See my interview with Kirkus Reviews.com Julie Danielson of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.
I had the pleasure of visiting Pioneer Elementary in March. Wow, the art teacher was a burst of creativity, working on such incredible projects with the kids. Many other teachers were doing amazing work, as well. See some of it below! Click on each photo to see it in greater detail.
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I’d just been to Seven Hills-Lotspeich. How could another school day be just as fun? Well, if you’re at the other Seven Hills Campus—Doherty. It can! This Cincinnatti school just percolates with life. If I were going to be a teacher, I’d want to work in one of the Seven Hills Schools.
Why? Because excellent schools need faculty that care for one another, that lunch together, that chat and exchange ideas. This school has it on both campuses. Education can be joyous when staff share that passion for helping students. But left alone in classrooms, teachers can grow isolated, like stay-at-home moms who love their kids but need some grownup time now and then. Staff development makes it sound all technical. That is helpful. But the core of the best schools I have seen is a caring staff community: community that nurtures creative teachers and does not squash them. You could see it at work, hear it at work during my lunch with some of the Doherty teachers.
Seven Hills also has another community that uplifts the place. The parents. Wow. They pitch in for all kinds of things. At the whirling center of joy is librarian Linda Wolfe who I had the pleasure of spending the day with.
She is a dynamo who knows children’s literature inside out. She created wonderful activities to go with my books. Just look at what they did with Vulture View. She found some kind of scratch paper that is black with silver underneath. The students cut out vultures and scratched through to make the beautiful silvering of the feathers.
She describes how she introduces Trout Are Made of Trees to her students. To celebrate the book, she used a scale/math/art activity. She gave kids large photos of the aquatic insects. Then the children had to draw them, as accurately as possible, on the tiny pieces of paper. It’s a good thinking project. You can just imagine how many neurons fire when trying to duplicate but shrink an image.
In the halls were more art projects to celebrate If You Should Hear a Honey Guide; Dig, Wait, Listen; and other books. Penguins for Antarctica. Maps of South America. There was art of many kinds.
Among my favorites was an organizational project done by Mr. Schmidt’s class. They took my books and graphed them in various ways to show the content and relationships in the books. It’s a good way to prepare for writing books of their own.
I saw and experienced all of this in one short school day at Seven Hills Doherty. Just imagine what a student could learn in a school year of being with these hard working, creative educators.
I was greeted by a parking sign, marching ants, and the wonderful Marcia Snyder, librarian at Seven Hills—Lotspeich in Cincinnati, Ohio. The classrooms had done dioramas of undersea scenes for Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out! and even made a 3-D pasta machine and listed their own desired “suprpwrs” in celebration of Noodle Man: the Pasta Superhero.
This was the first time I’d seen activities for the new Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out. There were turtle shape poems which looked like ancient, beautiful style art. What about these wild pine cone birds for Bird, Bird, Bird? Extraordinary.
What a lovely school. The science teacher, Ms. Wildfong, showed me the science building. They have lots of animals. It really feels like a science-in-action place.
The music teacher, Ms. Wilson, shared the use of Bird, Bird, Bird: a Chirping Chant. She was teaching kids the half and quarter notes and how to use the staff by getting them to sound out and choose among a few notes to set this book to music.
The art teacher, Ms. Knoop was a wonder. Love her! She’s made a creative space, complete with old plastic toy color wheel, great supply drawers, and projects galore. She partners with another teacher to do a whole big unit on fibers. Ms. Knoop brings in wool from her sheep and they dye it with natural plant dyes and spin it. Wow. Hands on science and history and art all at the same time.
Thanks, Seven Hills, for an inspiring day. Your students and staff are great! Lunching with with these joyful, dedicated educators was a pleasure. Their ideas popped like popcorn. Really, it was like being in some of the great creative meetings I had at National Geographic. You walk away uplifted and refreshed.
Just when I thought the school year couldn’t get any better, it did. Jeff and I drove to the U.P. of Michigan so I could speak at the Marquette-Alger Young Authors Conference.
Wow. This is the largest young author event I have seen. Over the course of 4 days, about 3,000 students from surrounding school districts were brought to Northern Michigan University.
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Mrs. Leaphart’s and Mrs. Bates’ Class did some extraordinary writing inspired by the structure of Vulture View and Trout, Trout, Trout: a Fish Chant.
Val Byrd Fort, media specialist at New Providence Elementary fixed up these great invitations sent to students chosen for a special small group writers’ chat with me. This is a new event I started offering in addition to my traditional large group talks at schools late this school year. I met with only about 12 students each time. And oh, the joy of it!
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