“The Secret Pool” visits over 120 students at Milbridge Elementary

“I’ve never liked writing before!” – Patrick, a student from the 5th/6th grades group at Milbridge Elementary School

Jenna Beaulieu, IRW’s new Office Administrator & Communications Coordinator, and Program Director Ruth Feldman visited Milbridge Elementary School together on November 18, with “The Secret Pool” author Kim Ridley and illustrator Rebekah Raye.

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All grades participated in a morning presentation in the gym. Over 120 students attentively listened as Kim and Rebekah told them about their own childhoods, their love of nature and creativity, and how they are able to do writing and art as a job.

One of Kim’s primary themes was about how writing is a way of drawing with words, and how to use power nouns and verbs to add excitement to a sentence. Rebekah, after telling the group that they should never be afraid of expressing themselves, encouraged the students to join her in saying, “We each have our own style!”

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After the morning presentation, students from grades 3-6 split into two groups and participated in a writing workshop and illustrating workshop. Some students had already drawn pictures of vernal pools in preparation for Kim and Rebekah’s visit – drawings of big pink salamanders and vernal pools in a forest decorated the classroom walls.

Milbridge student artwork collage

Kim taught students how to describe a main character using juicy words. She challenged them to introduce a problem to their main character, and finish up their short story with an action sentence.

They used this action sentence in Rebekah’s illustrating workshop, and drew wood frogs, fairy shrimp, and salamanders bounding, leaping, running, and hiding from predators. Rebekah shared her technique of using graphite and paper smudgers to create three levels of light in a drawing, and students were enthralled with the process.

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As the day wrapped up, both groups gathered again in the gym for the “Learning Pool” activity. Each student placed their drawing in the middle of a circle, and all students were able to look at each other’s drawings in an informal “gallery walk.”

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Ruth took to the flipchart for a final brainstorm session with the students, and provided them an opportunity to share comments about what they’d learned and the experience of the day, questions about vernal pools or writing/drawing, and any ideas that had brewed up over the course of the program.

One student asked Jenna, “Are you coming back tomorrow?” We wish we could, Milbridge Elementary!

It is truly fulfilling for IRW staff and collaborators to witness the impact of our programs on individual students. Patrick, a student in the 5th/6th grade group said, “I’ve never liked writing before,” and that’s exactly what we love to hear!

Patrick was also proud to join another student, Chase, and Principal White in adding “The Secret Pool” to the school’s trophy case, where it joins over half a dozen other books from IRW programs.

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