By: Jen Russon
The kindergarten students in one classroom at Maplewood Elementary are getting high marks for creativity.
Working with their teacher Donna Chiarelli, the students wrote and illustrated a 36-page book, “At the Playground” which took three months to complete and was launched at a book signing party April 15.
All 18 of Chiarelli’s students worked on the story, proudly signing copies of the hardbound finished project in their classroom. It was a well-attended event, packed with parents, teachers, school administrators, and buffet table loaded with refreshments.
Chairelli said seeing their work in print was so effective in motivating students to write, she has decided to publish a book every year and Maplewood’s principal, Leena Itty supports her idea.
Principal Itty had been so impressed with a book Chairelli’s students put together last year, she recommended the next writing project be published.
Studenttreasures Publishing made the principal’s suggestion a reality this month. The self-publishing company provides teachers and schools with a free, hands-on writing activity which motivates students. The Kansas-based company has helped over 14 million young authors publish their stories by mailing teachers kits to help students turn out a professional product. Then, it’s up to the children to bring a story to life.
Chiarelli shared one of her motivational tips used in getting their creative ideas flowing.
“I told them, don’t ever think of writing as a chore because it’s what you think, what you feel, what you see. I need to read your writing and see a picture of it in my head.”
Everyone in the class submitted individual pieces of potential cover art and voted on their favorite. Thumbing through the book, it’s obvious everyone in the class got a chance to contribute drawings of a park, sprung entirely from his or her imagination. Next to their art work, students wrote paragraphs about a sunny, rainbow-filled day at the park.
Chiarelli said the park depicted in At the Playground is not the one her students use during recess at their school. The main characters in the story, Fabian and his younger brother, Sam are also fictitious.
Looking around Chiarelli’s classroom, it’s easy to see how kids could feel so imaginative. A former Latin dance instructor, many pairs of sparkly shoes and slippers decorate the learning space. The kindergarten teacher has been known on campus as “the shoe lady” since her son, Steven, was a Maplewood student in the 1990s.
Chiarelli also met Doreen McHugh, her current class mom, when she moved to Coral Springs from Philadelphia, New York almost 20 years ago. McCue is retired and volunteers at the school every day and the students know her simply as “Miss Doreen”.Without Miss Doreen’s help, Chiarelli doesn’t think At the Playground would be the reality it is today.
To order a copy of the book, go to Studentreasures and input the Pin #7127622. The cost is $25.