Learning Extensions (Adventures!)

Amazing Charity Fundraising Inspired by Storyworks

Rebecca Jessee

Editor's note: You have to hear all about Tennessee 5th-grade teacher Rebecca Jessee, who reached out to us to share how an article in Storyworks inspired her students to become changemakers. Our story "Two Miles for a Drink of Water", about a young girl in Mozambique who had to travel two miles for contaminated water, has had a profound effect on many students; we previously shared the story of another class that was inspired to raise money. We are so humbled and thrilled by this. Read about Rebecca's students' incredible efforts below!



My students and I were moved after reading about Natalia and other kids who didn't have access to clean water. We quickly wrestled with our privileged ability to turn a sink on, purchase a water bottle, shower, wash our hands, never having to worry if we had water to drink or if our water was safe. My students asked me: "Ms. Jessee, what are we going to do about this?" I didn't have an answer for them, so I asked "What do you want to do about it?" And thus began an amazing journey that Indian Springs School will never forget.



We enlisted the help of many others to carry out our lofty classroom goal of raising $3,000 to support charity:water, a nonprofit organization that was featured in the Storyworks article. This group works to support clean water efforts and helps communities purchase their own wells. We wanted to educate people about the clean water crisis. We began to develop iMovie campaigns and held bake sales. On their own, students organized bake sales and made bracelets. That effort raised $1,000!


Then one student stepped up and shared that his father had silk-screening business and could make t-shirts. We worked very hard to develop a great design and sold the t-shirts.



We decided to host a yard sale, where members of the larger community outside of our school could get involved, with a portion of the proceeds going to our effort.



I launched a Facebook campaign to promote it. Our local newspaper has written about my students, and the local TV station came and covered the event. That helped raise another $2,000. 



That is when we changed our fundraising goal to $10,000 in order to actually purchase a well that could help an entire community thousands of miles away. We next planned a movie night where students and families could get together and watch Willy Wonka sponsored by our 5th-grade activists. Cha-ching: another $800!


We also had the exciting opportunity to talk to the Storyworks team and Kristin Lewis, the author of the article, via Skype. What a joy for my students!



To date, we have raised more than $6,000. And even though we have managed to pull this off in a few short weeks, and we are wrapping up the school year, we know that we will continue to raise awareness and funds for this important cause next year. 

Next, we’ve got planned:

  • Car washes
  • A talent show
  • Pasta dinners
  • And more

My 5th-graders are leaving me, but I know they'll never forget this important cause, and they're all determined to keep helping over the summer and into next year. I couldn't be more proud.

Ripples of Kindness: A Student-led Learning Extension

Kate Gray

Editor's note: When Kate Gray, a 4th- and 5th-grade teacher at a Title I school, emailed us to tell us about an incredible learning journey her students had embarked upon after her class read "Two Miles For a Drink of Water" in the March/April issue of Storyworks, we were positively beaming at these budding changemakers. Struck by the realization that many people around the world don't have access to clean water, Kate's students knew that they had to do more to make a difference for others. 



One of the things I love about Storyworks is that my students can often connect to the stories in a meaningful way, but I never expected them to go above and beyond like they did this year. After reading about Natalia, a girl who had to walk two miles every day to get water for her family, my students felt bad about the plight of people around the world who don't have access to clean water. As we were processing these feelings, kids wondered how they could be proactive and help. Our school is a "The Leader in Me" school, and we've been practicing The 7 Habits of Happy Kids. 

Habit 5 is "seek first to understand, then to be understood." As we were thinking about how we could help people like Natalia, we wanted to see what it's like to walk in her shoes. Ironically, we were doing a fitness activity at the time in which we walked 2 miles to a pool to swim. Students noticed that they were also walking two miles to water, but in a very different way from Natalia. What would it be like to do that walk while carrying water? There was only one way to find out: On our next walk, we carried gallons of water. 




After this experience, students were eager to figure out a concrete way to help. Together, we came up with a plan:

  • Students would only drink tap water for two weeks.
  • They collected the money they saved by not buying sugary drinks.
  • We also raised funds from families and staff at our school.
  • Some kids even contributed their birthday money to the cause!

We had set out with a goal to raise $300, and students were thrilled when we totaled $476.86! This experience made my students feel empowered, important, and strong. They learned that small acts of kindness can have a real affect on people and that they can make a difference. And the learning didn't stop there! Students wrote essays about their experience, and we also read the book "The Long Walk to Water" to keep the unit going. 

To sum up, here's an excerpt of my student Derek's essay: This whole experience made me feel bad at first because it is so easy to get clean water where we live. Water is a precious resource and we should use it wisely. Once we raised the money, I felt like I could do something even bigger! It would make me very proud if someday no one needed to walk for water. By synergizing, we were able to surpass our goal and help people an ocean away.  


Environmental Learning Extensions for the End of the Year!

Allison Friedman

Storyworks’ May/June play offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of scientist and nature writer Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring exposed the dangers of the pesticide DDT—and sparked the environmental movement in America. We know your students will be deeply inspired by Carson’s bravery and determination, and eager to learn more about both her and what she fought for. Here are a few resources to get them started:



TO READ: A history of the environmental movement

TO DO: Make a timeline

This slim but richly detailed Smithsonian book guides students through the history of environmental activism in America, from the 1960s to the present day. They will meet the movement’s key players, including Carson, and read about defining moments in the history of our country’s conservation efforts.

LEARNING TASK: Have students pick 5-10 events from the book to pull into their own timeline of the environmental movement. Each entry should include a brief description of the event and an explanation of why it was important. (Students can craft their timelines either on paper or using a free online program like RWT Timeline.)



TO EXPLORE: An interactive website about the food chain

TO DO: Draw a diagram

Our play introduces the concept of the food chain, explaining how toxins like DDT can move up the chain from one living thing to another. This inviting interactive website will help students explore the concept further, breaking down different creatures’ roles in the chain.

LEARNING TASK: After they’ve explored the website, ask students to illustrate their own annotated diagrams of a food chain, picturing different plants and animals of their choice.



TO READ: A thought-provoking poem

TO DO: Write a short essay

Jane Yolen’s poem celebrating Earth Day powerfully echoes the themes of our Carson play.

LEARNING TASK: Invite students to write a short essay answering this question: What would Rachel Carson have thought about this poem, and why?



TO READ: A biography of Rachel Carson

TO DO: Write a scene for the play

This engagingly written account of Carson’s life will help kids learn even more about the inspiration for her work and its impact on the world.

LEARNING TASK: Ask students to choose another episode from Carson’s life and write it into a new scene for our play. They should use the existing scenes in the play as models.

These Learning Extensions are Out of This World!

Anna Starecheski

We couldn't think of a better nonfiction feature for this year's final issue of Storyworks Jr. than Lauren Tarshis's "Disaster in Space," about the Apollo 13 mission. We know that outer space is always a high-interest topic for kids, and we hope that your students will be left hungry for more knowledge about space, NASA, engineering, and more! Here are a few resources to get them started.


TO VIEW: A photo timeline of the mission on space.com

TO DO: A small-group discussion

Your students will be fascinated to click through these behind-the-scenes photos from before, during, and after the Apollo 13 mission. We especially love the photos (like the one above) showing the extensive training the astronauts went through.

LEARNING TASK: In small groups, have students look through the photos and discuss what they learned about how the astronauts prepared for their mission. Why was all this practice important? How do they think it helped the astronauts when they found themselves in a crisis?


TO WATCH: A question and answer session with the Apollo 13 crew

TO DO: Write a letter

Astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise are still alive today (Jim Swigert sadly died of cancer in 1982) and your students can see them in this video of a Q&A session at a school. Once you click the link, the video will start at the 1:39 mark, which is when the Q&A starts. It goes until approximately the 8:30 mark.

LEARNING TASK: Have students write letters to Fred Haise, Jim Lovell, or Gene Kranz asking them a question they didn't hear answered in the video. You can mail their letters to the address on this page, but note that because of the age of the men, it is unlikely that they'll respond.


TO EXPLORE: An interactive website for kids from NASA

TO DO: Write a paragraph or make a poster

This section of the NASA website is interactive for kids, and there's a great selection of videos about the moon, including one about the Apollo missions. Have students explore on their own or in pairs.

LEARNING TASK: Have each student write a paragraph or create a poster about at least two new facts they learned from the website. Why did they find these facts interesting? How do they add to their understanding of the article?


TO READ: A story from the Storyworks Jr. archives

TO DO: Create a timeline

Did you know that as a Storyworks Jr. subscriber, you get access to all our previous issues? These paired texts from the October/November 2016 issue are about explorers of the past and the current Mars rovers.

LEARNING TASK: Have students create a timeline of exploration from the 1400s to today, including what they learned in these paired texts and "Disaster in Space."



Five Books to Teach Earth Day

Anna Starecheski

With Earth Day coming up this month, we wanted to share with you a few great books to add to your classroom library. And of course, as a Storyworks and/or Storyworks Jr. subscriber, remember that you have access to the archives, with many stories perfect for Earth Day!



Luna & Me by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw tells the true story of Julia Butterfly Hill, who also happens to be the subject of the play in the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr.! Julia went to extreme lengths to save a redwood tree named Luna from being cut down by loggers—she actually lived in Luna for more than two years. This picture book version of her story makes a great companion to our play, and is delightful on its own as well.



One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul is another story of an inspiring woman who did incredible work for the environment. Isatou Ceesay saw a huge problem in her home country of Gambia: plastic bags were everywhere. Isatou figured out a way to recycle the plastic bags and transform her community. This picture book is great as a read-aloud or as independent reading for your more struggling readers.



Wishtree by Katherine Applegate is beloved by many, and for good reason. It's told from the point of view of a wise old oak tree watching over a neighborhood. This story celebrates nature in a way kids can understand and appreciate, all while telegraphing a clear message of acceptance, friendship, and hope. This longer book is ideal for readers in grades 3-6.



Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years by Stacy McAnulty is a delightful, educational picture book that's ideal for struggling readers. It's just what it sounds like: The history of the Earth, told from the point of view of Earth. It's packed with fun facts and is sure to enthrall your science-minded kids!



Who Was Rachel Carson? by Sarah Fabiny tells the story of an incredible environmental activist who warned the world about the dangers of DDT and pesticides. We know that the "Who Was" series is a staple of classrooms everywhere because of their kid-friendly approach to biographies, and this one is exceptional!



Learning Extensions for World Water Day

Allison Friedman
Storyworks’s March/April Paired Texts feature tells the inspiring story of how a new well changed life for one 13-year-old girl and her community in rural Mozambique. It’s the perfect article to share with your students in preparation for World Water Day, on March 22, which raises awareness about the importance of access to clean water. And to help them delve even deeper into water problems and solutions around the world, here are four fascinating learning extensions:
TO WATCH: An animated video about water access around the world
TO DO: Make an infographic
This simple, clear, and captivating animated video from charity:water—the amazing organization featured in our article—will give students an overview of the global water crisis and how people are helping to solve it.
*Note: Parts of the video may be upsetting to some students. Make sure to preview it ahead of time to make sure it’s appropriate for your class.
LEARNING TASK: Have students use the information in the video to create an infographic about worldwide water problems, solutions to those problems, and the effects of the solutions.
TO READ: An fun, approachable nonfiction book
TO DO: Write a short story
Funny, colorful cartoons keep students engaged in this fact-packed book about water’s role in people’s lives, around the world and throughout history.
LEARNING TASK: After they read the book, invite students to write a short story imagining a day in their lives without clean water.
TO EXPLORE:website about how to save water
TO DO: Take a quiz
This kid-friendly Environmental Protection Agency site offers actionable tips on how to use less water—so students can help save the planet, one drop at a time!
LEARNING TASK: Ask students to explore the “Why Save?” and “Simply Ways to Save” tabs on their own. Then partner them up to play the WaterSense quiz game together.
TO WATCH: video about the water cycle
TO DO: Conduct an experiment
Where does drinking water come from? Students will find out in this lively video breakdown of the water cycle.
LEARNING TASK: Watch the video together as a class. Then divide students into small groups and have each group pick one of the “Classrooms Experiments” as a project.

Learn More about Deaf Culture

Anna Starecheski

We love our paired texts from the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr.: "Say Hello to Julio" and "Meet Alice Cogswell." In fact, we love them so much we’re offering them as a free sample for all teachers to use, even if they don’t subscribe to Storyworks Jr.! These articles tell the stories of two young deaf people: Julio Navarro, who is 13 and goes to a school for the deaf in New York, and Alice Cogswell, who lived two hundred years ago and was trapped in a lonely world until one man saw that she could learn. Deafness is often misunderstood, so we wanted to give your students some resources to learn more.



TO READ: A funny and moving graphic memoir about growing up deaf

TO DO: Draw a short comic

El Deafo came out a few years ago and is already a beloved classic. Cece Bell tells the story of how she became deaf at age four, and how she learned to see her deafness as a superpower rather than a disability. Your students, even reluctant readers, will be drawn in by the graphic novel format.

LEARNING TASK: Have students draw a one-page comic putting themselves into a scene from El Deafo. Ask some questions to get them inspired: What would you like to do with Cece? Is there a scene in the book you would have liked to be a part of? 



TO EXPLORE: A list of famous deaf and hard of hearing people

TO DO: A research project

This site has a comprehensive list of all sorts of prominent deaf and hard of hearing people paired with short blurbs about them.

LEARNING TASK: Have each student pick one person from the list and do further research on them. They can compile their findings in a short essay or on a poster.



TO WATCH: A Q&A video

TO DO: A class discussion

This video shows kids meeting a deaf person and asking her questions.

LEARNING TASK: After watching the video, hold a class discussion. Were there any questions that you hadn't thought about before? Are there any that weren't asked that you would want to know the answer to? How does this video help you understand what it's like to be deaf?



Short Nonfiction Leads to Rich SEL

Anna Starecheski

For the September issue of Storyworks Jr., I had the honor of writing about an amazing young girl named Jesselyn Silva. Jesselyn is 11 years old, and she loves to box. I was bowled over and inspired by Jesselyn's passion and dedication, and I hoped Storyworks Jr. readers would be too. But I never could have imagined the lesson one class got after reading her story.



Upstate NY teacher Teresa Weinmann saw that Jesselyn's story could open the door to an important social-emotional learning lesson on the importance of being yourself. And she had the perfect person to help her deliver this lesson: her friend Karen. Karen is a mother, an insurance agent, a singer, and a boxer. Teresa invited her into her classroom, and what followed was an experience her students will never forget.


Karen started by showing some photos of a boxer from behind. She asked the students what they saw, if they could tell if it was a man or a woman. The kids' minds were blown when Karen declared "Well, it's me." She talked about gender stereotypes and was thrilled when she asked the kids what kinds of jobs girls should have. "Any job," one boy said. And what kind of jobs should boys have? "Whatever they want." These kids had the right idea already!

Karen spoke about her journey to finding her passion in boxing and how it makes her feel strong and confident. 

She told the students that they can be anything they want to be, and that it's important to do what you love and be true to yourself. They discussed positive words they could say to themselves when they feel down or defeated by themselves or others. 

The conversation went in many directions, from bullying to being a male ballet dancer to not judging someone by how they look. And then came some fun!



Karen showed the kids her boxing equipment and even taught them some moves! But the learning wasn't over then: Teresa gave the kids paper boxing gloves and had them write positive words to describe themselves on one glove, and on the other glove they wrote phrases that might encourage them when they are faced with a challenge.



A short nonfiction story about an incredible young girl led to a learning experience these kids will never forget. We are always thrilled when teachers take a story from our magazines and turn it into something we never could have imagined. Do you have a story like Teresa's? We want to hear about it

Learn More about the Great Halifax Explosion

Allison Friedman
Storyworks’s February nonfiction feature will have your students on the edge of their seats. It tells the riveting story of two World War I ships that collided in Halifax Harbor in 1917, causing one of the most powerful explosions in history—a devastating blast that ripped through the Canadian towns of Halifax and Dartmouth. After reading about this shocking and little-known disaster, your students will no doubt be eager to learn more. Here are some resources to get them started:
TO DO: Hold a small-group discussion
This interactive 3D video of the explosion and its aftermath is a fabulous tool to help students—especially visual learners—fully grasp the logistics of the disaster. They’ll love being able to drag around the frame to get a 360-degree view of the scene.
LEARNING TASK: Divide students into groups of 3 or 4 and ask each group to choose at least 5 details they learned in the video that helped them better understand the Storyworks article. Then have them discuss where in the article each detail would best belong.
TO DO: Write a speech
This 3-minute NPR clip tells the story behind a heartwarming tradition that came about in the wake of the Halifax tragedy: Every December, the province of Nova Scotia sends Boston a large Christmas tree as a thank-you for the city’s speedy and generous support after the explosion.
LEARNING TASK: Invite students to write a speech that Boston’s mayor might give at the city’s annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, explaining the origins of the tree.
TO DO: Write a dialogue
Five survivors' stories are read out loud overtop haunting images of Halifax ruins, helping students imagine what they might have seen, heard, and felt during and after the explosion. (To see a list of all the video clips in the series, click on the menu icon in the top lefthand corner of the video player window.) 
Note: The stories are emotionally intense at parts, so we suggest previewing them first to make sure they are appropriate for your students.
LEARNING TASK: Choose one of the survivors and write an imagined dialogue between that person and Noble Driscoll, in which the two compare and contrast their experiences of the disaster.
TO DO: Write an informational text
Like all the books in National Geographic Kids’ Everything series, this one about World War I is packed with fascinating facts, vivid photos, and colorful maps and infographics—all written and arranged in a kid-friendly, easy-to-understand way.
LEARNING TASK: After students read the book, have them write a short informational text about World War I that could be used as a pairing for the Storyworks article. They should make sure to include details from the book that they believe would best enhance readers’ understanding of the original article.

Science-Based Extensions for Nonfiction

Ann O'Connor

Editor's note: Ann O'Connor, a grade 2-3 teacher from California, told us that she used "The Amazing Penguin Rescue," the nonfiction feature in the December 2017/January 2018 issue of Storyworks Jr., as a jumping-off point for a cool science experiment and a simple research project. Here they are—just in time for Penguin Awareness Day on January 20!


Feather Experiment:

  1. Hand out one feather to each student. You can get the feathers at Michaels or another craft store. 
  2. Students place the feather into water. We did this in a scooping action, just as the penguin would be diving into the water. Students recorded what happened to the feather in their science journal. (It was still dry. It kept its shape.)
  3. With the same movement, student dipped their feather in vegetable oil. Students immediately noticed how heavy their feather became. Students recorded this and other observations in their journals.
  4. Students tried to wash the feather out in water then recorded that it did not remove the oil.
  5. Students washed the feather in water that contained very little dishwashing soap, then recorded their findings. They were most surprised by how light the feather felt when it was clean.



Penguin iPad Activity:

  1. Google "penguins" and choose an image that you can identify as a specific species of penguin. Save the image to your camera roll.
  2. Research facts about that species of penguin and record important facts in your writing journal.
  3. In your journal, create your own paragraph, incorporating facts in your own words.
  4. Open “Book Creator” and choose portrait.
  5. Import your picture and add text. Label your picture and include a title.
  6. I had students export their projects to their Google Drive and share it with me so I could print it.