MDI 7th Grade Read at Camp Beech Cliff

The 7th Grade Read has become an annual cornerstone of our fall programming and this year’s event with author Clare Vanderpool at Camp Beech Cliff was once again a great success.

The Oct. 19 event brought together all 137 seventh graders from each MDIRSS school to Camp Beech Cliff for a morning to discuss Clare’s book, “Navigating Early” and hear from the author herself.

The goal of this annual event is to provide an opportunity for all MDI seventh graders interact with their peers from different schools, read an acclaimed novel by an author who each student gets to meet, and have community members share their love of reading by facilitating small group discussions.

As the kids arrived, Billie Holiday (a favorite of main character Early’s) played from a record player in the entrance to the Eagle’s Nest. Each student had a name tag featuring a constellation — another element of “Navigating Early” — and were assigned to meet up with the group leaders who matched their constellations.

As everyone entered, they used the constellations on their name tags to join their groups that included kids from different MDIRSS schools.

The first activity was a Gallery Walk in which each group had two minutes each to answer five different questions about the book and vote on whether they agreed or disagreed on the answers. There was some hot debate among some of the questions, which is exactly what we love to see when discussing literature!

Gallery Walk

Gallery Walk

MDI teachers came up with questions for the Gallery Walk to help get the kids in the mood for the group discussions.

The groups then moved into a 25-minute discussion of the book, facilitated by one of 15 wonderful community volunteers.

Getting a kick out of the group discussion.

Community volunteers read the book and prepared to facilitate the small group discussions.

Clare sits in on a small group discussion.

IRW is extremely grateful to its volunteers from many different corners of the MDI community: Lee Bonta of the Jesup Memorial Library; Ephron Catlin; Dianne Clendaniel of College of the Atlantic; Matt Cornish of Camp Beech Cliff; Autumn Demaine of Trenton Elementary School; Tiffany Dow of The First; Tim Garrity of the MDI Historical Society; Billy Helprin of the Somes Meynell Wildlife Preserve; Lisa Horsch-Clark of Friends of Acadia; Jenny Jones, of the Bar Harbor Food Pantry; Margie Phelps of Hinckley; Andrew Simon of Barn Arts; Mark Woida of Harbor House; Jamie Whitehead of Camp Beech Cliff and Marie Yarborough of Acadia National Park.

Our wonderful volunteers! From left: Margie Phelps, Jamie Whitehead, Tiffany Dow, Mark Woida, Dianne Clendaniel. Matt Cornish, Lisa Horsch-Clark, Tim Garrity, Andrew Simon, Billy Helprin, Lee Bonta. [Not pictured: Ephron Catlin, Autumn Demaine, Jenny Jones, Marie Yarborough.]

Clare talks about her life and writing.

After the group discussions, book trailers the kids created were shown to much applause (and sometimes laughter). Clare then talked about her inspiration from the book and about how some scenes or elements from the story are inspired by her own life. “Life experiences can bubble up when you need them,” she said. All 137 kids received a personally-inscribed copy of “Navigating Early” and left Camp Beech Cliff inspired by their peers from different schools and by meeting and chatting with Clare.


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