In early November, IRW brought Cynthia Lord on a much-anticipated Downeast tour. Especially exciting was the fact that, in addition to a return visit to Beals Elementary School, she was visiting two new IRW partner schools: Beatrice Rafferty School in Sipayik (Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Reservation) and Edmunds Consolidated School. All three schools read and received Hot Rod Hamster and Shelter Pet Squad #1 for the younger readers, or a middle-grade novel for the older readers, plus some big surprises in previewing her new and not yet published books!
At Beatrice Rafferty School, the students in Grades 2 – 3 visited the ARK animal shelter (in Milbridge) and shared what they learned with Cindy when she visited their group. They also made posters about keeping animals safe.
Grade 4 students picked vocabulary words from Shelter Pet Squad and written the Passamaquoddy translation on a big sheet of paper. They read them aloud in unison to Cindy and then gave the sheet to her. “So you can learn about our culture,” said a little boy. Fifth grade students asked about character relationships and how that related to her life. Grades 6 – 8 students expressed deep interest in Cindy’s novel Half A Chance and had thoughtful questions about the story and Cindy’s inspiration.
The next stop on the Downeast tour was Edmunds Consolidated, where the presentations took place in their beautifully renovated library.
Kindergartners and first graders had prepared coloring posters of hamsters, colorful 3D paper hamsters, and a wall-sized review of vocabulary words from Hot Rod Hamster.
Grades 2 – 4 students discussed Shelter Pet Squad, and facts about some of those pets; they also created an oral story together with Cindy to understand the elements of story development.
Fifth and sixth graders had read Cindy’s latest novel A Handful of Stars; the teacher was using the suggested IRW activities for each child to pursue further research related to the book. Students developed great questions about being an author, Cindy’s favorite characters, books, and about the book development process itself.
Grades 7 – 8 did some very impressive writing, using prompts and Cindy’s guidance in employing metaphors and similes to describe landscapes. They were excited about the location of the book having been in the familiar territory of Washington County.
On the last day of the tour, at Beals Elementary School, Grades 1 – 4 students made toys for the Ark animal shelter, posters about animals, and created books about adopting pets.
What took everyone’s breath away was the fact that Grades 5 – 8 had set up a classroom to represent a climactic scene in Rules (set up like a dance hall with refreshments exactly from the book, playing the song that was the character Catherine’s favorite, and the kids had listened to and analyzed the lyrics). They also had created their own book jackets for Rules, created compassion posters and their own communication books. A wheelchair was brought in and each kid took a turn sitting in the chair, communicating only with their communication book. They studied morse code and a variety of communication methods, made their own telegraphs, restored an old telegraph and visited the Telephone Museum in Ellsworth. They created a fish tank just like the one in Rules with “toys” that were dropped in. They studied Georgia O’Keefe and did large flower drawings, and also did some perspective drawings connecting to a reference in the book.
The three days could not have been more rewarding, for kids, teachers or Cindy herself. IRW was proud to bring on two extremely engaged new school partners and looks forward to further adventures with Cindy and Beatrice Rafferty, Edmunds and Beals!