This past school year, twenty-one 1st and 2nd graders in Chugiak, Alaska took part in a book publishing project in a healing attempt to share their stories from the November 30th, 2018 earthquake that shook southcentral Alaska. Our first day back from our week-long emergency closure included lots of smiles, greetings, and children anxiously walking into the classroom. It was clear that they had missed each other. We began our day with a morning meeting to share our stories of the events from November 30th. Some were able to share the methods they used with their families to stay safe. Many of them shared feelings of sadness and fear as well.
As our morning went on, I pulled out a sample book to show everyone from a publishing kit I had ordered from Student Treasures Publishing in August. Although I had intentions of completing this project with my class when I ordered the kit, we never had the chance to discuss the topic of our project. Knowing the feelings my students would have surrounding the event, I knew writing about our experiences would be one of the best ways to help everyone process what happened. What better way to write about this subject than becoming published authors?
To begin our project, we reviewed the feelings students had and the ways they stayed safe. We then talked about details to include in our stories, such as who we were with and where we were on “The Day the Earth Shook”. Before the class began writing their rough drafts, I reminded them that an earthquake of the magnitude we experienced is something many people haven’t. All the feelings we have are valid and we get to share with others what life has been like.
Once the final drafts for their stories and drawings were completed, I put the manuscript together and mailed the contents to Student Treasures Publishing to be processed. Two weeks later, our shipment arrived! As excited as I was to share the great news with everyone, nothing compared to how rewarding it felt to pull out our copies of the books for all the kids to see. “It’s our book!” a few of them said. We took the time to have an impromptu celebration. Every single child was engaged in a book, smiling, reading their stories, and comparing experiences. On their own, they took a traumatic experience and turned it into an opportunity to bond with one another.
As their teacher, there were a lot of factors that played into how meaningful this experience was. Aside from the excitement of seeing our finished product, the healing process we took together, and the positive feedback from families, I also shared with everyone that this was the first time I’ve ever completed a project like this with a class. After sharing this, I was the happy recipient of a 21-large group hug. This was a win for all of us!
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