Recently the Weber School District had the opportunity to celebrate the efforts of a group of talented young authors. This year marks the inauguration of Weber Young Authors and Illustrators, a program designed to develop the writing talents of junior high-aged students in addition to helping elementary-aged children understand math and science concepts.
It may not be immediately apparent how a writing program would foster understanding of STEM concepts for 2nd and 3rd grade kids until you understand how and why the Young Authors program was created. Mrs. Kimberlee Irvine of South Ogden Junior High spearheaded the program with several objectives in mind. Mrs. Irvine envisioned a program where budding young authors could hone their literary skills by penning children's books based upon science and math principles. She also enlisted the talents of illustrators to help bring the authors' stories to life. After the stories were written and the artwork created, the resulting books would be published and distributed to younger students to help with STEM conceptualization.
The goals of the program were two-fold; not only would this foster a love for literacy and writing in the older students, it would introduce math and science topics with an endearing and fun approach that would pique the interest of young readers. Ultimately, Mrs. Irvine states that the resulting books created by her students were "poignant, brilliant, and heartwarming." Being the first year of the program, these authors/illustrators had the added discernment of being the "founding" artisans of the program.
An unintended and wonderful pattern began to become apparent during the process. Mrs. Irvine said, "Some of our authors and illustrators chose to create books with an allegorical focus that will help students struggling with depression and other challenges." Several of these students found validation and affirmation of their talents as authors which eased their struggles with self-doubt and depression.
South Ogden Junior High 9th grader Sidney Maudlin wrote "There and Evaporated Again", a delightful book on the evaporation process centered on the central character "Dewey." This book caught the attention of Sarah Young, Utah State Office of Education's STEM Director. Mrs. Young read "There and Evaporated Again" to her 7-year-old son Jake each night. It quickly became Jake's favorite story, in fact, little Jake would only allow his mom to read him other books if she promised to end their story-reading session with the book about "Dewey." Mrs. Young wrote a letter to Sidney commending her on her charming story along with a very special picture colored by Jake.
At the Young Author's Celebration, each author/illustrator was presented with a copy of their published book in addition to a medal of commendation. We are proud of these students and their contributions. Guest speakers included Matthew Patterson, Weber School District Curriculum Specialist, and Dr. Jeff Stephens, Weber School District Superintendent.
Authors and illustrators recognized were: Hannah Jefferies/Illustrator, Maddie Stone, Sally Palmer, Melanie Nielson, Hannah Mosher/Illustrator, Ashley Udink, Victoria Udink, Riley Dickamore, Quinn Michaels, Nicola Ward, Timothy Parkinson, Jennifer Morales, Ali Azcher/Illustrator, Laura Kester, Sidney Maudlin, Dylan Hunter/Illustrator, McKenzie Leininger, Lucas Quintrequeo, Callie Bryner, Kali Hyer, Ashley Allred, Bethany Michaels, Grace Fawbush, Taylor Seager, Katelyn Smout, Liliana Corrales, Trevor O'Neal, Abigail Hohmann, Emma Ipsen, Sterling Oliver, and Shianne Archer.