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school visits

Wolfsnail Classroom Visits

The lush green days of Spring are here and I’ve been talking about wolfsnails. I visited Spencer Loomis Elementary School in Hawthorne Woods, IL, very near Chicago. Alex D., the daughter of my college roommate, Sarita, goes to Spencer Loomis. We had a great time with private eyes and some garden snails and slugs. Some of the snails were reluctant to move around, but we nudged them with water. The slugs seemed more eager to move; we wondered whether that’s because they have no shells to hid under.
visit to Spencer Loomis
Also, my former neighbor, Shirlene Phillips, found a wolfsnail in her yard so I brought my book to The Redeemer’s School to talk with her students. It was pretty much the same size as the snail I photographed for the book. The 4-year-olds, kindergartners, and first graders had really good questions.

Earlier this month, I spent a few days at the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival with Julie Owen. We presented a session titled Photography and Place: Engaging Projects for Libraries. We pulled together materials related to our presentation on Pinterest here.

 

Fractals in Asheville

Home from a great trip to Asheville, North Carolina, where I met friends and talked a lot about fractals. After the book stuff, I went to a family wedding. But first, Asheville … I met up with Joe D’Agnese and Denise Kiernan. Joe wrote Blockhead, a picture book biography of Fibonacci that came out in the same season as Growing Patterns. We enjoyed wonderful food and fellowship.

Malaprops

I signed books at Malaprop’s Bookstore.

hall fletcher
I did a presentation for 4th and 5th graders at Hall Fletcher Elementary School, and made fractals with 5th graders.

group pic
Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know that I also sat for an interview with Greta Johnsen, the co-host of Nerdette, a podcast that is distributed by WBEZ in Chicago. I’ll keep you posted for when that will air.

Like true kindred spirits, Joe and Denise had sunflowers in their garden. I love sunflowers.

flower1ash

flower2ash

Girls Prep Public Charter Visit

Last month, I visited Girls Prep Public Charter School in the Bronx, New York, to work with second grade students for a unit on writing nonfiction books. While I was there, I also spent an hour with the fourth grade writing club. With second grade, I worked with the students for three days. I was testing some ideas for a presentation I am slated to give at the International Reading Association annual conference in New Orleans in May.

Girls Prep WS group

The first day, I presented my “Love a Critter? Make a Book” session to all three classes in one big group. It was Read Across America Day so some of the girls and teachers were dressed as characters in books.

jess in background
The reason I chose Girls Prep is that my sister, Jessica Crosby-Pitchamootoo (pictured in the center dressed as the tree in Chicka Chicka Boom Boom), works there as a reading specialist. Jessica will join me and Dr. Amy Broemmel, a professor of education at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, to present “Reading and Writing Science Books? Paths to Creating Authentic Informational Texts.”
teacher gp small group
In the second and third days at Girls Prep, I led each class in a mini-lesson and then the girls did some guided practice. On the first day, my topic was “Taking information from research and writing in my own words to suit my purpose,” and the second day, it was “Making a plan for my writing, keeping my purpose in mind.”
lady bug girl
julie
sarah w stu
During the mini-lesson on planning, I showed the students how I make a book dummy when I am deciding the order of things in my books. I led them in making an instant book.
folding
star
numbering
book
girl writing
The feedback from the second grade writing unit has been good. One teacher said she believes the girls really understand author’s purpose in a much deeper way. One student told her teacher: “This is the most fun I’ve had while learning!” That’s exactly what writing should be. Fun, while learning!
I’ll post photographs of my session with the fourth grade writing club next.

Visit to The Dalton School

Last week, I visited first graders at The Dalton School in New York City. I began by speaking to all 5 classes (or houses, as they call them) in a kind of foyer that the school uses for such presentations. I knew the first graders were familiar with Growing Patterns from discussions with Dalton staff, but I brought them new material by starting with Wolfsnail.

presenting wolfsnail

I can’t say enough “thank you’s” to Melissa Haile-Mariam, librarian, and Karen Bass, communications/technology adviser, for their help in coordinating the visit, taking photographs, guiding me through the school, and making an amazing video about my visit.

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sarah showing snail

Dalton audience

more audience

groupThe most amazing part for me was visiting House 34, where I found Fibonacci Folding Books on display!

in the hallway outside house 34

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Fib Book

I have more images of student books, and I’ll be adding them to my collection of student art on my main website. Thank you, Dalton!

Mysterious Patterns Earns Second Star — School Library Journal

I’m thrilled to report that Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature got a starred review in School Library Journal.

Here’s an excerpt: Mysterious Patterns Cover online small-“Using clear text and outstanding color photographs, Campbell explores the concept of these unusual shapes. Beginning with circles, cones, and cylinders, she leads readers carefully and concisely through examples of fractals such as trees, rivers, mountains, broccoli, lightning, and lungs. The photographs, sometimes highlighting the ever-smaller pieces of a vegetable fractal against a black background, sometimes drawing back to give a aerial view of a geological feature, are crisp and precise and underscore the clear text.”

Read the whole review here. I am excited about the reception that Mysterious Patterns is getting in the review press, but I am even more excited about the reception it is getting from kids.

“I never knew about these before!” “Oh, now I see. Cool.” Music to my ears.

Girls Prep Fractals-

st lukes fractals

Visit to New York

Next week Sarah will be traveling to New York to make a few school visits.  The first visit she’ll be making will be to The Dalton School, where she will be speaking to first graders about Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator.  The First Graders at The Dalton School are actually familiar with Sarah’s work already because Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature is a part of their curriculum! Last year, some first graders did the Fibonacci Folding Book project.

Sarah will then be at the Girls Prep Charter School in the Bronx. She’ll be spending a few days there working with second graders on writing non-fiction books.  They will be exploring the work of an author, specifically tying in how authors and illustrators choose their topics, how to write with a purpose in mind, and how to put one’s research into their own words. For this presentation Sarah will be highlighting Wolfsnail. Also at Girls Prep, Sarah will also be working with the fourth grade writing club, doing the fractal pop-up book project we taught at St. Luke’s in Baton Rouge.

We’ll certainly miss Sarah here down South, but it will be exciting to hear about her time in New York!

School Visits to Prentiss Christian and Lawrence County High School

Prentiss Christian and Lawrence County-

This past Thursday Sarah visited Prentiss Christian School and Lawrence County High School to promote teen writing contest, the theme for which is “Animals and/or Nature.”  Students are encouraged to write either a short story about nature or a nonfiction essay about the theme. This contest is a partnership between The New Walden Writers Retreat and Environmental Arts Center and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality with support from the Jefferson Davis and Lawrence County Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the Central MS RC&D Council.  While at Prentiss Christian School Sarah gave a brief presentation on her books to introduce the students to the process of writing nature-focused non-fiction.  She shared both Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator and Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature, both of which are non-fiction books.  Although her work is non-fiction, I noticed that while we were at St. Luke’s in Baton Rouge that her work seemed to unanimously inspire fiction work from the students. I wonder what it is about these scientific and mathematical concepts in nature that inspires us to write creatively?

Prentiss Christian and Lawrence County--5

 

Special thanks to Hope Daley of the Jefferson Davis County Soil & Water Conservation District and Mandy Callaway of the Lawrence County SWCD for organizing these visits, and another thanks to Chuck Jepsen and Laura Beiser of the Central MS Resource Conservation and Development Council for facilitating them! Hopefully the wonderful weather (and Sarah’s wonderful presentations) will inspire the students to get out and start writing about nature!

Finding Fractals in the Classroom

St. Lukes Fractal Pop up Books--16Hello! My name is Mary Schmidt, and I’m Sarah’s intern for the Spring. I’m a senior at Millsaps College, and while I don’t know much about children’s literature I’ve enjoyed my first month learning about it!

On February 5 Sarah and I left for Baton Rouge, LA to make a visit to St. Luke’s Episcopal School. While there Sarah presented her newest book, Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature, to Mrs. McIlwain’s fifth grade classes. The classes were both very welcoming and enjoyed learning about fractals (as well as some side facts about the wolfsnail!).

We arrived in Baton Rouge late Wednesday afternoon, just in time for a great dinner prepared by Julie Owen. After dinner Sarah showed me the ins and outs of the cameras that I would be using to film and take pictures with the next day. I’ve always appreciated photography, but I honestly did not know how much work went into the process (not to mention just setting the cameras up!). Thanks to Sarah’s husband Richard’s notes, though, I was able to set the camera up and even get a few good shots.

Sarah read the book from the F&Gs (folded and gathered, meaning the pages of the book without binding or a spine) to explain fractals to the classes. Each class had great questions about fractals — they were certainly a smart group of students. After reading the book Sarah led them through a fractal activity, one that she and Julie Owen will be presenting at the Fay B Kaigler Children’s Book Festival in Hattiesburg, MS on April 10. The classes had great fun with the project, and we found that it was a great way for them to express their creativity and use their imaginations while engaging in math and science.mysterious patterns cover

Sarah also showed the classes some of the different drafts of the book, starting with the very first draft (see photo above). The classes were perhaps most interested in the process of writing a book, as they just finished a unit in which they wrote their own books. Based on their fractal projects I would not be surprised if there were a few potential authors in the class!

The visit was a huge hit (according to Julie’s son, Hobson), and Sarah, Julie, and I are all grateful to Mrs. McIlwain’s class for allowing us to visit! And a huge thanks to Julie and her family for hosting Sarah and me (an even bigger thanks for the delicious meals). We certainly appreciated it!

 

My Dedicated Critique Group

One way I work to make my manuscripts stronger is by test driving them with readers. With this book, I’ve gone back again and again to this select group of fourth graders at Davis Magnet IB World School. I worked with these students as third graders to make math story books. See post here. They’ve been giving me feedback this year on my fractal book.
Davis reading fractals

I’ve had good suggestions from them, and from Beth West, who is the International Baccalaureate curriculum coordinator at Davis. Some are: use different color lines for each iteration in the tree fractal and use lungs as the fractal example from the human body. Some of their best feedback comes in the form of questions or comments. One said on Wednesday: I think this version is better because I didn’t really understand fractals before. Phew!
Critique Group Fractal

Visiting Bailey Middle

Today I visited an advanced 8th grade English class at Bailey Middle School. Mrs. Camille Magee, the teacher, taught my three sons at Chastain Middle School.

Bailey Magee's classWe made instant books and talked about the steps in the publishing process. We started with Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator and spent some time on the new fractal book.

More than a few hands went up when I asked if any of them liked to write. What a great group!