Arts Integration

Read a Book, Make a Book

I spent Saturday leading a workshop for a dozen Greenville Public School teachers titled “Read a Book, Make a Book.” The workshop was organized and paid for by the Greenville Arts Council. I appreciate all the help I got from Megan Hines, the education director for the arts council.

I taught three book forms: the instant book, the Wolfsnail on the Move Book (a scroll form), and the Fibonacci Folding Book (an accordion form). I shared the stories behind each of my books to give teachers a window into the creative process of a writer of nonfiction, and to empower them to lead their students through the same process.


We used Private Eye loupes to examine natural objects.

examining the nautilus

It was a cold, dreary day in the Delta so we didn’t spend time outside. We did a few exercises that teachers can use to prepare students for nature journaling outside, including the 20-second nature break.

observing, writing

A highlight of the day was making our Wolfsnail on the Move books.

green crayon

D reading Wolfsnail


green pencil

wavy brown


L reading

D reading

C reading

R reading

J reading

D reading

finished book

wolfsnail on the move book

d's book

G 's book

I used some portions of the Digging Deep curriculum I developed this year with the Mississippi Museum of Art. I thank the museum education department’s Elizabeth Williams and Dorian Pridgen for sending copies of the curriculum, other MMA materials related to schools, and door prizes for teachers.

Photography and Bookmaking After School

I spent a delightful hour with the Poindexter Park After School Club. I read my books, guided the students in making an instant book, and turned them loose to take macro photographs.

Sarah Campbell with Poindexter Park After School Club members

After just a few minutes of “practice” with private eye jewelers loupes, the students took turns taking photographs using the macro setting on my Canon elph. These are some of the best images. Others were blurry, but most of us have to take many, many images to get any useable ones. I look forward to seeing how the photography improves and to reading the books they’ll make.

ferns and crown of thorn blossoms


crown of thorns

Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival

wolfsnail on the moveI’m putting the finishing touches on a workshop that I’ll be presenting with Julie Owen at the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at USM in Hattiesburg. If you’ll be there for the first session Wednesday, join us for “Read a Book, Make a Book!” This photo is a sneak preview of the new book we’ll be talking about: Wolfsnail On The Move. In our workshop, we’ll also teach two other books for kids to make as responses to reading Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator and Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature.

shelllessI will also be signing books at the campus bookstore and hanging out with my librarian and writer friends. See the full schedule here.


Some statistics and Murrah Quiz Bowl Pictures

getting closeAs my regular followers know, I am in the middle of a photography project with fourth graders at Davis Elementary School. With educators from the Mississippi Museum of Art and teachers at Davis, I am helping the students make field guides of the museum’s Art Garden.

I thought I’d share some statistics from our project.

Students: 43.

Cameras: 14.

Photographs Taken By Students: 1,493.

Field Guides: 10.

Photographs Selected for Field Guides: 46.

finding the live stuffThe students are busy with research and writing now. They will begin publishing soon. I can’t wait to see finished guides!

Murrah High School Quiz Bowl Team

I spent Friday evening and most of Saturday with Murrah’s Quiz Bowl team. The team participated in a tournament at the University of Mississippi; three of us parents drove. Both teams competed with great aplomb — the ‘B’ team, consisting of 5 freshmen and 1 junior, lost two before lunch. The ‘A’ team, three juniors and three sophomores, didn’t lose the second time until the finals of the B bracket. I was proud of them. (One fun fact about these quiz bowlers is that nine of the 12 are also members of the varsity soccer team.) Here are some photos.

In the lobby discussing rules.


emily g

B team captain.


More rules.

a team

The 'A' Team, ready for action.


The Latin teacher does a quick explainer of logarithms.


Mr. Everson, coach and Latin teacher.

Just think how tough we’ll be the next time we have our lone senior!

Davis Students Paint Watercolors

v watercolorFourth grade students at Davis Elementary spent part of their morning completing watercolor paintings inspired by their photographs from the Mississippi Museum of Art’s Art Garden. (You can see more about earlier stages of this project here.) Today’s lessons were taught by Carol Cox Peaster with help from Elizabeth Williams and Ivy Alley. I stopped by to take some photographs and help where I could. I was struck by what the students did to interpret their photographic images in the style of Walter Anderson.

I’ll show you a step-by-step by one of the students.

A starting her drawing on watercolor paper.Here, she is beginning her final sketch — on the fine watercolor paper.

A with blackHere she is applying the black watercolor paint to the outline elements.

A beginning with colorHere she is beginning to apply color.

finishing color

Finishing the color.

Now, here’s a look at the image she took at the Art Garden.
a's flower

Peaster used several books to showcase Walter Anderson’s style, including The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass.
Carol using Hester's bookHere are some other examples of student work:


stinkhorn again
stinkhorn moreYou can see that he is using his photograph as a reference. Here it is:

stinkhornSome students were taking photographs of living things; others of textures and art sculptures.

J and M

J detail
Now, for his photograph:
magnoliaAnd, finally.
manhole covercover 2Now, for her photograph:

manhole cover photo

Choosing Photos for Field Guides

I spent two days this week at Davis, guiding fourth graders as they chose photographs for their field guides. It is always fun to spend time looking through photographs, and these students took some interesting ones. You can see some of their images in previous posts here and here.

Sarah leading selection

We had a few challenges as we worked through this process. First of all, we had a hard time making the 1,490 images accessible to students at school. There is a computer lab at school and there are a few laptops. We did not have/nor could we get permission (central office IT department permission) to save the images to the computer network. There was only enough hard drive space available in the computer lab to save one teacher’s groups’ photos to the hard drive of one computer. What ended up working was saving all the images to four separate jump drives, attaching each one to a computer in the lab, and accessing the images via the usb port.

I worked with each group for about 30 minutes. For the first three sessions each day, I had the help of the classroom teacher. Thank you, Mr. Gunther, Ms. Cross, Ms. West, and the other helpers who taught the rest of the students in the classroom.

Selection worked like this:

  • Each student wrote his/her name and group number on an index card.
  • Each student chose his/her top three photographs. Each student noted the photograph’s file number and a brief description.
  • Then, each student shared with the group the descriptions of his/her top three photos. When there was overlap in photo subjects, I asked each student to pull up his/her image. Then, we talked about which image we preferred and why and took an informal vote. Generally, reaching consensus was pretty easy.
  • It helped to remind the students that we wanted each page in the guide to have unique content, and it helped to remind them of the topic of their particular field guide. (In one instance, a student really liked her photo of a worm, but the group decided that her photo of a fly better fit the topic, which was insects.)
  • As final selections were made, the student circled the image file number and short description on the index card.
  • We printed each image on regular copy paper (by sending a print job to the school’s main copy machine in the office) for reference.
  • At home in the afternoon, I uploaded the selected images to a local photo store, and ordered 4 x 6 inch prints.

discussing an imageI made a sample field guide this week using some photographs of mine. It helped today to have the model with me so students could visualize what their field guides will look like.

At this point, my involvement with this project will shift gears. I have completed my contact sessions with students. Next week, students will make watercolors with Carol Cox Peaster and Elizabeth Williams of the Mississippi Museum of Art. They will also continue their research, and begin to write the text that will accompany each photograph.

More Photographs by Davis Students

pansy with shadowThis is my 500th blog post, a milestone I could hardly have imagined back in August 2007 when I launched this blog. Given my twin passions for teaching and photography, it is fitting that today’s post should showcase photographs by fourth graders I’ve been teaching. These images were all taken at the Mississippi Museum of Art in the Art Garden, using Kodak Easy Share cameras. If you want to see a photo displayed larger, just click on it.

If you want to read more about this project, check out this blog post by Elizabeth Williams, curator of education at the museum. Her post features photographs of students.

texture 1

bas relief 1


through the cheese grater

trunks and blue

texture again

flower sculpture

tree with fungus

lady buggrubantsmushroommushroom 2

Students Photograph Images for Field Guides

cameliaI spent the last two mornings at the Mississippi Museum of Art with Davis Magnet School fourth graders. On the first day, it was overcast and threatened (then, delivered) rain. Today it was cold, but very sunny. Two very different photography challenges. Each group, ranging from three students to six students, went out with an adult leader to captures images for a field guide. The categories ranged from flowers to sculpture to textures to non-plant living things. Students took as few as six photographs and as many as 68. We were working with 12 cameras owned by the museum and two of mine.


I had a fairly elaborate backup system set up to transfer images from the cameras’ memory cards to my Epson photo viewer and my laptop. During the times when students did not have cameras, they worked on sketching. Each had a clipboard with some blank journal pages and a pencil. We also had plenty of field guides and other reference books available for onsite research.

Here are some of the shots that jumped out at me on first glance. I don’t know which ones the students will select next week because it will depend on what makes sense for their field guides. I thought you would like a preview.


purpleseed podspurple 2bare barkcameliaswater from fountain against convention centergreen green greenyellow orangepurple leavessculpture hangingIf you’ve made it this far, you know that many of the students were intent on documenting the plant life in the garden. The students who chose insects had a tough assignment.

lady bugbeetle

Urban Ecoystems

I went out on a nature journaling expedition with Davis Magnet School fourth graders yesterday. Several kids in each class noticed this. One sketched it. Another called me over. We wondered what on earth it was.

kids found this

Another fourth grader noticed this one.
kids found

We were in the Mississippi Museum of Art‘s Art Garden, gathering information for our series of Davis Field Guides to the Art Garden. The students had clipboards, “instant book” journals (see my post), and pencils.

Next week, the fourth graders will be back in the garden with clipboards, journals, pencils, cameras, and a set of published field guides for reference (we’re using Kaufman field guides to birds, insects, butterflies, and an Alabama and Mississippi Gardener’s Guide co-authored by Felder Rushing).

After Wednesday’s session, I went over to Eudora Welty Library and checked out two visual field guides to mushrooms, which I sent to Davis this morning with one of my neighbors who teaches there. So, I know what is in the two photographs above, but I am counting on the fourth graders to find out for themselves.

fourth grader nature journaling

In addition to journaling with me in the garden, the fourth graders had a guided tour of the Mississippi Story with Elizabeth Williams, curator of education, and a drawing lesson with Carol Cox Peaster, the art garden coordinator. Specifically, Williams talked with students about Bill Dunlap’s Flat Out Dog Trot and Carol Cole’s Jackson, MS as examples of landscapes and cityscapes.
e williams with fourth graders
Here are some of Williams’s comments: “It was interesting to see how the students who had been outside and had already used their journal, got out their sketchbooks and began writing everything they saw in the works of art. They were very perceptive and each group noticed very different things about each of the painting. Lastly, we took a look at the four Walter Anderson’s on the walls and tried to develop a pool of words that could be used to describe Anderson’s style. Some students interpreted his word as “bright” “energetic” and “creative”, while others noticed some of the cooler colors he used that might be interpreted as sad or gloomy. All of the students noted that the work was not very realistic.”
hands upHere is Peaster teaching the drawing class.

Carol Cox Peaster leading drawing classIvy Alley, curator of education, docents and volunteers at the museum, led a tour of the art in the Art Garden.

sculptureDuring our last sesion at the museum, the fourth graders brainstormed about the topics they might choose for their Davis Field Guides to the Art Garden.

brainstorming report

Thank you, Beth West, Davis’ IB Coordinator, and Kacy Hellings, Davis’ Librarian, and Julian Rankin, the museum’s public relations coordinator for taking photographs. You can see Rankin’s Facebook album of images here.

Thank you, fourth grade teachers, Jalesha Cross and Jordan Gunther, for guiding students; and two parents who came along as chaperones. We are grateful for the help.

Photo Math

My second school-based project this month involves teaching third graders to use digital photography to illustrate math stories. I began by reading Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature in each class, and then I talked about my process — from idea to publication. I showed them early (and awful) drafts, described my breakthrough on layout, my complete re-write, and the photography.

Sarah Campbell school visit

As noted in my previous post, I am working with Beth West, IB Coordinator at Davis Magnet School, to develop a lesson plan for a presentation we are giving at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference in Philadelphia in April. Two books that have helped us a lot was we’ve developed our unit are Math is Language Too: Talking and Writing in the Mathematics Classroom and New Visions for Linking Literature and Mathematics by David J. Whitin and Phyllis Whitin.

The Davis third graders will work in groups to make photo-illustrated books about patterns or measurement. Our primary model texts are: Growing Patterns and For Good Measure by Ken Robbins.

We will ask our students to write regularly in their math journals about the project. Beth and I are very interested in seeing how the students make sense of the pattern and measurement concepts and the book-making process. I will write regular updates here to let you know how the process is going.