Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Visit From Zachariah OHora

I had the great pleasure of welcoming children's book author and illustrator Zachariah OHora to our school recently to share his first book, Stop Snoring, Bernard!, with the kindergarten classes.

I discovered this enchanting book during one of my visits to Barnes and Noble and was immediately smitten. As I read I couldn't help but compare the style and tone of this book with the work of Margret and H. A. Rey, creators of Curious George.

Two years ago I attended an exhibit of the Rey's work at The Jewish Museum and it contained the handmade, original Christmas cards they sent out every year.  I found myself wishing I knew them and could stop by their New York apartment for tea or something. Obviously, that ship has sailed (H. A. died in 1977 and Margret followed in 1996 - the same year I started teaching) but perhaps I could meet this incredible author/illustrator Zachariah OHora whose work charmed me in the same way.

I sent him an email telling him how taken I was with Bernard and invited him to come visit my kindergarten children if he was ever in NYC.  To my great joy, he responded!  He wrote that he would love to visit and outlined an entertaining program for a 30-minute presentation.

I don't think I will ever get over my admiration for talented children's book authors and illustrators.  Each one who visits our school has been patient, fun, entertaining, educational, motivating and full of joy.  Zachariah was no exception.

In addition to reading Stop Snoring, Bernard!,  he took requests from the boys and girls and drew large pictures of various animals on chart paper.  We watched as he created Bernard (an otter who loves "mealtime, playtime and best of all...naptime!"), an elephant, a bat and an alligator.

He graciously signed all of the pictures and we will frame them for our library and classroom.  It's the Christmas card I never got from the Rey's.  Amazingly cool!

Throughout the session Zachariah good-naturedly answered questions from the students about his art, his books, his childhood and his ideas.  It turns out Stop Snoring, Bernard! was inspired by this video of two otters holding hands.

He ended by teaching the children the Otter Dance!  Their happy smiles and silly movements stood as a testament to the success of his visit.

Zachariah kindly stayed to autograph books, pose for pictures and chat with me about his upcoming books No Fits, Nilson! and Pet Project. They both have the retro charm evident in Stop Snoring, Bernard!

I encourage you to check out his books.  I guarantee you'll become a fan, like me.

*Update: Zachariah has posted about his visit to P.S. 347 on his blog.  Click here to check it out.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pumpkin Contest

Nothing builds community like a dash of healthy competition.

 And nothing says Thanksgiving like a Halloween pumpkin contest!

Well, perhaps that is a bit of a stretch but the fact that I am writing about a Halloween pumpkin contest the day after Thanksgiving is proof of how sorrowfully negligent I have been in keeping up with my wee educational blog.

Anyway, our school was asked by California Pizza Kitchen (CPK in NYC) to engage in a pumpkin decorating contest involving all classes Pre-K through 8th Grade.  The winning class was promised a pizza party and a tour of the CPK kitchens.


That enticement was enough to get the creative juices flowing. All of the teachers and students starting vying for the most creative, eye catching pumpkin.  By the time CPK delivered the pumpkins we all had a clear vision of how our pumpkins would look.

The students in our class excitedly suggested a mummy pumpkin.  How cool is that?  My coteacher and I loved that idea and thought it would be fantastic if we could make a literacy connection.  The children modeled the pumpkin after Derek in Skeleton Meets the Mummy by Steve Metzger.

Derek was fairly simple to make.  I bought a self-adhering bandage and the kids just wrapped it around the pumpkin.  We added pipe cleaner eyes and a foam mouth and voilá "Derek" was complete.

We thought we had it in the bag until we saw the "Robo-Pumpkin" submitted by the 3rd Grade.  This little guy was cute, cute, cute and very creative.

CPK collected all of the pumpkins days before Hurricane Sandy hit NYC and placed them in their store on 30th Street and Park Avenue South (near our school).  Customers were encouraged to vote on their favorite design in a good-humored fashion.

Hurricane Sandy delayed the announcement of the winning pumpkins but last week we got the news.  Our pumpkin came in second with 62 votes but "Robo-Pumpkin" came out on top with 81 votes!  Third place went to the 8th Grade entry "Purrfect Pie Pizza" (a cat pumpkin) with  41 votes.  All in all, 282 votes were received.

I hope our school will engage in more fun partnerships with CPK and other local businesses in the future.  It was a wonderful way to build school spirit and bring us together.


Monday, November 5, 2012


"A tree is pulled from the ground.
It's raining.  I am in my house."
Over one million New York City Public School students returned to school today after a week off, courtesy of Hurricane Sandy.

Sandy uprooted more than trees.  Some families were forced to evacuate their homes and sought refuge with friends on the Upper West Side, Westchester or Connecticut.

Many who were able to stay in their apartments were without electricity, heat or water.  Food was in limited supply.

It was a scary event.  I imagine this was magnified for children who feel even more powerless in these circumstances than the worried adults around them.

Today we welcomed the children back to our cold school--we had electricity, but no heat--and talked with them about their experiences with Hurricane Sandy.

What did they do?

How did they feel?

In a group discussion with our incredible school counselor, Melanie, the children shared how they coped with the strong winds, rain and destruction.  One girl described how she crawled to the end of her bed, under the covers, as the storm raged.  A little boy told of jumping into bed with his parents where it was safe.

They do not look happy with all
the spoiled food.
Another child talked about having to throw away all the food in the refrigerator because it had gone bad.

A little boy earnestly stated, "The Chuck E. Cheese was closed and I was crying!"  (It seemed so silly to me that in the midst of everything that was happening this was what he was upset about, but it reminded me to see things from his perspective.)

The children drew pictures and wrote about what they experienced and the images they saw on television.

I am always impressed with how children talk and how they process things.

Today our class became an even stronger community supporting each other in times of struggle.

I am proud of those kids!


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