Last fall, science writer Kimberly Ridley accompanied us to the Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge with the entire Charlotte Elementary School. Kim proposed the idea of guiding the kids through hands-on research that they could use to write their own story similar to her books, “The Secret Pool” and “The Secret Bay.” Mrs. White, the principal, loves to expand learning outside of the school, so when we proposed a more experiential visit her wheels started spinning. Soon the idea for “Moosehorn Secrets” was born.
After our initial field trip to the refuge, we returned to the school two weeks later so that Kim could provide guidance on their project. They spent time every week throughout the year researching, writing, editing and illustrating. Each grade from pre-K to 8 worked in teams with older students mentoring younger students. On May 20, we returned to hear about their process and see a sneak peek of their soon-to-be published book.
One of the biggest lessons learned when publishing a book? “When you think you’re done, you’ve just begun.” Mrs. “L” noted that when she asked her students to work on the book, there were grumbles of, “Oh, no, not that again.” We asked what made them stick with this project and about the challenges they faced. Many simply liked writing. Others wanted to see a finished product. There was interest in being able to sell their book. Once you’ve begun, “you’re already halfway there,” one noted.
Kim asked the researchers, writers and illustrators who had the toughest job. Each group said their own task was the most difficult! But no one ever wished they were in a different group. The researchers liked learning about cool animal facts. They even sent all of their facts to the biologist at Moosehorn Refuge for fact-checking and revisions as needed.
When we asked about the illustration process, the illustrators provided us with a demonstration. They did research and used the notes and sketches from their day out at Moosehorn and made sure to use factual pictures for inspiration. After doing a sketch, they uploaded the picture to an iPad to color it digitally. While showing us the process someone noted, “When we work together, look what we can accomplish.”
“What would you tell another school about to embark on this process?” we asked. “Think about the end prize.” “Completely commit.” “It’s more work than you think.” “Have fun!” “Be prepared to disagree.” “Pull in outside help.” All good advice. And when asked if it was worth it, “Oh yeah!” was the overwhelming response.
Finally, it was time to read the book! Students took turns reading from an enlarged version of the book projected onto a screen in the gym. “Moosehorn Secrets” is filled with beautiful illustrations, fascinating facts, humor and a creative plot. Kim was so proud of each and every student for their hard work and dedication.
“Moosehorn Secrets” is available for purchase on Amazon for $6.99. Congratulations Charlotte Elementary School and thanks for letting us be a part of this awesome experience!