MDIRSS 7th Grade Read brings together students from seven local schools

All 120 seventh graders from seven Mount Desert Regional School System (MDIRSS) schools came together Oct. 20 for Island Readers & Writers’s 7th Grade Read. Students from Connors Emerson in Bar Harbor, Pemetic Elementary in Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Elementary in Northeast Harbor, Trenton Elementary, Tremont Elementary, Swan’s Island, and Cranberry Isles converged at Camp Beech Cliff for a morning filled with activities based around the Newbery Honor-winning book, Wolf Hollow.

Wolf Hollow author Lauren Wolk was on hand to speak about her inspiration for the novel, answer questions, and listen in on small discussion groups in which students from various schools opened up about their favorite parts of the story. An icebreaker activity warmed up students by urging them to find others who had the same favorite childhood book, or the same comfort food, to form small affinity groups.

A Four Corners activity asked them to respond to some charged questions, and decide by using their feet to move to different corners of the room based on where they were on the scale of “agreement” to issues such as, “Gossip being a productive form of communication,” and “First Impressions are True.” Both were issues Lauren dealt with in the book.

The middle-grade novel tells the coming-of-age story of Annabelle, a 12-year-old girl growing up in rural Pennsylvania during World War II. It has received international praise and has drawn comparisons to Harper Lee’s classic bildungsroman, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Wolk noted that the story was inspired by her mother’s own experiences growing up and told students, “the things you are doing right now are shaping who you will be and may someday make it into a book of its own,” said the author. “You are in the middle of your own coming-of-age story.”

Wolk suggested that the group write their own stories and take note of “the ordinary that can become extraordinary.” The author also urged each student to find his or her voice, much like Annabelle did in the story.

“You may not feel like you have much power at 12-years-old,” said Wolk. “But it matters very much what you think and what you say. You have enormous power. Use your voice and use the tools you have at your disposal. You have individual power and you also have power as a generation.”

Many students created book trailers, similar to movie trailers, and presented them to their peers and to Wolk, who was impressed by the students’ skills.

Lauren’s wisdom continued to impress facilitators, IRW staff, and MDIRSS students. Here are some other notable quotes from the morning:
– “You’re in the middle of your own coming-of-age story.”
– “The things that bind us together do not change. Listen carefully to the echoes between generations and cultures.”
– “Reading is a thread that wound around our family and pulled it tight.”

Thirteen volunteers from different corners of the community, including Ephron Catlin, Dianne Clendaniel, Amanda Crafts, Autumn Demaine, Carrie Eason, Jean Evans, David Evans, Jill Higgins, Lisa Horsch-Clark, Dencie McEnroe, Margie Phelps, Tony Preston-Schreck and Mark Woida, led small group discussions based on aspects of Wolf Hollow, which included the themes and topics of bullying, lying, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

IRW Program Director Ruth Feldman said, “The connection that the students made with the book and with Lauren is what IRW strives for in all of our visits; engagement with the book from many perspectives. The event is unique in that it brings together all seventh graders from MDIRSS to share and get to know one another, develop their own voice and ideas through facilitated, interactive exercises.”

Thank you to everyone who helped to make it a hearty success and a day to remember! We can’t wait until next year.

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