Author and educator Katie McKy used a capybara, a whale shark, and a fun story to demonstrate the value of a good education to 300 kids from Parkview Elementary on Thursday, Oct. 3.
McKy drove to New London from Maine – a journey of over 1,600 miles. Students got to use feather dusters, water spray bottles, leaf blowers and a drum to “wake her up” so that she could give her presentation, which began at 8:30 a.m.
McKy’s presentation, called “BOOM BOOM BOOM”, involved several students, staff members, and posters depicting the capybara and the whale shark.
The program centered on two teachers – one was extremely afraid of the capybara, while the other was scared of the whale shark. Groups of students came to sit with each teacher so they wouldn’t be afraid. Eventually, the two groups set out to discover the cause of two strange noises – a booming noise, which one teacher was sure to have originated from the dreaded whale shark, and a screeching noise, which the other teacher believed to be coming from the source of his fear, the capybara.
As they took their expedition, the two groups met up, realizing that there was nothing to be afraid of. The booming noise was coming from one teacher’s drum, as he thought it would scare away the dreaded capybara, while the screeching noise was coming from the other teacher, as she cried out in fear of the terrible whale shark.
Students then took turns informing each teacher that the capybara is a very docile animal. They are gentle and will usually allow humans to pet and hand-feed them. Likewise, whale sharks are peaceful filter feeders that sometimes allow swimmers to catch a ride. Younger whale sharks are actually quite gentle and can play with divers.
After learning more about the creatures they had feared, both teachers became much more comfortable and their fear of what was previously unknown subsided.
“The moral of the story is that we go to school to learn the facts,” said McKy. “There is a place where you can hear ‘the rest of the story’ – and that’s right here.”
The rest of the day, kids in grades 1-4 had one-hour writer’s workshops with McKy. She demonstrated how to create a story by always using five things: create a setting, create a problem, make the problem bigger, make the problem even bigger, and solve the problem. After watching McKy, classmates, and teachers create oral stories, students were then able to begin working on a story of their own. While writing, students were allowed to sit in tents McKy erected in the library. Even while teachers were trying to distract students with “wind, rain, and insects”, students remained so focused on their writing that they were unable to be disturbed.
After school, McKy met with parents from 6-7 p.m. She performed a show called “Pumpkin Town”, which is based on her book of the same title. Parents, students, and building administrator Joe Green were all a part of the production which shared the message that if we do not share our mistakes and failures, others will make those same mistakes.
Parkview’s school budget paid for the visit.
“We knew we wanted to bring an author in when we started discussing the need to bring a focus back to writing. When I met Katie in person, I knew that she would be the right person for the job,” said Instructional Resource Coach Michele Green.
“This event kicked off a year of writing for our students,” added Green. “Each student at Parkview will write a book this year and they will be debuted at our Literacy Night in March.”
McKy, the author of Wolf Camp, Pumpkin Town, It All Began with a Bean, and Tough Kids, Tough Classrooms visits scores of schools every year, where she performs and teaches writing. In the summer, she retreats into the cultivated tranquility of her garden and the wild tranquility of the Canadian wilderness.
To learn more about McKy, visit katiemcky.com.