“Are you ready for some time travel?” That’s how science writer Kimberly Ridley hooked her readers as they delved into her latest book Extreme Survivors: Animals that Time Forgot. IRW journeyed with Kim deep into Washington County to visit both Princeton and Woodland elementary schools.
Kids in grades Pre-K to 2 at Princeton worked with Kim’s book, The Secret Bay. When she asked, “Does anyone know the word habitat?” “YES!” was the resounding answer. Having explored many similar texts, these kids knew their stuff. After a read aloud Kim said, “Let’s take a trip through the estuary with our bodies.” They became the sun shining down on Grand Lake Stream and the St. Croix River and the sun turned them into phytoplankton which got eaten by mummichogs- a favorite word to say for these cuties.
The first graders had studied the water cycle impressing Kim with their knowledge. They had great questions, such as, “How long can a beaver breathe under water?” Kim encouraged the student to research that further. As she thanked them for sharing their work Mrs. Deacon said, “And we have to thank you for the inspiration!”
Second graders discovered her other book The Secret Pool in their school library and the illustrator Rebekah Raye’s signature on their signing wall and were beyond excited. They made a book for Kim in return, a gift she will treasure. One boy, clutching his newly signed book declared, “I’m going to go home and read this to my sister.” His teacher encouraged him to have his sister read her copy of Extreme Survivors to him as well. “Yeah,” he said, “and I can ask mom to read this as my bed-time story!”
With the upper grades, Kim had them all thinking about how to be ACE reporters. Accurate, Creative, and Edited. They watched a video of a tardigrade aka a “water bear” that a scientist made and noted their observations. “Okay my ACE reporters. This is the newsroom of the Calais Advertiser. Here’s your headline: “An amazing animal lives in our town.” And they were off with blazing pencils writing away.
Th fourth grade had made 3D, multimedia projects using clay. Clearly, they have some talented artists in that class. Third graders were still working on their research. One young man noted that when he started his research on the comb jelly, “I thought it was going to be boring but it wasn’t!”
Fifth and sixth graders grew tadpole shrimp in their classroom! They created a marvelous video of the entire process from opening the box, to adding the water, watching and waiting, until one day…babies! And the crowd went wild. At the very end of the video a student declared, “ Our tadpole shrimp are officially adults and I can’t wait to see you, Kim Ridley.” And truly, there they were, tadpole shrimp swimming away in their little tank. How cool is that?
As with many of the other sessions, Kim started seventh and eighth grade students off with eyes shut as they listened to what was around them in order to get into the zone of active observation and reporting. They had worked on a collaborative slide show that contained further research and relevant links, while other students had utilized four poetic device forms to write from the perspective of one of the animals profiled in Extreme Survivors. They got tips from Kim about where to possibly publish!
What better way to enter a school than to walk in and see this gorgeous sign? And it only got better from there during our visit to Woodland. With papier-mâché comb jellies lining one wall of the hallway and a museum gallery of art and interpretive description spanning habitats that included Extreme Survivors lining the other wall it was a truly grand entrance.
Once again the Calais Advertiser had some extra hands on deck in the form of ACE reporters in the third and fourth grades. These kids had been practicing doing “sticky note” summaries so they were ready to skim their facts. Kim loved when one youngster pointed out that, “A tun (a tardigrade in dehydrated form), looks like a wrinkled potato.” “That is a truly awesome description,” Kim replied. Third graders were very proud of their projects created from Kim’s website listed activities, including their extreme survivor super powers!
Kim likes to begin with gratitude and so all together the kids in first and second grades thanked IRW for bringing her and giving them books. Working with her book The Secret Bay she had them think about secrets. Who’s good at keeping them? Who can’t? “Oh, I am,” said one a young fellow, “I’ve kept one since I was three!”
Kim taught them a secret to saying the big word “estuary.” “It has a sneeze in the middle. Est-choo-ary!” And when she asked talked about alewives and how they swim upstream, the students were eager to share their knowledge, “I know a fish that does that: salmon.”
The third graders were inspired by Extreme Survivors and a prompt on Kim’s website to write a story about their favorite extreme survivor as a superhero. They had to write about “how it used its survival secrets to save the day.” They drew pictures to go with their writing and were “extremely” excited to share their projects with Kim. Their teacher Mrs. Morrison relayed to IRW staff, “We decided that Mrs. Ridley made reading non-fiction fun.” Hooray for Kim!
Our visit to fifth grade was truly amazing. Some of these kids were creators of the lovely floating comb jellies lining the halls. Kim got them fired up to make some observations by sharing the scientists video of the tardigrade. Mr. Romanelli and his class surprised us all with a video of their own of a tardigrade they had just found in the backyard of the Woodland Elementary School! That was a first for both Kim and IRW and the whole room was buzzing with excitement.
It was so special that Mrs. Westrack had him share it with the sixth graders who were full of questions and comments for Kim, such as: “I thought they’d have webbed feet,” and “How do we not kill them when we step on the moss?” And then more focused on writing, “Do you pick the days of the week you want to work? And do you choose the times of day?” “Why did you put the goblin shark on the front of the book?” Wouldn’t you have?