Mary Ann Poplin, art teacher, and Sarah Smartt, Mayfield librarian, teamed up last September to write a mini-grant proposal. They requested funds to buy art supplies for their Eric Carle Workshop project. Their goal was to get eight books written by the students in Mayfield’s second and third grades.
“Some classes took off with it. They were the most creative, they knew what characters they wanted and they knew what personalities they wanted. It was really just a matter of guiding them along that process,” Smartt said. “Other classes, you really had to give them ideas and pull them out and really motivate them to do this. The excitement level varied from each class.”
She added, “The kids who were excited about it did better.”
Poplin and Smartt wrote the proposal in September, heard they were grant recipients in October and received the art supplies in January.
To prepare for their upcoming stories, students were introduced to Eric Carle’s books. Carle is the author of “A Very Hungry Caterpillar,” “The Very Long Train,” “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See?” and “Rooster’s Off to See the World,” among others.
Their plan of attack was split between the art and library classes. Smartt took several weeks to go over the setting, characters and plot with the students. Poplin then helped the students cut out the characters, color, paint and create the needed illustrations.
Ideas students came up with required more research than Smartt and Poplin anticipated. For one book, the students wanted to focus on a very itchy sloth.
“Why would the sloth be itchy? Well [the students decided] it had animals in it,” Poplin said. “We discovered sloths really will have animals living in their fur because they are slow-moving. So we turned it into those were the sloth’s friends.”
A flow chart helped give the students’ stories order and each one was assigned a specific character or setting to draw. Having assigned characters ensured a sense of consistency throughout the story. Poplin said there are too many ways children could draw the same subject differently.
Curriculum standards were also met during the process of researching, writing and designing the books.
According to the grant proposal, four reading and writing objectives and all six visual art curriculum standards were met.
Art standards achieved included: media, techniques and processes; structures and functions; evaluation; historical and cultural relationships; and reflecting and assessing interdisciplinary connections.
Reading and writing objectives included: asking who, what, where, when and how; describing the overall structure of a story; demonstrating understanding of characters, setting and plot; revising and editing to strengthen writing; and produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to task, purpose and audience.
Poplin and Smartt put the books together and sent the books to the publishing company, Student Treasures. The company published the books for free in return for Smartt and Poplin sending out letters to parents to buy a copy. A copy of each one of the eight books was given to the school and can be found in the Mayfield Library.
Poplin said books in the library ensure the project’s effect will continue to live on.
The books were written with the audience in mind.
“We used a lot of repetitive words so kindergarteners who are learning to read can read the second-graders’ books,” Smartt said. “… The younger kids would love to check out the older students’ books.”
Book titles from second-grade classes at Mayfield include “The Very Courageous Cowboy,” Mrs. Powers’ class; “The Very Busy Ants,” Mrs. Mason’s and Mr. Towe’s classes; “The Very Special Pegasus,” Mrs. Morgan’s class; and “The Very Itchy Sloth,” Mrs. Sampson’s and Mr. Towe’s classes. Third-grade book titles include “The Very Confused Flamingo,” Mrs. Diaz’s class; “The Very Lonely Dragon,” Mrs. Steward’s class; “The Very Curious Tarantula,” Mrs. Estrada’s class; and “The Very Musical Mermaid,” Mrs. Stewart’s class.
Both Poplin and Smartt said they are hoping to make this an annual project.
“The children take a lot of pride in what they make. They have an experience of writing a book. How many people can say that?” Poplin asked. “They have an appreciation for the process behind writing and illustrating a book.”
All the books were dedicated to the Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation which made it possible for the school to receive the mini-grant.