Since 2004, I have always had some kind of peace project in the works during the school year. I started out doing things with my special needs instructional class in those early days, inspired by Todd Parr's The Peace Book and District 186's Sherry Frachey & Jill Grove with Tucker the Peace Dog.
As the years passed by, my classroom projects turned into school-wide projects. We made peace flags for the Peace Flags by Kids organization in 2008 and Pinwheels for Peace a couple of years ago. Every year we always had students come on Bobcat TV in January to read essays about being a Peace Kid.
This year, I really wanted to revisit The Peace Book since it was its ten year anniversary. I also wanted to work with a classroom again since I had moved over to a resource position a couple of years earlier. The idea occurred to me to collaborate with a classroom teacher and our art instructor on a Todd Parr author and illustrator study and then to create our own version of The Peace Book. I wanted to call it, The Bobcat Peace Book.
When the Springfield Public Schools Foundation sent out a memo about Classroom Education Grants, I decided it would be really cool to go the extra step and get the classroom book professionally published. First though, we had to get that grant.
I enlisted the help of first grade teacher, Kristy Deatherage and Art teacher, Elizabeth Marcy. As a team, Kristy was in charge of writing instruction, Elizabeth was covering art instruction and I was taking care of peace education and technology. We wrote our grant, and crossed our fingers.
I was notified that our grant was going to be funded! Our peace book was going to be published! We were going to be able to get copies for EVERY student and teacher involved, as well as a copy for the Butler School library and Todd Parr himself.
In between the time we submitted our grant and when it was funded, it occurred to me that I had the knowledge and means to give the students more experience concerning their Todd Parr author and illustrator study. We were originally planning to have the students draw their illustrations and color them with markers ($75 of our budget, which saved us later). I would then scan them for the book. Todd Parr doesn't work that way though. He's hi-tech. He does his illustrations digitally. That's where his vibrant colors come from. So, I decided that we would do a variation of that. If Mrs. Marcy could have the students produce black and white illustrations, I could scan them and the students could colorize them using a computer. It would take some time, but it was possible. Our plan was complete.
Rather than use a student page for the cover, I designed the cover of our future book. We used it to announce the grant, the upcoming peace project and to get the students excited about it.
THE BOBCAT PEACE BOOK BEGINS!
I wish we had taken more pictures. As a teacher, you always think you can play an active roll in something AND take pictures. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even two teachers team teaching can't handle it for some reason. Mrs. Deatherage and I managed to take some pictures that first day, but the important point is that we ended up with only a couple of GOOD pictures.
We started off our author study with me. I had brought most of my Parr library into Mrs. Deatherage's classroom for an extended stay. I ended my part of the lesson by reading The Peace Book.
Mrs. Deatherage took over the writing portion with discussion and a graphic organizer. Our goal was for the students to write and "sketch" (a new writer's vocabulary word at the time) a page for our book. These writing pages would go with the students to Mrs. Marcy when the students saw her in Art class a couple of days later for work on illustrations.
Mrs. Marcy took over for the illustrator study on Todd Parr. Before students began work on their illustrations, she covered his style of simple lines & shapes filled with vibrant color. She also added what we would need for digital coloring; closed shapes. The result was a set of illustrations that I could scan and that the students would later colorize using Adobe Photoshop and a palette of twenty colors.
February - March 2014
This was a slow period for The Bobcat Peace Book Project. We were focused solely on coloring illustrations digitally which was a one on one activity. A couple of weeks in February I was able to bring my iMac from home, but most of the time we used my Macbook Pro with a mouse attached. I simplified the Photoshop work area for the students and troubleshooted along the way. I tried to schedule one student a day, but of course, it never worked out that way. I ended up working in students when I could at every opportunity.
The most common problem we had during this time was color choices. Children love to color everything the same color in first grade, so I had to refer to our Parr study and talk about his use of many colors quite often. They also seem to like black a lot. I almost took it off the color palette. This was the most challenging part of the project for me.
We also had to deal with students who were absent on the day of writing and illustrating and get them caught up, plus we had two new students join the class during this time. By the end of March, it was quite a good feeling to have the last student illustrations finished!
The last part of our book project was editing. Mrs. Deatherage and I had already picked out which student page we wanted to go first and I purposefully made my page as one that would create an appropriate ending. We left the rest of the book order up to the students. We did this by having them choose the order using these rules:
1. Mrs. Deatherage would choose a stick with a student number on it.
2. The student would choose a page from the white board.
3. The student could not choose their own page, or a page that had the same color background as the page before it. They could also not choose a page with a similar topic (e.g. Peace is friends., Peace is helping friends.)
The order of the pages turned out beautifully. Our book had a title page, an acknowledgement page, twenty-six pages of text & illustrations, a "How Did We Do It?" page and an "Authors and Illustrators" page. That's thirty pages in all. It's also ten pages more than I budgeted for (gulp).
That's where the unused markers come in. If it wasn't for the change I made back in September, we would have been in BIG trouble. We were using Apple Printing Services to get our books published. When I submitted our grant, I was basing our grant on books of twenty pages. Apple's pricing when you surpass that amount is $1.00 per page. Lucky for us, that equalled $79 which only put us over our original budget by three dollars which the Foundation generously covered without a problem.
The rest was pure excitement. I set up a Facebook page about our project and we gained over 130 followers as well as kept in touch with Todd Parr about our progress. Mrs. Marcy had the idea to post a video for Todd about sending him a "peace gift" which we did. We sent him his copy of the book and a couple of peace rocks which are very popular at Butler School this year. He graciously posted a thank you video in reply. The children loved that!
We celebrated our book with a publishing party on April 2, 2014. The State Journal-Register came and took photographs featuring us in one of their Website galleries.
Out of all peace projects I've been involved in, The Bobcat Peace Book will always be one of my favorites. Beyond the main focus of writing, art design and peace education, it was a lesson of patience, quality control, feeling special and most importantly, making a difference in people's lives. What a wonderful lesson to be able to give a group of first graders. Thank you, Springfield Public Schools Foundation!
The Bobcat Peace Book can be viewed online and printed from here.
For more information about getting your own published copy of The Bobcat Peace Book click here.
(You will be taken to a photo gallery on this site showing you another version of the book I shared on Shutterfly that you can order on your own.)
The Bobcat Peace Book for iBooks is available here.
A Virtual Edition of The Bobcat Peace Book.
(This is REALLY cool. You can turn the pages and zoom in & out!)
Click here to see our video message to Todd Parr and his video message back to us!
The Bobcat Peace Book Facebook Page
(You will not be able to view this while on the District 186 network)