June 22, 2022 – The Ghost and the Potato Party, The Secret of the Lost Scroll, and Blue Bess and Her Race Car all have one thing in common – they were created from the imaginations of Kindergarten to Grade 2 students at Williamstown Public School (WPS).
In May, students participated in creative storytelling workshops with children’s author Timm Holmes. Based in Ottawa, Holmes not only writes books such as The Rainobuzz, Splash, Fin, Toothy Grin!, and Peanut Butter & Dragon, he also inspires children to create their own stories through workshops. The workshops were 90 minutes in length and gave students the opportunity to write/create age-appropriate short stories. The stories were all brainstormed by the students, both orally and visually, and have a cohesive beginning, middle, and end.
“When we went into the workshop, one of the important things the students learned was that every idea is a good idea. And even though it may not fit with a certain storyline, it can be kept and used for another one. The other thing that I really liked about it is they learned to work together,” says Teacher Kathy Ryan. “When the ideas were presented, the students had to work together to narrow down their ideas. It was really interesting to see kids come up with an idea and others would build from that idea. It went from this tiny seed and grew into this great idea.”
Ryan adds that the process encouraged everyone to share their own ideas. “They were engaged the entire time and came back flying high from this experience.”
With the ideas put to paper and books printed, Holmes returned to WPS on June 10 to deliver the books and read each of the stories aloud. During an assembly, students from eight classrooms – Kindergarten to Grade 2, heard their book from start to finish and heard the other two books for the very first time.
Smiles, excitement, and joy were expressed on all the faces of students, who got to hear and see their creative work come to life. “The exciting part for me is celebrating the children’s creativity, their inspiration, their bravery for sharing their ideas and their camaraderie for combining ideas with their friends,” explains Holmes.
Grade 1 student Lillian Small’s was part of the creation of The Ghost and the Potatoe Party. She had a lot of fun doing the workshop, collaborating with classmates to produce a storyline, and said she is looking forward to using her imagination to write as she gets older.
“When I helped make this book, it made me feel good because I like books and writing stories.”
All students who participated in the workshops received a printed copy of the book they helped write.
Although the story is written, the adventure has yet to conclude. Apart from the front and back covers, the pages that would have images are blank. This gives students the opportunity to continue to use their imagination to draw the scenes. “One of the things we do when we create the books is to leave the art pages blank because we want the children’s creativity to continue,” says Holmes. “The creativity is endless. They can use any medium that they feel comfortable with and can draw directly in the book, or make a painting and tape it in. I even had a father and son build Lego scenes for each page, take a photograph, and put the photographs in.”
Kim Swerdfeger, Vice-Principal of WPS, says this opportunity served as cross-curricular learning for the students. She explains that when community member and owner of The Crayon Box Studio, Robin Patterson, reached out to the school about having Holmes come in for workshops, she and Principal Adele Perry sat down to connect it to the curriculum and specific student learning.
“We looked at not only the obvious writing piece, but the pre-writing part of the curriculum, which were the key areas of focus. The teachers were able to have Timm work through the writing process with the students from the idea-collections, all the way through to the actual writing of the book,” Swerdfeger explains. “It was incredible to see all students collaborate, contribute, and work together to create a phenomenal product. This experience has certainly had a positive impact on the students and the skills they developed are skills they will use as they get older.”