Milbridge Elementary School welcomed Kimberly Ridley with hallways filled with projects they had worked on after reading her books, “The Secret Bay” and “Extreme Survivors.” There were posters and shadow boxes of estuary creatures, photographs of students visiting a salmon hatchery, Haiku poetry and paintings inspired by a book authored by a Milbridge parent and an amazing food chain mural.
Kim began the day with an all school assembly in the gym. She asked the students, “Who likes secrets?” Everyone raised a hand. Then she asked, “Who is good at kee
ping secrets?” A few raised a hand. She told them that she is not very good at keeping secrets because she ended up writing a book about all the secret creatures she learned about!
When someone asked, “How did you become a writer?”, she told them that she follows her curiosity. When she gets excited about something she wants to learn more and she takes her curiosity seriously. “To write a book one has to observe, ask questions, research, reflect, organize, write and rewrite.” She re-wrote “The Secret Bay” 12 times!
In writing workshops for grades 3-6, Kim worked with students by pretending they were “Ace Reporters” looking for a catchy first sentence to hook their readers. They were to tell the story of the strange creature living in their backyards, the tardigrade, a microscopic creature that lives in moss. She also had an exercise that showed how important reliable research is.
With the younger students, she talked about how estuaries are like a big mixing bowl with brackish water, a mixture of salt and fresh that creates the perfect magical home for some pretty amazing animals. They were encouraged to pretend they were creating an estuary right in the room and she read passages from “The Secret Bay.” She showed them a horseshoe crab molt and told them all sorts of interesting facts about this extreme survivor.
At the end of the day, each class met Kim in the hall to tell about their projects, a time for each child to tell about their process. This school has such a rich learning environment with collaborations with community organizations and individuals and a reaching out from the school to embrace all that this community has to offer.