I spent the morning sharing Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator with two groups of students at St. Therese Catholic School here in Jackson. I was invited by Julie Owen, the St. Therese librarian, who is also a friend of mine. The St. Therese students (the first group was made up of fifth and sixth graders and the second of third and fourth graders) had terrific questions. I’ll share some here:
If there were no wolfsnails, would there be too many prey snails? Would that be a problem?
How do you know when a wolfsnail is asleep?
Were the African Tree snails that were imported into Hawaii brought there intentionally?
Are wolfsnails more closely related to regular snails or to wolves?
One student noticed that my husband, Richard, took some of the photographs for the book, too, and it made him think of an illustrator he heard during a school visit who told the students that the writing and illustrating happened in two different time frames and places and that it was best when the writer and illustrator didn’t communicate with each other. I told him I felt it was a great privilege and luxury to be both: the writer and illustrator (or co-illustrator) of our book.
Since I no longer have a wolfsnail to bring along with me, I have begun to bring my snail quilt. It gives me something the kids can touch to identify the parts of a snail: shell, tentacles, foot, etc.
I want to thank Julie for inviting me over to St. Therese and for taking these photographs for the blog. I also want to thank the principal, Sister Brenda, for her support. I know that funds are scarce for enrichment in education and I feel privileged to be able to share my story with young learners.
Most of all, I want to thank the students.
I read Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator to the children of Wells Church during their Sunday School time. The children, ranging from 3 to 12, asked great questions about snails and slime and calcium. They also tapped their fingernails to feel something hard like a snail’s shell and touched their tongues to feel something malleable like a snail’s foot.
I attend Wells and I gathered my kids on the red rug for countless Sundays. It was nice to return with my book. Several kids decided they wanted a copy of the book and so I sold a few. Thank you to Erin Mason, who graciously agreed to take photographs.
I took this in the early morning. The water is probably from a sprinkler, though, and not the dew. Once again, the colors caught my eye. I especially liked the contrast between the flowers in the foreground and the leaves in the background to the left.
To see more images from this day of photography at the Jackson Zoological Park, click here.
I’ve written before about creating educational materials that can be used with Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. I thought some of you might be interested in the process. Many writers of children’s books come from among the ranks of teachers and librarians; they certainly know how to create educational materials. Those of us who came to this business via other paths have some things to learn.
Creating the coloring page was easy — Richard had already done a nice (electronic) pen drawing of a snail and I used Adobe’s Photoshop, InDesign, and Acrobat to size it right and to add labels for the parts. During some school visits, I project the coloring page with labeled parts while the students color and label the parts on their coloring pages.
The second set of educational materials was different. I created three different sets of classroom activities: Introduction to Snails, Using Photographs to Prompt Story Writing, and Telling Stories Through Photographs: Write Your Own Caption Activity.
The first step in the process was to look at the curriculum. I chose to look at Mississippi’s since, at least initially, most of my visits will be close to home. In most states, the k-12 curriculum is available online. I reviewed the objectives in science, language arts, and visual arts.
Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator meets science curriculum objectives in all elementary grades, but it is a particularly good match in first and second grades when students learn to identify living things that are indigenous to Mississippi, discover that plants are a food source for living organisms, and begin learning about the food chain.
For example, here are the relevant competencies and objectives for first grade:
1. Explore the basic patterns of living systems. (L)
c. Observe and sequence the life cycles of plants, insects, and animals.
2. Investigate the diversity of living things. (L, P)
a. Classify plants and animals according to external features (scales, feathers, fur, etc.).
b. Identify plants and animals indigenous to Mississippi.
c. Compare plants and animals in Mississippi with those found in the jungle, desert and arctic regions.
Introduction to Snails outlines some activities students can do with snails in the classroom to meet these teaching objectives.
Using Photographs to Prompt Story Writing and Telling Stories Through Photographs: Write Your Own Caption Activity are activities that address competencies in language arts. In particular,
2. The student will apply strategies and skills to comprehend, respond to, interpret, or evaluate a variety of texts of increasing length, difficulty, and complexity.
All of these are available as downloadable pdfs on my website. Click on About Sarah and click on Educational Materials.
I hope you will let me know what you think about these educational materials — especially you teachers and moms out there who decide to use them with your students or children.
I was sitting on the porch one evening in June and noticed the contrast between the crepe myrtles and the peace lily. I thought the image might make a nice wall-hanging — if I transferred the shapes and colors to fabric. Once I saw it on screen and noticed all of those circles in the background, I shied away from that idea. I can’t imagine sewing that many overlapping circles. But I still love the colors. This is certainly one of those times when I want the background to be soft.
The story behind Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator is featured in Why are School Buses Always Yellow?, a book aimed at helping teachers create inquiry-based educational environments. The book’s author, John Barell, visited my sons’ school, Davis Magnet School, while he was researching his book. At the time, he was collecting stories for his chapter on involving parents in the inquiry process.
Nathan’s first grade teacher, Greer Proctor-Dickson, mentioned the wolfsnail story and he got in touch with me to learn more. We were lucky to have wonderful teachers for our sons at the time we were learning about the snails. Their kindergarten teacher, Glynda Beard, invited the snails in for show-and-tell — as did Mrs. Proctor-Dickson. At one point, the first graders sent a wolfsnail to Dr. Melissa Harrington, an associate professor at Delaware State University, for research studies she was conducting in neuroscience.
This was one of those instances when the boys’ interests (especially Nathan’s) merged perfectly with what was going on in the classroom. I watched him act like a scientist: observing, wondering aloud, developing theories, testing them, doing research, drawing, writing and, of course, playing with his research subject.
I am going to look into getting some of the educational materials I’ve created for Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator listed with their book guides. I’ll keep you posted when I find out how that works.
Dankia Morphew-Tarbuck, the Web 2.0 Content Producer, for TeachingBooks.net got in touch with me about the educational materials. I’ll be submitting what I’ve created to the TeachingBooks.net Information Manager for review. I’ll let you know what happens.
I learned recently that the illustrators gallery show I participated in earlier this year has been chosen to be a traveling exhibit through the Southern Arts Federation. Elizabeth Dulemba, the illustrator coordinator for the Southern Breeze region of SCBWI, put the show together and shepherded it through the SAF selection process.
This is a new experience for me — never having had my photographs shown in a gallery setting before. I am learning about giclee prints, about framing, about procuring prints for sale along with the exhibit, etc. I have also put together a 10-page packet of educational materials for use with Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. All the time I spent working alongside teachers at Davis Magnet School sure came in handy as I developed activities to meet language arts, visual arts, and science curriculum objectives. I’ll be posting the new materials to my website soon.
The exhibit will tour for two years and we have been told to expect opportunities to talk about our work and sell our books. I am grateful to Elizabeth (and to Liz Conrad who helped hang the original show) for her work on this project. Elizabeth continues to act as our organizer and general adviser.
I recently completed a scrapbook for Richard’s mother as a gift for her birthday. This was one of the photographs. It was taken in 1969/1970 at Cape Cod. One of the things I enjoyed about doing the scrapbook was seeing photographs of Richard at different stages and comparing them to photographs of his sons.
This was a nice toddler shot so I went through and found a few toddler shots of the boys — in this case my middle and youngest sons, Nathan and Douglas, respectively.
In this one Douglas is slightly younger and he’s pictured at home — possibly with some of the same beads on as Nathan.
At a recent writers conference I wrote a short poem about my scrapbooking project.
Photographs pressed on
Mom, Dad, the kids
Here’s my latest quilt top. It is a design I made up through trial and error. The saw tooth row and border pieces with string blocks at the corners were inspired by Hystercine Rankin’s Sunburst pattern. It is ready to be quilted. I haven’t decided the pattern I’ll use for quilting, but it’ll be something fairly simple.
You can find out more about Hystercine Rankin, a National Heritage Award winner, and see her African Sunburst here. The Mississippi Museum of Art will feature one of Mrs. Rankin’s narrative memory quilts in its September Unburied Treasures event (Sept. 16). My father, Dave Crosby, will talk about the quilt, which is part of the MMA’s permanent collection. I will read some of Rankin’s memories of learning how to quilt. The Port Gibson Heritage Singers will provide music. Learn more here.
We’ve had lots of rain and some wind from Hurricane Gustav, but nothing like Katrina three years ago. We’ve been told to expect more wind, rain, and possible tornadoes.
I spent a lot of the day in the sewing room, making another project. I’ll share a photograph one of these days.