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This is Zoinks the Answer Alien:

Every week, he asks my students a new trivia question.  Students must use library resources to answer the question.  I have links to library resources on my website and they can use the library catalog and books as well.  Some of our online resources are Grolier, Kids InfoBits, Word Central, Encyclopedia Britannica, and Fact Monster.  Once the kids find their answer, they write their name, class, answer, and source on a slip of paper and "feed" it to Zoinks.   At the end of the week, I count up answers and choose winners out of a basket (1 winner for every 10 answers) The winners get to choose a book from my book prize box.  

Some trivia questions I have used are: 

  • what do koalas eat?
  • what year was Martin Luther King Jr. born?
  • what is the capital of Iceland?

I came up with Zoinks as a way to encourage students to use the resources offered through the library.  I want them to think of all the great resources we have available as options for research, rather than immediately going to Google.  At the K-5 level, it's really hard for kids to differentiate between reliable and unreliable websites they find via Google and the results they find are generally not at their reading levels.  Hopefully, the more comfortable the kids are using our other online resources, the more they'll use them on their own.

Kids can answer the Zoinks question during center time in library class, first thing in the morning, or whenever they have free time and are allowed to come down to the library.  Here is his center set-up on the laptop cart:

**update - 2/19/12**
Zoinks has been around for about 7 weeks now and I have definitely seen an improvement in a research skills!  The kids (2nd-5th) zip right on to my resources page and get where they need to be, find their answers, and cite their source in just a few minutes.

He continues to be a big hit!