonderful to see how empathy, care and compassion are coming to life at your school in Indiana."

Nearly a year later, Frye says the topic is still emotional for her students in kindergarten through 6th grade. Some items they created still hang up in the library.

"I may sit here with a PhD and academic training and knowledge, but really my best inspiration and the I think the best inspiration in the world comes from young people who care and who take principled action in the world and know that their hands and their minds and their hearts really can change the world," Frye said. "Sometimes we're laughing about things and sometimes we're crying about things. But really, they're the change makers and I have a lot of hope about tomorrow because of who they are."

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Students work on craft projects related to Ukraine

Three of Frye's colleagues nominated her for the I Love My Librarian Award.

Frye was one of 10 winners nationwide out of more than 1,500 nominations.

She won a $5,000 cash prize and a $750 travel stipend to attend the library association’s LibLearnX event this weekend in New Orleans.

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