Grade 4 students launch their first book "26 Classmates"

Foothills: Heritage Heights writers model publication after local author's work

By: By April Ip

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 11:08 am

Grade 4 student Georgina Guenter reads the answers to a few of her questions during the book launch at Heritage Heights School on June 8.
Grade 4 student Georgina Guenter reads the answers to a few of her questions during the book launch at Heritage Heights School on June 8.
April Ip/OWW

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When you're swinging from monkey bars as a nine year old, planning your future is probably the furthest thing from your mind.

“Thinking about what my dream job would be was the hardest question ever,” said Matthew Bailey, Grade 4 student at Heritage Heights School.

Bailey was one of 26 students who contributed to a book entitled “26 Classmates” which was launched on June 8.

The project was spurred by the school's vice-principal, Rhonda Bymak, after she read the inspirational book “52 People” by Okotoks author Jayson Krause.

“It's a way for me to stay connected to the kids in the classroom,” she said. “Each year I find a piece of current literature that students can respond to in a unique way.”

In 2011 students at Heritage Heights were introduced to “The Book of Awesome” and they also published they're own version called “All Kinds of Awesome.”

Bymak chose “The Book of Awesome” as a model for the student authors because of the positive messages within the book.

“Situations like lining up to pay at a grocery store only to find you're the first person in line are instances the author would quote,” she said. “Looking for the good things in life is the message we wanted students to learn.”

This year, Grade 4 students got to work with Krause whose book “52 People” was published in December 2011.

Bymak said when she laid eyes on Krause's book she knew it was the one.

“To most kids literature is daunting,” she said, adding when children see 200-page novels they think – I could never do that.

Bymak said not only do the books she chooses have to provide a unique message; they also have to be easily readable for young students.

“52 People” is divided into 52 sections, each depicting a stranger who Krause interviewed asking each the same questions. Each stranger has a page or two in the book and Krause provides insight into his encounters.

“The book was a social experiment,” Krause said. “I approached random strangers in search of meaningful connections and was able to find a life lesson and something positive from each meeting.”

Based on this concept, the Grade 4 class concocted their own book “26 Classmates”.

However, instead of approaching strangers and questioning them, the students asked themselves 10 questions.

The book is about how the students connected to themselves.

“I saw a pattern in the easy way that Krause wrote and thought it would be fairly simple to adapt his concept to the classroom,” Bymak said.

The primary goal of writing a book with the students was to get them to better understand themselves and to show them literature is not such a scary thing.

While some students said the questions were challenging others found them easy to answer.

“I chose pediatrician as my dream job because I love helping people,” said Grade 4 student Karah Schmidtler. “It wasn't too hard for me to answer all 10 questions because writing is one of my hobbies.”

Many students had to dig deeper and answer more personal questions like: “What is the best phrase that best describes you?”

“The heart is the best reflective thinker” was the phrase Matthew Bailey chose. He said answering the questions was life changing.

“Writing the book helped me because it got me thinking about what we could improve in the world and gets me ready for when I grow up,” he said.

Krause said the questions were also turned on him when students asked how he prepared to write his book.

“I told them I loved the chaos of sitting in a coffee shop,” he said. “When people are walking in, music is playing and conversation's going – it's an optimal setting for my creative juices to flow.”

Krause said Bymak orchestrated a bus ride to Tim Horton's one afternoon just so the class could write there. “It's been a great experience for everyone,” he added.

“26 Classmates” is now available for sale at the Heritage Heights School. For more information please call 403-938-1400.


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