It’s the last day of a week-long visit from bestselling children’s author Melissa Stewart, and today it’s Wealthy Elementary students’ turn to share their work.
Third-grader Noa Stein is the first to raise a hand, but a case of last-minute jitters overtakes her, so teacher Kim Doele reads aloud instead: “Multicolored tree, getting more crimson as it rises,” Noa’s poem begins.
Nearly everyone in this small group of third- through fifth-graders volunteers to read, and the forms their poems take vary widely, reflecting how much of Stewart’s lessons have taken hold: from the humorous “Interview with a Slug” to the very relatable “Those Darn Dragonflies.”
What they all have in common is an outdoor theme, derived from a week spent outdoors with Stewart engaging their five senses. The award-winning author of more than 150 science books for children including “No Monkeys, No Chocolate” travels the country teaching kids — and adults — about science and writing.
Stewart’s author-in-residency was made possible by a $7,400 grant from the East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation. The grant funded Stewart’s week spent leading trips outdoors and workshops with all k-5 students at the school, with lessons such as illustration, elements of nonfiction, the importance of voice and revision.
Her main goal, she explains, is to give today’s children their own “aha moments in the natural world,” just as she’d had during a walk in the Massachusetts woods with her father when she was about 8 years old.
Wealthy Elementary Principal Anthony Morey said this is the fourth time the school has brought in a writer to work with students, but the “in-residence” aspect is new.
“There’s a magical connection that can be created when students spend time with these artists versus having them come in for a few hours or a single day and only be able to give the highlights,” Morey said. “(These artist-in-residences) are more of a play-by-play, and that’s when true instruction happens. And our teachers are learning with our students.”
Melissa Stewart’s website