Island Readers & Writers Blog

Anne Sibley O’Brien pilots two-day program at Edmunds Consolidated School

Day One

Winter weather was no deterrent when we visited Edmunds Consolidated School with Anne Sibley O’Brien for day one of a special two-day pilot program. Despite some wickedly icy roads and a two-hour delay, the sun broke through and produced a lovely rainbow and we sallied forth for a grand day.

Once everyone got safely to school, it was full steam ahead. With an all-school presentation, Annie showed photos of her life growing up in South Korea and there was much excitement about her colorful traditional clothing depicted in the photos. She shared that the locals often viewed her as a “princess” or a “friendly space alien” with her white skin and fair hair. When she started speaking Korean, there were burst of, “What is she saying? Is that Korean? Cool!”

Into the bright and well-stocked library (kudos to Alison Goodwin), Annie surprised the youngest students by reading her latest book, “Someone New,” the companion to “I’m New Here.” The two books share the same characters but are told from different perspectives. The children made comparisons to how they felt being new when they began school that fall. They determined they could make someone feel welcome by saying, “You can play with us.” Upon receiving his very own copy of “I’m New Here,” one young fella declared, “We read this two times!”

First and second graders showed us their wonderful projects hanging in the hallway. They had devised maps of their community showing the Denny’s River, the school, firehouse, their houses, and even the hairdresser! They also had thought about how they could help make a new student feel welcome and drew pictures of “What I Can Do to Help.” Some of their ideas were: helping a new person find a seat, or asking them to join in their games, and even how to find the bathroom.

“I was very nervous and scared when I first came to this school,” one youngster shared, “I didn’t even know where my class was.” Another said, “I was nervous when I first moved to Trescott. I didn’t even know if I’d make any friends.” These kids had many questions for Annie about South Korea like, “How long does it take to get there?” and “What kind of clothes did you wear?” Annie signed all their books with a special “friend” for each student – a drawing of a boy or girl for them to keep forever.

The third and fourth graders read “The Legend of Hong Kil Dong” a graphic novel about a Robin Hood-type character, set in the 1400’s. They had studied the story of Robin Hood and done some comparisons. “Was the story about North or South Korea?” one student inquired. She told them that this was a time before Korea was split into two separate countries. “And this is what South Korea looks like today,” she told them, pointing to a current photo in her slide presentation. “Futuristic,” said one student. “It looks like L.A.,” said another.

After explaining about graphic novels and how this story “wanted to become one,” Annie demonstrated how to draw a Korean dragon with a heart-shaped head, whiskers, beard, and horns. The children were given art supplies to create their own version and were amazed at how great everyone’s dragon turned out.

For the last workshop of the day, Annie met Mrs. Molly Calder’s 5-8th grade ELA students. As part of a pilot program, they had read both “In the Shadow of the Sun,” and “The Legend of Hong Kil Dong,” and had delved deep into the culture and history of Korea. Though the two texts were very different, they used the hero’s journey theme to examine the characters and begin to identify their own hero stories. The first day was an introduction to comparing literary/cultural formats around the hero’s journey, conversations and connections about identity and introduction to developing a character with purpose.

First though, there were many questions and, as often happens with Annie, an intriguing discussion took place. After all, living in rural Maine, it’s not an everyday opportunity that you get to talk to someone who has lived in South Korea and wrote a novel based in North Korea.

Annie loves to tell the story of how she got to visit the North Korean border in China to do research for the book. Though she is fluent in Korean, she does not speak Chinese and yet, by using creative communication methods, she managed to relay to a Chinese taxi driver that she wanted to go to the border wall. Not really knowing what the man was saying, she agreed to get into the cab with two other Chinese men. “You what?” gasped the class. “Don’t you know that’s dangerous?” they asked. Tossing her head back and laughing, Annie assured them she was safe.

Amazingly, she found physical characteristics to the landscape that she had already written into her manuscript, including a boat in the river! Serendipitous for certain. She even went into North Korean waters on a boat and waved at a civilian on the North Korean side. “Weren’t you scared?” the kids wanted to know. “What if you’d been caught?” But she wasn’t and now has a thrilling tale that really brings the novel to life for these lucky kids.

Annie wrapped up day one with the 5-8th graders and a challenge to have a hero’s story ready in their minds for day two.

Day Two

Day two of the program was a full day of hands-on drawing/composing comics from story board to dummy. The budding writers and artists shared their pre-visit projects with Annie, everything from plot diagrams to Venn diagrams, dioramas, letters to Annie, and fact posters. Annie shared some variations on plot diagrams that they could use and instantly Mrs. Calder created an assignment, “Research a plot diagram you like for Monday.” “Can we make our own?” asked a student. “Our plot diagrams are going to look much different from now on,” noted Molly with excitement.

Kyle, all of his own volition, had created a Google Map of Mia and Simon’s adventures. Bringing it up on the large screen, Annie was able to point out the accuracies and some slight variations that needed correcting. She was super impressed. A connection was made to another Maine teacher’s map and Molly said she would be using that in her unit later. Annie shared that Google Lit Trips is going to be making an “official” map including 3D. When Annie is with kids it becomes a shared discovery process with her learning as much from the students as they learn from her. And Molly reinforced that idea saying, “I love learning new things with the kids.”

On to drawing comics. “The power of the frame is important,” Annie shared showing them the various layouts that can be used. “Zoom in and zoom out. Use the frame to control your setting.” She encouraged them to make it rough and quick and don’t get bogged down in perfection. Molly shared that her students really struggle with the idea of rough drafts. “The best gift you can give yourself is the ability to do roughs,” Annie shared.  “The advantage of roughs is you have to do it over again, you make discoveries and the quality of the work gets better.” Molly loved that her kids were hearing this from someone else.

At the end of the day the kids eagerly shared their “roughs” and pointed out what they liked about each other’s work. They were thoughtful and kind, even after working all day long.

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Whiting Village School welcomes Anne Sibley O’Brien

Whiting Village School was cozy and warm on the day of our visit with Anne Sibley O’Brien. We began with an all-school presentation and Annie greeted them in Korean asking, “Are you in peace?” Soon after, she was bombarded with questions about South Korea where she spent her childhood. “What is your favorite Korean food?” and “What is your favorite animal?” “What was it like to grow up there?” another asked “Did you like growing up there?” Her favorite animal is a cat, she loved growing up there and I can’t spell her favorite Korean food. As for what it was like to live there, Annie said it was great to grow up in South Korea and she likes to tell students what she has learned about people from her life experiences;

  1. We are all one human family; we have a lot in common.
  2. Peoples’ differences are all fascinating, glorious and beautiful!

“A lot of your views come from how your family presents it,” she shared.

Joining grades 1-4 in their tin ceilinged room, we saw that they had done a lot of work ahead of Annie’s visit. All of them had asked their parents and other relatives about where their ancestors came from. A nice poster depicted the variety of countries that their families immigrated from. After reading “I’m New Here,” the kids pondered what it would be like to be new in a school. They had a new friend from a different state this year so were able to compare his experience to the children in the book. Annie talked to them about the differences between being an immigrant and a refugee and then read her new book “Someone New.” One child related her experience of being new. “My mom is in the military,” said a young girl, “and we have to move every four years.” These kids were relating the characters to their own lives. They loved comparing the similar books and talked about what was different about them. After reading, Annie signed a copy of “I’m New Here” for each of them, with a bonus signature in Korean. One girl said, “I love getting these books, I keep all my Island Readers & Writers books together on a special shelf!” We left them making their own welcome posters in a variety of languages including, Passamaquoddy, French, Spanish, Korean, and more.

We then moved into the pre-k-kindergarten area and were amazed by the exuberance and wonder of these children. Annie read parts of the book aloud and they spontaneously stood up and started “greeting” each other in a role play. We all were blown away by how they acted out sharing a toy, saying hello and inviting someone to join in a game. Cutest thing ever! As Annie signed and handed out their books they sat on the floor looking at them and one boy pointed at a picture and said, “Look, he’s confused and she’s lonely.” These children are definitely making connections.

To round out the day we visited grades 5-8 where Annie told how “The Legend of Hong Kil Dong,” her book about a traditional Korean hero, became a graphic novel. She explained the parts of a graphic novel and demonstrated how to draw a Korean dragon. A lively Q&A session took place before the students were given watercolor pencils and paper to create their own amazing dragons. Demonstrating some simple techniques to get them started, they quickly caught on and produced some beautiful artwork. Annie was thrilled with the results. She said how much she loves these smaller schools, “You really get time to spend with each student.” She then showed photos of what Korea looks like now. “Wow!” was heard over and over. “That looks newer than New York!” “Yes”, said Annie, “I like to show that it is a very modern place now.”

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Princeton Elementary welcomes Rebekah Raye

Cold winds blew outside when we arrived with author and illustrator Rebekah Raye at Princeton Elementary School, but warmth and cordiality met us inside this lovely school. Rebekah was excited by the welcome poster created in honor of her visit and raved over all the student artwork in the halls. A few eager students helped carry all of Rebekah’s things into the room, which quickly transformed into an art studio. Her characters and paintings really brought the space to life for the budding artists of Princeton. Goosey-Goose, her papier-maché goose, came along as he does to all of the schools she visits. A harbor seal pup, the newest addition to her menagerie, made an appearance as well.

The first workshop was with the grades 3-4. They sat down at tables ready with art paper, charcoal, graphite pencils, smudging cloths and erasers, to begin their own drawings after watching a demonstration by Rebekah. Her technique starts with thinking of drawing as writing, “If you can write your name, you can draw,” she says to the students. “Fine lines or bold lines, they’re all wonderful because we all have our own style.” She begins with an upside down ‘U’ then it turns into an ‘L’ then a ‘Y’ and so on until, “Oh my gosh, it’s a squirrel!” said one little girl. “She must be really good!” said another.

She told each class about negative space and to fill in the whole paper with graphite, smudge it and then to use the eraser to bring up highlights. She talked about how she came to write her book “The Very Best Bed”: “As a child I thought about the animals at night and worried about how they were sleeping,” she told them. “So when I was asked to write my own book that is what I wanted to explore.” She likes to do the paintings first and then the words come after. She also told them it took her six months to do the painting of the bear!

The artists in grades 1-2 were provided with paint sticks to add color to their drawings. One child declared of Rebekah, “She’s not just a miracle worker, she’s awesome!”  Students in pre-K to grade 4 were each given a signed copy of “The Very Best Bed,” while grades 5-8 were sent home with orange sketchbooks from IRW and graphite pencils and erasers thanks to Charity Williams, their principal. All were encouraged to keep on drawing and writing.

After lunch, Rebekah acted out “The Very Best Bed” for the pre-and kindergarten students with amazing, cardboard cutouts of the book’s characters to the delight of all the students and teachers alike. One teacher was very moved and as she left the room teary eyed, said how much she loved the story and seeing Rebekah’s telling of it.

We were then treated to all the amazing projects that had been done prior to Rebekah’s visit. We saw the adorable pictures from kids in grades 1-2 of “A Tree is a Bed for an Owl” and “A Den is a Bed for a Bear.” Then it was off to see fourth grade’s own “very best beds” with pictures of the kids in a bed peeking out over quilts. Each quilt square represented an animal from the book! Kindergarteners had charted which beds were their favorites.

The middle school history class created a historical timeline of beds and two videos: one a very clever parody of “The Very Best Bed” called “The Very Best Chair,” and a reenactment of the book with the children wearing masks, costumes and fluffy tails that brought Rebekah to tears.

It was a wonderful day and after all was done, Rebekah signed the wall of fame in the library for the second time while a little girl said, “I am going to buy a bunch of your books and give them to every one I know!”

 

 

 

 

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Cynthia Lord on Swan’s Island

The day before Thanksgiving break, we boarded the ferry to Swan’s Island along with author Cynthia Lord and school principal Crystal DaGraca as snow flurries began to fall around us. School was closing early due to the snow and we used our travel time to revamp the schedule for the day. That’s often where island meetings are conducted – on the ferry!

Once we arrived on Swan’s Island, we hopped into the district-provided minivan and were shuttled to the school to begin workshops. With the 6th-8th graders, Cynthia shared an acronym she uses to help with crafting a story: W.O.W. What does the character Want? She told them this ‘want’ should last throughout the entire book. The ‘O’ represents the Obstacles or the problem that is in the way, and the final ‘W’ stands for Win – will their character get what they want? “That’s up to the writer to decide,” she told them. They were all reading Cynthia’s book, “Touch Blue,” and had begun some research of their own on local landmarks and legends. They hope to compile a book to present to island residents and promised to share with us. We look forward to seeing it!

Next, grades pre-K-5 piled onto pillows in Mrs. DaGraca’s classroom where Cynthia told the students about all the pets she has adopted over the years. One was a guinea pig just like the one in “Shelter Pet Squad,” another was a hamster named Rocky that was the inspiration for “Hot Rod Hamster.”

During her presentation, Cynthia showed pictures of all the places where she writes, including the studio at her house, outside in the garden and she even shared a photo of her writing on a ferry! She read her book “Hot Rod Hamster” out loud with children participating by honking, purring and beeping along. After signing a book for every child, the younger students went into the hallway to race their 3D printed hot rods, which they excitedly shared with Cynthia.

With the 3rd-5th graders remaining, Cynthia asked if they would like her to read a chapter from “Shelter Pet Squad,” which they had been reading aloud in class. They enthusiastically yelled, “Yes!” so she picked up where their teacher had left off and read one chapter, and then another, and kept on until the final page. “How cool is that,” remarked their teacher, “to have the author read her book to you in person!”

We learned that this group had also been reading “Pay it Forward,” by Catherine Ryan Hyde and were fundraising to give back to the local animal shelter, which was inspired by both books. What a fabulous connection both between books and community! They gathered much-needed items for the shelter and volunteering their time the next week. They also will be paying it forward in December identifying two people in need in their community.

Before heading out to catch the noon ferry back to Bass Harbor, we heard a teacher ask a girl “Are you excited about the snow day?” Her reply, “Yes, so I can stay inside and read this book [“Shelter Pet Squad”] all day!”

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Charlotte Elementary reveals “Moosehorn Secrets”

Charlotte Elementary School was abuzz on the second day of a two-visit program with Kimberly Ridley, who had spent a day with them two weeks before at Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge. While there, they got to see animals and their habitats up close so that they could return to school and get started on their own book in a similar style to Kim’s “The Secret Pool,” titled “Moosehorn Secrets.” Kim returned with us for this second visit to hear what they had done and to give suggestions to help them with their writing.

The spotlight for this visit was on the students and they took turns sharing what they had written with one another. It was a very fun story of an eagle noticing a funny long yellow thing [a school bus] arriving in the forest, and out jumps loud children and teachers running in all directions. The main character, Eagle, then has to warn his wildlife friends of the danger coming their way!

The enthusiasm was great as we listened to how they started their research and chose the characters for their book. There was much discussion on who would be the main character and Eagle was chosen because of its bird’s-eye view and how seeing the big picture along with being able to hone in on minute details was very important to their plot. Kim agreed that this was a brilliant strategy.

We broke into three groups and each had a turn working with Kim on different sections of the book from beginning to end. The first group was asked, “What makes a good beginning?” After a flurry of answers, she told them to take their good ideas and think about how the animals in their story feel, and helped them connect their research with the story process such as, “How is the eagle regal?” and “How would an eagle talk about itself?”

A similar process was done with the groups that worked on the middle and end of the story. Kim demonstrated how some sentences could help you see and hear the scene more clearly, and that just changing one word can make a huge difference. Kim helped the second group see that the middle of a story should have a conflict that needs to be solved. They wanted to bring in a squirrel that shows up in the end and this gave Kim the opportunity to explain foreshadowing. The last group had worked on the story’s ending and during their time with Kim, creative ideas were abundant! Some were a little far out there and cliffhangers were discussed.

In the afternoon, we returned to the circle and the principal, Peggy White, read the newly revised version out loud to all. What a thrill to be a part of this story unfolding. We cannot wait to see the finished version. We hear it will be available next spring.

Before leaving Kim asked the students each to finish this statement about the book they are writing, “I Wonder…” Here are some of their replies:

“I wonder what the illustrations will look like?”

“I wonder how all 3 parts will be connected, beginning, middle and end?”

“I wonder if many of us will be writers?”

“I wonder if you (Kim Ridley) will come back when you write another book?”

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Kimberly Ridley visits Milbridge Elementary School

Milbridge Elementary School welcomed Kimberly Ridley with hallways filled with projects they had worked on after reading her books, “The Secret Bay” and “Extreme Survivors.” There were posters and shadow boxes of estuary creatures, photographs of students visiting a salmon hatchery, Haiku poetry and paintings inspired by a book authored by a Milbridge parent and an amazing food chain mural.

Kim began the day with an all school assembly in the gym. She asked the students, “Who likes secrets?” Everyone raised a hand. Then she asked, “Who is good at kee

ping secrets?”  A few raised a hand. She told them that she is not very good at keeping secrets because she ended up writing a book about all the secret creatures she learned about!

When someone asked, “How did you become a writer?”, she told them that she follows her curiosity. When she gets excited about something she wants to learn more and she takes her curiosity seriously. “To write a book one has to observe, ask questions, research, reflect, organize, write and rewrite.” She re-wrote “The Secret Bay” 12 times!

In writing workshops for grades 3-6, Kim worked with students by pretending they were “Ace Reporters” looking for a catchy first sentence to hook their readers. They were to tell the story of the strange creature living in their backyards, the tardigrade, a microscopic creature that lives in moss. She also had an exercise that showed how important reliable research is.

With the younger students, she talked about how estuaries are like a big mixing bowl with brackish water, a mixture of salt and fresh that creates the perfect magical home for some pretty amazing animals. They were encouraged to pretend they were creating an estuary right in the room and she read passages from “The Secret Bay.” She showed them a horseshoe crab molt and told them all sorts of interesting facts about this extreme survivor.

At the end of the day, each class met Kim in the hall to tell about their projects, a time for each child to tell about their process. This school has such a rich learning environment with collaborations with community organizations and individuals and a reaching out from the school to embrace all that this community has to offer.

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New IRW partner school Indian Township Elementary welcomes Kimberly Ridley

We arrived for our first-ever visit to new IRW partner Indian Township Elementary School on a chilly October morning with author Kimberly Ridley, who greeted children as they entered the gym for the all-school presentation. A delight of extreme creatures and ultimate survivors from prehistoric times was presented along with information on vernal pools and all the wonderful creatures therein.

Kim’s first workshop was with the 7th and 8th grades, where they were encouraged to be “ACE Reporters” — to observe, ask questions and research. She told them that all good reporters start with a catchy first sentence and they were let loose to give reporting a shot by choosing one of the creatures in her book, “Extreme Survivors,” for inspiration.

Younger students were happy to pretend they were at a secret pool, to close their eyes and listen to the sounds. One lucky child heard dinosaurs breathing! The pre-k and kindergarten students laughed to hear that fairy shrimp swim upside down and breathe through their feet.

The 3rd-6th graders were given a writing prompt and shown video of a tardigrade magnified. Some were thrilled at how cute the “zombie bears,” as Kim calls them, are and others thought it was super gross. One teacher exclaimed, “I can’t believe they are ALL writing!” as the children jumped right in to their assignments.

We had lunch with the 4th graders while they happily showed us the projects they had been working on around Kim’s book, “Secret Pool,” including amazing posters of their favorite creatures complete with life cycles.

After spending the afternoon in workshops in the beautiful library, Kim was whisked away to the 6th grade classroom to see their wall mural of a goblin shark, another extreme survivor.

We left the school with a chorus of “woliwon,” which means “thank you” in Passamaquoddy. Woliwon to all in Indian Township School from Island Readers & Writers — we are so glad to be partners with you.

 

 

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Kimberly Ridley at Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge with Charlotte Elementary

A beautiful day for nature observation at Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge.

This fall, IRW has been shaking things up by taking our author programs out of the classroom and out into nature! On Oct. 22, the entire Charlotte Elementary School moved to the Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge near Baring Plantation in Washington County where we met with author Kimberly Ridley and biology technician Clayton Merrill. The school bus transformed into a tour bus as we explored this habitat created for the American Woodcock.

The first stop on the tour was to view a beaver dam and lodge. With pencils and homemade sketchbooks in hand, the kids used their observation skills to make notes of what they noticed.

There were interesting things to see everywhere.

An otter slide was discovered near the dam which drew great interest! The pencils were flying furiously as rough sketches were drawn and notes were jotted down. Clayton focused in on some black ducks on the pond using a spotting scope. It wasn’t long though before they burst into flight and zoomed right over our heads!

The kids used notepads to write and sketch their observations to use later in the day.

Sometimes, observations were made from the bus seats with “tour guide Kim” giving clues to what they might see. Another flock of ducks was spotted and took flight and a group of Canada Geese floated in a second pond. Clayton shared that two black bears were living in the area, a fact that was greeted with big “ooohs” and “aaahhs.”

Tour Guide Kim!

Back in the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) building, which served as headquarters for the day, some serious brainstorming took place. “What did you notice?” Kim asked. A blank poster for observation was filled. “What do you wonder?” Two posters for curiosities were filled. And, “What did it remind you of?” — another poster filled.

All of this brainstorming work was done to inspire creative thinking and, as a whole school, write a rough draft for “The Secret Refuge,” a book in the style of Kimberly Ridley, but written entirely by Charlotte students! To really get their creative juices flowing, the writers and artists next used water color pencils and paper to use their knowledge from observations and notes to inspire the story. The room became a real art studio with focused creativity pouring onto the pages.

Getting creative juices flowing with watercolor pencils!

The kids were also able to draw inspiration and get real details from the large display of taxidermy animals that adorned the YCC. Flying ducks, owls, and even a fawn were on hand for observation. They will have two weeks to write their rough draft and then IRW and Kim return for a day of editing to really get a sense of the book-writing process. These kids were incredibly focused and eager to participate. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for our return on Monday, Nov. 5. Stay tuned!

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Mary Cerullo visits Vinalhaven

Author Mary Cerullo and IRW crew were hosted by island resident Pat Lundholm for their visit to the Vinahlaven School which often includes an overnight stay, while longtime IRW friend Sue Dempster put on a wonderful potluck gathering where teachers and the IRW crew shared food and stories — mostly about books. Go figure!

The day of the visit began in the auditorium with grades K-5. Mary’s presentation included wonderful sea creature photos and lots of stories to share with the children. Many hands were being raised and students had good comments and questions for Mary.

Some great advice from Mary during her all-school presentation.

To the pre-K students, Mary read a new book she is working on that isn’t yet published. The children were attentive listeners as they listened to this never-before heard story! And Mary got some good feedback from her audience. It was a pretty special experience.

Pre-k students got the chance to read from Mary’s unpublished book!

Second and third graders had read her book, “Sea Secrets,” and Mary asked, “What do you know about climate change?” A student answered, “It’s the problem for everything!” Mary mentioned how warmer waters are more acidic and its general effects on marine life. A student asked, “Do lobster shells get affected by acidic water?” This kid was thinking about the impact on the vital fishing industry, which is integral to life on Vinalhaven. Every student shared a fact about the sea animals they were studying. One student shared, “Starfish have lots of birthdays!”

Sea creatures created by second and third graders.

Kindergarteners and first graders had read “City Fish, Country Fish,” a meaty book for such youngsters but their enthusiasm was great. Mary asked the children why they would choose to be a country fish. Here are a few responses: “I like the colors.” “I could eat whenever I wanted.” “I like to hide in the rocks!”

Grades four and five had read and worked with “Sea Secrets.” Mary asked what the secret was and all the children shouted, “krill!” These kids knew their stuff, partly due to a recent visit to the Gulf of Maine Institute. They had done food web studies, chosen habitats to explore, and made posters about them.

While Mary shared about climate change and its particular impacts on the Gulf of Maine, she suggested the children talk to their grandparents and parents and ask them if they noted changes in the waters and marine life around Vinalhaven during their lifetimes. She then had them play a bingo game about marine animals and asked if each one was a winner or loser when it comes to climate change. The session ended when fourth grade teacher Rob Warren played two cartoon videos that Mary explained were created by O’Chang Comics. The students loved the humor and laughed out loud while watching “A Climate Calamity in the Gulf of Maine: The Lobster Pot Heats up” and “Part 2: Acid in the Gulf.”

Each Vinalhaven student loved receiving their own signed copies of her books. They all opened them immediately and were sharing with each other as they talked about the pictures and discussing the what they had learned that day!

 

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MDI 7th Grade Read at Camp Beech Cliff

The 7th Grade Read has become an annual cornerstone of our fall programming and this year’s event with author Clare Vanderpool at Camp Beech Cliff was once again a great success.

The Oct. 19 event brought together all 137 seventh graders from each MDIRSS school to Camp Beech Cliff for a morning to discuss Clare’s book, “Navigating Early” and hear from the author herself.

The goal of this annual event is to provide an opportunity for all MDI seventh graders interact with their peers from different schools, read an acclaimed novel by an author who each student gets to meet, and have community members share their love of reading by facilitating small group discussions.

As the kids arrived, Billie Holiday (a favorite of main character Early’s) played from a record player in the entrance to the Eagle’s Nest. Each student had a name tag featuring a constellation — another element of “Navigating Early” — and were assigned to meet up with the group leaders who matched their constellations.

As everyone entered, they used the constellations on their name tags to join their groups that included kids from different MDIRSS schools.

The first activity was a Gallery Walk in which each group had two minutes each to answer five different questions about the book and vote on whether they agreed or disagreed on the answers. There was some hot debate among some of the questions, which is exactly what we love to see when discussing literature!

Gallery Walk

Gallery Walk

MDI teachers came up with questions for the Gallery Walk to help get the kids in the mood for the group discussions.

The groups then moved into a 25-minute discussion of the book, facilitated by one of 15 wonderful community volunteers.

Getting a kick out of the group discussion.

Community volunteers read the book and prepared to facilitate the small group discussions.

Clare sits in on a small group discussion.

IRW is extremely grateful to its volunteers from many different corners of the MDI community: Lee Bonta of the Jesup Memorial Library; Ephron Catlin; Dianne Clendaniel of College of the Atlantic; Matt Cornish of Camp Beech Cliff; Autumn Demaine of Trenton Elementary School; Tiffany Dow of The First; Tim Garrity of the MDI Historical Society; Billy Helprin of the Somes Meynell Wildlife Preserve; Lisa Horsch-Clark of Friends of Acadia; Jenny Jones, of the Bar Harbor Food Pantry; Margie Phelps of Hinckley; Andrew Simon of Barn Arts; Mark Woida of Harbor House; Jamie Whitehead of Camp Beech Cliff and Marie Yarborough of Acadia National Park.

Our wonderful volunteers! From left: Margie Phelps, Jamie Whitehead, Tiffany Dow, Mark Woida, Dianne Clendaniel. Matt Cornish, Lisa Horsch-Clark, Tim Garrity, Andrew Simon, Billy Helprin, Lee Bonta. [Not pictured: Ephron Catlin, Autumn Demaine, Jenny Jones, Marie Yarborough.]

Clare talks about her life and writing.

After the group discussions, book trailers the kids created were shown to much applause (and sometimes laughter). Clare then talked about her inspiration from the book and about how some scenes or elements from the story are inspired by her own life. “Life experiences can bubble up when you need them,” she said. All 137 kids received a personally-inscribed copy of “Navigating Early” and left Camp Beech Cliff inspired by their peers from different schools and by meeting and chatting with Clare.

 

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