“Extreme Survivors” on MDI

Kimberly Ridley started out her spring 2018 school tour on MDI at Mount Desert Elementary (MDES), followed by a visit to Pemetic Elementary in Southwest Harbor, before a stop in Washington County. She finished up her visits at Conners Emerson Elementary School in Bar Harbor.

“Have you ever seen a comb jelly in real life?” and “ Are you going to write another book?” were just some of the questions posed by students in grades 3-5 at MDES. The Northeast Harbor Public Library hosted the opening presentation with Kim Ridley as she launched her school visit tour with IRW. Students had been diving into “Extreme Survivors,” and had gotten a first-hand orientation to the Downeast Ice Age Trail with Acadia National Park rangers just a few days earlier.

The team of teachers had developed a whole day of rotating workshops based on “Extreme Survivors.” Kim’s was one of the day’s workshops when students became ACE reporters; Accurate, Creative and Edited. Kim noted how doing research makes any subject come alive, and that research is kind of like going on a field trip: “Who doesn’t like a field trip?”, she asked.

The other workshops focused on creating timelines, artwork and profile writing of the various animals and creatures. An impromptu gallery of the wonderful writing, art and projects created throughout the day topped off the visit with an amazing collection all about “Extreme Survivors.” Students seemed both proud and excited to share all of their work and their accumulated knowledge and Kim herself could not have been more pleased. One student commented early in the day, “I had hoped you’d be nice and that you’d be loud, and you met both expectations.”

Pemetic Elementary

Grades 3-6 at Pemetic Elementary participated in writing workshops where they watched a video of a tardigrade and gave it creative descriptions. 

In the third grade workshop, Kim told the budding writers not to worry about whether their first drafts were perfect. The most important thing, she said, was writing what came to mind. The students told Kim they had been working on informational writing in their classrooms. One important aspect of informational writing is to use reliable sources, which the writers said they had been doing in their homework. When writing about dogs, for example, one student sought out a vet. When writing about baseball, another got information from a coach!

Third graders created tunnel boxes featuring creatures from “Extreme Survivors.”

Fourth graders created an acrostic story with the title of Kim’s book. Each student researched an animal in the book and wrote about it for this display in the library.

These writers remembered Kim and Rebekah Raye’s visit with “The Secret Bay” and recalled the horseshoe crab, which is also featured in “Extreme Survivors.” They also participated in a writing workshop, One writer was having such a great time writing about tardigrades that she didn’t want to leave and go to recess! Another told Kim how much she loved her book: “It makes you go into your imagination with all of the descriptive words,” she said. “I love it.” Sounds like we have some future science writers in this class!

In the fifth and sixth grade workshops, students had already read “Extreme Survivors” and prepared probing questions for Kim, such as: “What happens if a sponge is broken up and deposited into different oceans?” and “Does a sponge sneeze for a long time during the ‘ahh’ or the ‘choo’?” Kim urged the students to look up the answers — of course using a reliable source, which the sixth graders were already knew about.

When it came to the writing portion, Kim reminded the writers that there are “no boring subjects,” and the Pemetic sixth graders seemed to agree! One student said that she would “look up cool facts to make a subject interesting.”

Conners Emerson Elementary School

Caterpillar, alligator, see-through, shrimp, cute, cous-cous, moving jello, “like it tickles” — these are just some of the descriptive words that Conners Emerson third graders used to describe the microscopic tardigrade during their writing workshop with Kim.



The third graders shared their favorite sentences with Kim and their classmates about “An Amazing Animal Lives in Our Town,” as if they were reporters for the Mount Desert Islander. Mrs. Tripp’s class wanted to know how they could submit their work for publication!

Scientists in Mrs. Fournier’s fourth grade class had already seen a tardigrade under a microscope after gathering moss, lichen and bark from outside and wrote stories about it called, “If I were a tardigrade.”

Grades 5-6 all came together for a big presentation in the library, where they shared their knowledge about tardigrades, comb jellies and other animals in Kim’s book. Our visit to Conners Emerson was a wonderful way to wrap-up a five-day tour!

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