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9 Apr 2016

Visiting Authors: Memories for a Lifetime

Our students are energized, inspired, captivated. Our community of readers has been moved by the stories behind the stories we have come to love. The stories of Jacqueline Woodson, Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. From movement and paper collage workshops in the Elementary School to deep readings and discussion in AP English classes in the High School, our students experienced unforgettable learning.

In all of Jacqueline Woodson's discussions with students and adults alike, her message was clear, "Ask me anything. There are no wrong questions." Jacqueline believes deeply in open dialogue as a pathway to deeper understanding. Our students in many instances rose to the challenge of asking probing and complex questions. Students and teachers in Grades 4 and 5, in particular, strengthened their understanding of Brown Girl Dreaming and Show Way in their smaller group discussions with Jacqueline.

In her second week, Jacqueline engaged our parents in an inspirational Talk Tuesday session. She discussed the importance of diverse reading experiences for children - the need for all readers to see themselves in books. Books must serve as both mirrors and windows to the world. She encouraged parents not to restrict their children's reading, but instead read and discuss challenging books with them.

Jacqueline's after school writing workshops gave students an opportunity to write, share and offer each other feedback. Many of our elementary students wrote about favorite holidays inspired my Jacqueline's poetry and bravely read aloud and received comments from the group. A group of High School students, several of whom shared that they are currently writing novels, poetry and screen plays in their own time, wrote fictional pieces with Jacqueline based on a prompt from a silent video.

Steve Jenkins and Robin Page offered exciting hands-on opportunities for our students through paper collage workshops. Students in K1 through Grade 1 created paneled books about their favorite animals using torn and cut colored paper much the same as Steve and Robin do in their published work. High School and Middle School art students had similar opportunities to create alongside Steve and Robin. Our upper elementary students marveled at Steve's rapid-fire presentations of animal illustrations and fascinating facts from the blob fish to the thorny lizard.

A highlight of the week was the after-school movement and art workshop led by Steve and Robin's daughter, Page, a dance instructor. Page skillfully guided our elementary students and parents in a dance session to experience how animals move in many wonderful ways.  It was quite a treat to see students of all ages leap like armadillos alongside each other in the library! The movement activity then inspired the creation of collage books showing animal movement on the page.

Inspired by Steve and Robin's art work, our elementary art teachers, Ms. Anna and Mrs. Confer, and parent volunteer, Jane Elliot, led our elementary students from K1 through Grade 5 in designing a mural of sea life. Each student contributed a layer, a stencil or a three dimensional sea animal to the project. The mural, near complete, will be mounted in the hallway between the Elementary Library and cafeteria.

We know that the learning that Jacqueline, Steve and Robin offered our students will stay with them for a lifetime. We thank each of them for making memories with us. We thank them for deepening our understanding, opening our eyes and changing the way we think as readers, writers, artists and as learners.