Ruth Feldman and Alison Johnson of IRW arrived at the Trenton Elementary School early on a crisp fall September day. Walking into the school, they couldn’t help but notice the positive energy – from the bulletin board about “Mindset” to the sparkling cleanliness, there was a sense of ownership and pride by all. Maine author Kimberly Ridley joined them and they set up in the library for a full day of vernal pools, lessons in observation skills and learning how to create conflict in a story about a vernal pool character.
Kim conducted workshops with students in 2nd– 4th and 6th– 8th grades on The Secret Pool, and focused on deep observation techniques.
Students picked pictures of animals out of a blue bowl, aka vernal pool, and Kim asked them to respond to three prompts:
-It reminds me…
Kim was super animated for the younger grades and, after connecting with the middle-grade science teacher, was able to link her presentation to the current curriculum for the older grades (study of soils, invasive species and trees, and hazardous waste in the environment). She had those students write as if they were children’s book authors writing for the younger kids.
Kim described the amount of research that goes into writing a book, the need to choose a style for your story (poetical, lyrical…), and a voice (attitude, sarcasm..). She showed students that an author is a regular person and can be “messy” just like anyone else. Seeing her assistant, Tilly her tiger cat, in one of the slides was a favorite moment. Many of the classes showed up with their own writing notebooks and, when asked if they liked to write, many hands shot in the air.
Upon news that they would be receiving a signed copy of the book, the fourth graders asked, “Is it a hardcover book?” (Yes, it is!)
A 2nd grader discovered that he would get a signed copy of the book and said, “Goody! Now I’ll have a few books that the author has signed. Yay!”
This academic year is off to a great start!