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By Cassie MacDonell

Local Journalism Initiative

On Thursday, Grade 2 students from Sawyerville Elementary School proudly presented a reading of their new book A Fun First Day at the Jungle School to their fellow students. The plot revolves around Isabela the turtle, who is faced with her first day at school. She initially feels shy and nervous, but soon begins to enjoy school alongside her new animal friends and teachers.

Jenny Menard, Sawyerville Elementary teacher who worked with the class on the project, talked about the benefits of the book for both Grade 2s and younger students. “This book is going to be given out to our new students coming to school, in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten (K-4 and K-5), to help them feel like school is a fun thing and to know what to expect on the first day,” she explained to Sawyerville Elementary students at the book reading. “Some of you may have been scared to come to school, some of you may not have wanted to come,” she said.

Thursday’s reading was the second time the students shared their work. “Last week, we had a book launch with the community, so we had a lot of family members and extended family join the event,” said Menard.

Throughout the winter, the Grade 2 co-authors and co-illustrators improved skills such as writing, reading, and editing while creating the story. Students learned about the inner workings of the book-creating process. “It’s very hard” and “have patience” were the resounding comments students gave, agreeing with the sentiment that books cannot be created in just one day.

Sawyerville Elementary School’s young student critics were impressed, as the Grade 2s were met with a resounding applause after the reading, accompanied by exclamations of “you did amazing on reading it,” “I liked the book,” and “that was amazing!” The book’s illustrations were also given plenty of compliments.

Sharon Bailey, Sawyerville Elementary teacher involved in the book’s creation, explained how the students created such illustrations. “Each one of them was responsible to draw an animal,” she said. The students used Art for Kids Hub tutorials, which are slow videos that teach children how to draw different things. The Grade 2s used Chromebooks to help trace. “We did three or four different drawings, and then we chose the one we though was the best,” she said. Afterwards, the class worked together to choose the colours of the drawings.

The Grade 2 students also worked collaboratively to choose book characters and vote on their names. When questioned further about the inspiration behind the characters, Grade 2 co-author Alison explained the classes’ technique of “using our imaginations.”

Grade 2 co-author Josh added that inspiration also came from drawing connections between the real world and the story. For example, gym teacher Mr. Cheetah was chosen for the position because of the athleticism of cheetahs. “Cheetahs run very fast,” a small voice called out from the crowd. Isabela the turtle was inspired by a character of the same name from the Disney movie Encanto, a film that all the co-authors loved.

Sixty copies of A Fun First Day at the Jungle School were printed. Thanks to the Eaton Valley Community Learning Centre, Sawyerville Elementary School received funding from a community partner to support the book project. Townshippers’ Association, the Community Health & Social Services Network (CHSSN), and Health Canada supported the initiative.

Although very happy about finishing the book, the co-authors were slightly sad to be done. Menard mentioned that some students wanted to do a sequel to the story next year, although nothing is confirmed.

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