GUILFORD — The sixth grade at Guilford Central School recently celebrated the release of "At One In a Place Called Guilford," the book of poetry and collages they had created. In a brief classroom ceremony on Friday, Dec. 18, Sierra Kolodziej presented a copy of the book to Jodi Hauser, the school's librarian.
The book is a celebration of Guilford, and each student was responsible for one page: each chose a particular place and then wrote a poem and created a collage to illustrate the writing.
Eugene Chapman chose Fort Dummer.
"I live in a place where I gasp loudly, so loudly, at Fort Dummer's mighty tall walls of slate. I am at one with the flat slate that jumps and skips across the pond, thrown by the sixth grade visitors."
During the course of the day, groups of sixth-graders visited each class to read their book to the younger students.
In the third grade classroom, Brenna Beebe explained that the book was inspired by Lynn Plourde's book, "At one in a place called Maine." Then the sixth-grader took turns reading the pages, while the others turned their books so the third graders could see the watercolor-collage illustrations.
The third graders admired the book.
"I liked all the detail and the pictures," said one.
In an interview, the sixth graders explained the process of producing the book.
"We went around Guilford," explained Beebe. "We went in a bus and we picked places that we really liked, and if people really, really liked a place they raised their hand and they were assigned to it."
Several students chose places close to where they live. Jayda Wells chose the Blueberry Haus, and Kolodziej chose the Guilford Country Store, while Ryder Sullivan chose the Green River Dam.
"I live near it and I swim in it a lot over the summer," he said. In his collage, water falls over the dam.
Taylor Tracey chose the Carpenter Hill Cemetery. His collage shows slate gravestones angled into the ground.
"I've never been there except for the bus trip," he said, "but I really, really liked how the gravestones were really old and the trees were in back of the gravestones.
Jen Kramer, the sixth-grade teacher, said the project represented Guilford Central School's commitment to place-based education.
"I always try to do some project at the beginning of each year about Guilford. This was a great opportunity to revisit their town in a new way, focused on writing and artwork," she said. "This was a great way to get to know them at the beginning of the year, and to come together as a family."
She credited others at the school – Chantelle Albin, the school's counselor; Rachel Mangean, the art teacher; and especially Yasmin Azel, the class's intern from Antioch University – for helping with the project.
Albin noted that the sixth grade is also involved with the Guilford community in other ways. The class helps serve the senior luncheon at the Guilford Community Church,.
Azel helped the students develop the concept for the book and managed the publishing software. Tracey explained the process for making the collages.
"In art class with Ms. M. we made watercolors, just random colors, and then we cut them out and put them on," he said. "That was fun -- getting it on the paper so it would look just right."
"I really liked just taking the time to cut out tiny, tiny pieces and huge pieces and making it perfect," she commented.
Sullivan recalled brainstorming as the students began writing their poems.
"We just thought of the words that would go along with the scenes," he said.
"We had to write down adjectives, adverbs, and nouns that would go with our poem," Wells added.
Kramer explained that the "masterpiece sentences," from the model in Plourde's book, pushed the students to analyze parts of speech. They collaborated to find just the right words.
"We had a lot of word banks," she said.
"I think we learned how to write better words and longer words because when we're writing the adverbs, some people's were really long and some were really short, and some people's were hard to pronounce," Tracey commented.
He enjoyed the painstaking writing and revising.
"My favorite part was writing the words perfectly," he said. "If we missed one word we had to redo it, but writing the masterpiece sentences was still kind of fun. We would write long sentences, and mine was wicked long."
"I think we learned to write sentences that were more fluent," Sullivan added.
The students explained that their learning went beyond writing and illustrating.
"I think we learned teamwork because we were keeping each other positive when we were making the pictures," said Kolodziej.
"I also think that it was mostly about teamwork and about figuring out what you wanted to do and presenting it," she said.
Each student received a hardcover copy of the book, which is available to the public online at http://www.blurb.com/b/6678475-at-one-in-a-place-called-guilford . While individual hardcover copies cost $34.95, viewing the entire book online is free.
"I think we learned what it's actually like to be making a book, how much hard work it is," Beebe commented. "I really liked also that Ms. K. is helping us be what we want to be and do what we want to do – so if we want to be a person that writes books, she's helping us prepare for that. I think it would be really cool to write books."