Mary Cerullo and “City Fish, Country Fish” at Beals, Jonesport, and Pemetic

IRW kicked off our spring program tour at Beals Elementary with science writer and curiosity facilitator, Mary Cerullo. As we arrived to set up, the students were busy bringing their wonderful projects into the gym for display. Their excitement and joy for sharing was palpable. The whole school got involved in a local beach cleanup and turned their found trash into beautiful sea creature sculptures, demonstrating both the need for education on proper disposal and the creative use of discarded materials. The youngest students were doing their part with posters proclaiming, “Don’t throw trash in the ocean!”

Besides the sculptures, the kids had conducted tons of inquiry-based research on a variety of fish, discovering the differences of “City Fish” and “Country Fish.”

In her workshops, Mary got everyone thinking like scientists and asking good questions:
“What would you ask a sea creature?”
“I want to ask a dolphin, ‘Why do you rescue humans?’” (2nd grader)
“What would you ask an underwater photographer?”
“How scary is it being that close to a shark?” (5/6th grader)

Students at Beals have been visiting the Downeast Institute (DEI) every week researching how clams grow in various substrates. Mary was very impressed and told them they were doing “real science.” She even got to see their work on a tour of the DEI facility afterward.

We’re looking forward to hearing the results of the 7th/8th grade acidification experiment on local shells. Will their results help inform their substrate testing at DEI?

At Jonesport Elementary School on March 2, our visit coincided with, “Read Across America Day.” Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Cindy Lou Who and the Grinch! We saw many other Dr. Seuss characters throughout the day, including several Cat in the Hats, a red fish and a blue fish and a few Loraxes. It made for a very colorful audience during the all-school presentation!

When a photo came up onscreen of a coral related to sea anemones, one youngster asked, “Is it a sunflower under the water?” Another young man knew that a lionfish was venomous. In a fishing community like Jonesport, it’s not surprising to find that many of them have picked up a bloodworm or could easily identify cod and flounder. Mary delighted in their knowledge.

Third through sixth graders were wide eyed listening to Mary’s tales of octopi encounters. Apparently, they can be just as clever and cantankerous as ‘Hank’ in Finding Dory! Mary shared many cool facts with these kids. She then asked them while signing their books, “What cool fact will you share with your parents when you get home?” They certainly were absorbing the information because they answered with:
“That they can change to be bumpy.”
“That they can lay at least 10,000 eggs!”
“That the blue ringed ones are poisonous.”
“That they get bored.”
And one young man pointed out that their ink defense is, “better than pepper spray.”

Artwork and ocean-related projects decked the hallway walls, and students had participated in serious discussions about ocean pollution in their community and what they could do about it. With photos of a local wharf displaying different trash, the kids did an “I Spy” activity asking: What doesn’t belong? How did it get there? What can we do about it?

Their action steps included creating educational posters to persuade local fishermen and women to dispose of their boat trash properly.

The upper grades also created a mural inspired by “City Fish, Country Fish,” that adorned the wall of their classroom. Along the edges of the mural were index card facts about the fish depicted as well as nutritional facts and recipes. Adorned in chef’s hats they served up a stunning display of taste testers for Mary and the IRW crew that included smoked salmon, baked stuffed haddock, sardines in mustard, bacon wrapped scallops and more. It was delicious!

The next day at Pemetic Elementary School in Southwest Harbor, Mary was warmly greeted by students in the library. The library’s bulletin board was decorated with fish artwork, venn diagrams related to city fish and country fish, and compare and contrast projects.

Students in Grades K – 2 participated in workshops with Mary, and it seemed they had as much to tell Mary about the ocean and its creatures as she had to tell them!

Not only were the students so impressively knowledgeable, but the teachers really helped them make the connections between what they were learning about researching and writing from their teachers in the classroom and what Mary, as the real live author, did in creating her books. Carol, the kindergarten teacher,  reminds her students that “Non-Fiction = Non Fake.” They even knew about Endpapers & Vignettes!
The kindergarten students also had great alternate names for Mary’s revised edition of City Fish, Country Fish:
“How to Explore the Deep”
“Looking Under the Sea”
“Caretakers of the Ocean”
We are so grateful to Mary Cerullo and our incredible school partners (administration, teachers, site coordinators, and students!) for helping us create such memorable book-based experiences!

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