Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Jason Chin : Nonfiction Author Visits Essex Elementary

In early January we started preparing for Jason Chin's visit on February 7th.  Jason Chin lives in Vermont, and way back in July of 2013 he agreed to visit our school during the winter of 2014.   Thanks to a very supportive PTO who grants us funding every year to afford a visiting author, we have been able to invite many notable authors to our school, including April Pulley Sayre, Jim Arnosky, G. Brian Karas, and Tracy Campbell Pearson, to name just a few.

The first of Mr. Chin's books that we read with our Kindergarteners, First and Second graders was Redwoods. We followed the young boy and the flying squirrel into the California Coast Redwoods rainforest.  The next week we explored vocabulary words that were associated with water, and examined the comparison of the redwoods' bark to the tiles on the space shuttle.  National Geographic has some wonderful pictures and videos that helped us understand just how large these trees can grow.  Click here to see what we used.

We loved reading Coral Reefs with its stunningly beautiful illustrations.  This time a young girl and a crab were our guides through the coral reef.  Our children used their powers of observation to notice the subtle changes in the library's reading room as the corals and puddles of water first appeared, until the library became totally submerged in the ocean.  We followed up with hands-on exploration of real pieces of coral using magnifying glasses.  We really could see the tiny dimples where the polyps had lived on the coral skeletons!

Island is a very ambitious book, spanning six million years in time.  It is quite hard for any of us to get our minds around that concept of time.  As with Mr. Chin's other books, we used Google Earth to visit the actual geographical location, the Galapagos Islands, a substitute for visiting the real places the way Jason did.  I was amazed at how quickly children could locate those tiny islands on our globe!

 We also took a look at a couple of other books that Jason Chin illustrated but did not write.


After reading Jason Chin's books we were ready for the big day!  Our welcome sign was up:

and our display case was decorated with flying squirrels, banana slugs, corals, sea horses, sea stars, crabs, tortoises, and marine iguanas all hand-colored by the children.
Jason asked the children what they do when they want to learn more about something of interest, which turns out to be exactly what our author does: look in books, look on the internet, talk with experts, and visit the place (if possible).
Jason was so engaging that our preschoolers were able to sit still for the entire 45-minute presentation.  He told us stories from his travels, such as the young sea lion who played underwater with him until the sea lion mother showed up. Uh-oh!

 He makes sketches and models to help him be accurate.  Jason made this astronaut model to draw the illustrations for Gravity.  Here he is posing in our library with his spaceman (the shelves are all pushed together to make room for his presentation). 

We also got to see his revision process with several of his very early drafts.  First drafts start small, as in the photo below, but as the details of the book get more developed the later drafts are made bigger, such as the one on the left.

 Towards the end of each presentation Jason gave us a treat by drawing for us.  Each drawing started with the words, "When I opened the book it took me to _____."  A student was chosen to pose holding a book, and then he asked other students to suggest things to be in the picture.  We were gobsmacked by his talent!

We got a sneak peek at Gravity, and now we can't wait to buy copies for our library!  Phoenix Books in Burlington is throwing a book launch party for him on May 3rd at 2:00 pm.

Children and teachers enjoyed your presentations, 
Jason Chin!
Thank you for a most 
marvelous day!

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