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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!

Two Sessions at NSTA 2013

I’ve been hard at work on the work-in-progress. And, the work is hard. I’m wrestling text and images and graphics into place, staring down a deadline. In the last two days, I’ve made really good progress. There’s nothing like having Richard available to produce the graphics I need when I need them. I wish he were my full-time office companion.

After two long days, I need to let some things settle a bit so I have time for a quick blog post. I was in San Antonio last weekend for the National Science Teachers Association annual convention.

Sarah at NSTA13

I was one of nine authors (Terry Jennings (Gopher to the Rescue), Darcy Pattison (Desert Baths), Elizabeth Rusch (The Mighty Mars Rover), Melissa Stewart (Under the Snow), Catherine Thimmesh (Team Moon), Peggy Thomas (Farmer George Plants a Nation), and Sallie Wolf (The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound) who participated in a workshop titled: “Integrating Science and Literacy: A Journey, Not a Destination.” Each of us was paired with a professor of education. My partner was Dr. Amy Broemmel from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She helped me share the educational materials I’ve developed for Wolfsnail and Growing Patterns with four groups of teachers who rotated through our table. She took these photographs.

the backstoriesIn my second session, “The Power of Scientists’ Stories in Teaching NGSS Methods and Practices,” I teamed up with Dr. Kristin Rearden, who also teachers at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Andy Boyles, science editor at Highlights.

Once again, it was my job to share ideas with teachers for using my books in classrooms to meet the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

teaching looking at snail on move book

I led the group in making a Fibonacci Folding Book, and talked about the Fibonacci Puzzle, the Wolfsnail On The Move book, and the instant book.

Kristin Rearden

Here is Kristin talking about bringing pinecones into the classroom to have students look for the Fibonacci sequence in the spirals on the bottom.

three presentersWe had lunch after our session to talk about what we might do for future conferences. Presenting at national conferences is always a wonderful experience because it brings me into dialogue with the people who use my books in classrooms and libraries with kids. I always learn things, and I always have fun.

Check out a new blog called Perfect Pairings: Linking Science and Literacy written by Kristin and Amy. You’ll find great trade picture books to use in your classrooms.

Whole Schools Summer Institute

Julie Owen and I taught our “Read a Book, Make a Book” workshop this week at the Whole Schools Summer Institute. We taught three book forms: the instant book, Wolfsnail On the Move, and the Fibonacci Folding Book.

showing a book I made as a young girlHere I am showing, and reading from, a book I made when I was in early elementary school.

starting the scroll rollHere Julie is demonstrating how to make the scroll part of the Wolfsnail on the Move book.

participant rollingsample made during classmaking a Fib Folding Book

Studio for Wolfsnail App Project

coverWe’ve been talking for some time about making an iPad app inspired by Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. I started thinking seriously about making an app after attending a session at this year’s National Science Teachers Association Convention. (Read about my time at the NSTA here.) Richard made a start on an app that would run on an iPhone, but we weren’t convinced that it was working. We have had a few conversations with our editors at Boyds Mills Press, both Andy Boyles, editor for science titles, and Mary Alice Moore, editorial director. They had good questions that helped us re-think our approach. Some were: Are we making an app just because we can? or, put another way, Is there something about the platform (iPhone, iPad, or other tablet) that would let us do something different than the book offers? Who will buy the app? Who will use the app? Do you see it as a substitute for the book? If a person owns the book, would they also want to buy the app?

After thinking about these questions, we put the app for the iPhone on hold. We decided we thought the larger format of the iPad (or other tablet) would provide a better tableau for our content. We put the Wolfsnail project on the back burner while we finished the Fibonacci Folding Book Project app. It is a free app that contains a full-fledged lesson plan for a multi-disciplinary unit that works well with our book, Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. (Read about that app here.)

About a month ago, Richard hit upon a good idea. We have decided to create entirely new visual content — in video. Rather than try to “animate” the photographs somehow, we are shooting video of every scene and action in the book. Luckily, I found a snail earlier this autumn (October 17 – thanks FB). We figured we’d have to do our video capture indoors so we set about to create a studio that would be appropriate to the task. I did some research into white boxes, but none seemed to be big enough.

white box homemadeWe decided to build our own. Richard put together a frame with pvc pipe. I stitched muslin panels, which would bounce the light. We created a plant box from an under-the-bed storage container. We got a big bag of potting soil, planted the plants, and brought in a bunch of leaves. We’re using water from our rain barrel to keep the plants, leaves, and snails moist.

white box with plastic containerall put together
I’m still a sucker for still shots so I took a few. This whole setup reminded me of the snail playgrounds our son, Nathan, set up when he found the first snails a decade ago. I’ll see if I can scare up a photo of those playgrounds, often made from cereal boxes, toilet paper rolls, and empty juice cartons.
snail playground
I took these with a Nikon D700 using a regular lens. Richard is using the Tamron 90 mm macro lens on the Nikon D7000.
closer up snails on leaves

These bottom two photos are from July 2003. The boys were 6 and 4. (It is so nice that digital photographs take the guesswork out of dating images.)
old style snail playground
close up playground

Mississippi Whole Schools Summer Institute

I taught this week at the Mississippi Whole Schools Summer Institute. Julie Owen and I teamed up to teach the Fibonacci Folding Book Project. I taught three other afternoon sessions and Julie taught her fabulous “Knit it, Solve it,” for the first time. You can see photos of our work on Julie’s flickr album here or here on my blog.

ct student takes photos

ct student2 takes photos

ct student3 taking photos

mushrooms

measuring and folding Fibonacci accordian books

writing Fib poem

teachers working on poems

illustrating book

illustrating book2

teaching showing MAC director Malcolm White

illustrating book3

example 1

example 1b

example 2

example 2b

NSTA Annual Conference

I blogged about my school visits in the San Francisco area, but once I moved on to the NSTA conference, I stopped posting updates. There were a few reasons for this: First, I moved into The Palace Hotel and they charged for internet in the rooms (I still don’t understand why budget hotels provide free internet and breakfast and so-called luxury hotels charge through the nose for both). Second, I was working from breakfast to supper and falling asleep after a few clicks of my Kindle.

Boyds Mills Press rented a corner booth in the conference exhibit hall and my editor, Andy Boyles (pictured above helping M. make a Fibonacci Folding Book), and I were responsible for greeting conferees. Andy arranged display copies of all of BMP’s science titles around the walls of the booth. We set up a table in the front of the booth with display copies of Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator and Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. I put out my two mini-quilts (here and here), some private eye loupes, a pinecone, a nautilus shell, a sample Fibonacci Folding Book, and a stack of my postcards. I’ve gone to two other national conferences, the 2009 American Library Association meeting in Chicago and the 2010 International Reading Association convention (also in Chicago). In those cases, I was one of many BMP authors and illustrators who signed books. I was scheduled for an hour on each day. This time, I was signing all day every day. We left the booth only for three presentations (two featured information about 2011 Outstanding Science Trade Books) and a lunch meeting. I met lots of interesting people — some who teach science to kids, others who teach teachers how to teach science to kids, and people who work with organizations that promote science education.

We sold all the copies of Growing Patterns that BMP shipped and could have sold at least a dozen more. It helped that many teachers had seen the feature article about the 2011 Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 in Science & Children, NSTA’s magazine for elementary school teachers. Andy and I had a great time having lunch with current, former, and future members of the Outstanding Science Trade Book selection committee, including Suzanne Flynn, J. Carrie Launius, Betty Crocker, Steve Rich, Karen Ostlund, Kristin Rearden, and Juliana Texley. We also met Lauren Jonas and Emily Brady, who are on staff at NSTA and help coordinate the NSTA Recommends program and the OSTB list. We learned about the process and met some great people. Most of them seem to be on their second or third career. They started in classrooms teaching kids and then went into either administration or into teaching teachers at the college or post-graduate level.

They had stories about using trade books in classrooms. Juliana told me about the time she took flowers on an airplane so she could use them in a presentation about my book. They didn’t like the dry environment and shriveled beyond use. She had to hit a grocery store for replacements. One plant she bought was a peace lily (featured in the book to illustrate 1). When it was time to go home, she put it in her suitcase. “I threw some clothes away and made room for it,” she said. “It’s still doing fine.”

Right after lunch, I participated in a session featuring the 2011 NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books led by some of the teachers at the luncheon. Other authors with winning books who participated were: Debbie S. Miller, who wrote Survival at 40 Below, and Seymour Simon, who wrote Global Warming.

The final session Andy and I attended was led by Seymour Simon and centered on the changes in children’s book publishing being driven by electronic devices. Simon and his wife, Liz Nealon, who has worked in many creative capacities over the years including with Sesame Street, talked about the growing numbers of children and families who have access to electronic reading devices such as Kindles, iPads, Nooks, iPhones, etc. Simon demonstrated how he has begun publishing some of his out-of-print titles in electronic format. His talk was very inspiring and I left there thinking about how I could get some e-publishing going.

I mentioned it to Richard when I got home and he’s spent a good amount of time this week building an iPhone app for Wolfsnail. How cool is that?!

My Classroom Projects

Sarah reading Growing Patterns at St. ThereseAs a teaching artist, I am excited about the new school year. I am scheduling traditional author visits, but I am also scheduling a few longer residencies. Tuesday, I will join other Jackson-area artists and arts organizations in meeting with elementary school faculty and principals committed to integrating the arts into everyday academic instruction. This group is the Ask for More Arts Collaborative, a program of Parents for Public Schools of Jackson. I will offer my services through the AFMA JumpstART program.

St. Therese Student Share Fibonacci Folding BookIn collaboration with teachers and a librarian friend, I have designed two projects that combine writing and photography. They are: The Fibonacci Folding Book Project and [Your School] on the Map. Regular blog readers will have followed the development of these projects. Julie Owen, librarian at St. Therese Catholic School, helped develop the Fibonacci Folding Book Project. It is a companion to Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature.

Student photographer composes imageSecond grade teachers at Davis Magnet School, most notably Beth West, helped develop Davis on the Map, or [Your School] on the Map. You may click on the “Davis on the Map” category to the right to read about this project. Both of these projects feature the study of the work of a master artist, the opportunity for students to create original artwork, and an exploration of the program’s theme (Community: A Sense of Place.) Each meets curriculum objectives in the visual arts and several academic areas.

Using Digital Photography to Illustrate Math Stories

I’ve been so busy with students I haven’t had much time to blog. We are in the final stage of our bookmaking, and the books look great. The third graders did a terrific job!

six books on desk

Students created stories in the broad categories of patterns and measurement. We had six groups of students. Four groups had four students each, and two groups had three students each. The groups worked together to brainstorm, write, storyboard, and take photographs.

After an initial visit, during which I talked about my Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature (read about it here), Beth West worked with the students to talk about what all math stories need. Together, she and the students developed a checklist. The group writing was a challenging part of this project. In order to facilitate the process, Beth and I worked with each group for about an hour — to help integrate disparate drafts and press for coherence in the math methods being deployed.

s writing

We spent the next full school day, working individually with groups to storyboard the photographs and then take them.

s and f talking about storyboard

After the photographs were taken, we asked the groups to self-select for four tasks: chartist (to create any chart needed for an illustration on good paper), folder (to make the instant book out of the good paper), assembler (to order, trim, and glue photographs into the book), and scribe (to write the final text into the book). So, on our final two work days, we worked with groups according to their tasks. All six folders made their books at the same time. All the chartists made charts at the same time, etc.

d making chart

m doing chartf foldingcutting

g making a bookt assemblingj assemblingk taking s through booka gluingk pressingb helping select text for pagesa and t writing final textt writingt explaining text choicesj writing final textb helping jmrs L enjoying the booksThis final picture is of the classroom teacher, Mrs. Lieb. She has been very patient with Beth and me as we invaded her classroom. Here she is enjoying reading one of the books for the first time. Thank you, Mrs. Lieb.

Patty Crosby took all but two of the photographs in this post. She also had the task of capturing the whole project on video. Thank you, Mom!

Thank you, also, Beth.