A Special Classroom: Sea World Includes Us in their World


by Dawn Menge, PhD

 

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Joshua helped me draw a huge thermometer onto the poster board. “Can we go outside today and collect recyclables so that we can fill in the thermometer to the top?” Our students with severe cognitive delays had a small business making Christmas trees and recycling on campus. They had voted to use their money to take a trip to Sea World in San Diego and swim with the dolphins. This project began during the last school year and was continuing into the New Year.

Mid-year we ran into a small glitch that turned into a huge issue. A person who wanted to start a recycling program wrote negative articles about our students recycling. This issue accelerated with my parents accompanying us to attend a school board meeting. The school board offered to give our students the money for the trip, but the parents and I were adamant that they had a right to feel pride in their accomplishments and earn their way to Sea World. We were allowed to continue our work and the thermometer was soon filled.

At that time, in addition to my classroom responsibilities, I was home schooling Stephanie, who suffered from a temporary paralysis due to an illness. I visited her home each week and we invited her and her little sister to join us. “Ms. Dawn, I’m going to work very hard to get strong enough to go with you,” she said. Because of her weakened state, she had to work especially hard to build up her strength and stamina to attend with us. But, she was determined to fight and accompany her classmates on this adventure and have an experience of a lifetime with her family. Each week, we would talk about her physical therapy and occupational exercises to see if she was gaining enough strength to come. At times, there were setbacks. “I was sick this week Ms. Dawn. I didn’t get to work with my teachers,” she would say. “I’m very proud of all your hard work and I know you will make it for our trip.” I’d encourage her each week, although I wasn’t really sure if it would be possible for her.

The exciting day arrived and we boarded the bus early in the morning for the three-hour drive to Sea World. The park had generously offered to allow the parents to attend for free with their children. The Sea World employees escorted us back to the Dolphin encounter area and handed each one of us a wet suit to wear. Managing to put these on was an adventure in itself. But, we all managed this feat in the end and put our water shoes on and walked outside to the pool. The dolphins were jumping and swimming around in anticipation of their trainers’ commands.

We split up into groups based on student needs. The higher-functioning students who were physically stronger were grouped in a larger area with several teachers and parents. My brand new administrator was in this group being christened as my boss in a very adventuresome way. We all lined up and the first dolphin swam up and landed on the ledge. “She feels soft,” Giggled Ashley, as she ran her hands along the stomach of the dolphin. “Look how fast they can swim and jump in the air. I wish I could do that,” laughed Jasmine as she pointed to Samantha the dolphin.

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Ms. Judy was holding onto Amanda’s wetsuit as she petted the dolphin. Little Amanda was visually impaired with a seizure disorder and very determined to interact with the dolphins. She was so excited she held onto the dolphin’s fin and she tried to swim away.

“Come and shake the dolphins’ fins Freddie,” the trainer asked our youngest student with Down syndrome. The trainer held onto his shoulders as Freddie held the dolphin’s fins. They turned around and the dolphin gave him a big kiss and in turn Freddie hugged the dolphin so tight he almost didn’t let go. I’d never seen him with such a great big smile on his face. We all gathered ourselves sadly together and headed back to the changing rooms. It was filled with excited voices of students and parents alike trying to peel the wetsuits off and enjoy the rest of their day at Sea World.

Our last group included our school nurse Melinda for Stephanie as her physical health was still very fragile. The staff at Sea World helper her mother take Cindy out of the wheelchair and place her in the hoist to be lowered into the pool. Stephanie and Brianna were beyond excited. Stephanie leaned over and gave the dolphin a kiss as he swam by her. “Oh, my goodness there were tears in my eyes, she was so excited when she touched the dolphin,” remembers Melinda. “I will never forget that experience. It was so awesome.” Their dolphin swam up and perched on the ledge so that they could feel her sleek body, shaking her head as her trainer pointed for her to swim around the pool and jump high into the air twisting as she came back down, a big splash landing on the girls. The complete joy in their faces was more than enough reward for our staff. The memories of the hard work and struggle we had endured to make this happen washed away and was replaced by these irreplaceable memories for these students with severe cognitive delays and their families.

In our small groups, we continued to enjoy the Sea World park watching the shows, feeding the animals, learning about our world’s oceans and how important it is to protect our environment. Our recycling program not only helped our students accomplish this incredible goal on their own, but also helped the environment. As part of our functional curriculum, our students learn life skills such as counting and budgeting, communication skills in ordering their own meals and then paying the employees for their meals. “I was so impressed at the way the students were able to go to the cafeteria at Sea World. They were able to order their own food, figure out if they had enough money and pay on their own,” recalls Melinda. A lifetime of educational benefits came from this experience. All too soon, it was time to pack up and get on the bus for our long drive back home. The day may have been over but the memories and experiences gained would last a lifetime.  



Dawn Menge, PhD has won 29 national awards as the author of the Queen Vernita's Educational Series. As an educator, she holds a Master's and a Clear Credential in moderate/severe disabilities and a Bachelor's in human development. Dr. Menge has been teaching severely handicapped students for 16 years.

Is a toad a frog, or a frog a toad?

by Conrad J. Storad
photos by Meghan Nichols and Laurie Storad

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Young children are naturalists without the formal training. The environment outside provides laboratories of many kinds. Learning can take place at the pond across the street or in the woods around the block. Advanced study is always ready and waiting at a vacation beach with family, or near a summer camp lake with friends and classmates.

Kids are notoriously curious. They ask endless questions and perform primitive experiments just to find out how and why things are the way they are. Do you remember the many questions you had growing up in your world of outdoor play? Hopefully, you enjoyed playing outside and weren’t afraid to get your hands and clothes dirty.

I did, and I wasn’t. And I do remember a few outdoor explorations and questions from those early days with friends, brothers, and a sister. How deep a hole can we dig on this beach before it fills with water?

What kind of creatures do you think live under this rotten log? Will that bug bite or sting me if I grab it?

What does that toad’s skin feel like? How far can I see from the top of this tree? How long will it take for this tadpole to grow legs?

Luckily, I’m getting lots of chances to relive my early days of exploration through the eyes of my grandchildren. My granddaughter Hadley, a kindergartner-to-be, is way ahead of her older brothers when it comes to curiosity about Nature’s little secrets. She routinely peppers me with questions. For her, I’m a walking, talking “Google search.”

She nailed me with a good one during the annual Memorial Day fishing derby at our neighborhood pond. The day was beautiful, but the bluegill and bass were not cooperating. Patience is not the strongest trait for preschoolers or kids of elementary school age. The cane poles and bobbers were quickly left on the grassy banks. Of much greater interest were the swarms of tadpoles in the green algae near the pond’s mucky edge.

Some of the kids already knew that tadpoles were young “frogs-to-be.” Others even knew that they were a stage beyond eggs. Hadley took it a step further with her question. But first, some background for context.

A week earlier, Hadley had caught a toad at her babysitter’s home. Of course, the toad had to go home with her. Toads make great pets with the proper habitat and care. A large glass jar and an occasional worm does NOT meet the criteria. With some prodding, Hadley’s mom was able to convince her that the toad was better off with its “family.” She reluctantly returned it to the spot where it was found. Days later, her aunt bought her a small frog to keep as a pet. Again, frogs make great pets with the proper habitat and care… But, back to the pond story.

Hadley’s bucket was filled with tadpoles. Her hands covered with gunk, she looked at me and asked, “Toppy (my grandpa name), is a frog a toad? She paused, then added, “Or is a toad a frog?”

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Do you know? Turns out, this question does not have an easy answer. For the people who study them, there is no real scientific difference between frogs and toads. However, there are lots and lots of physical differences between the more than 7,000 known species of frogs and toads living on Earth today. So the complete answer is a bit more complicated.

Scientists classify animals based on lots of different characteristics. For example, frogs and toads belong to the same big animal group. Both are amphibians. These are cold-blooded creatures that spend the early part of their lives in water. In the water, they breathe with gills, like fish. When older, amphibians will live on land, but often stay close to water. They breathe air through lungs, like us.

Most frogs and toads look and act quite differently. But don’t be too quick. Some look very similar. It can get confusing. Following are some of the most common ways to tell them apart.

Frogs:

Must live near water to survive.

Have smooth, moist skin. They appear slimy.

Have a long, narrow body with bulging eyes.

Have long, strong hind legs that help them jump high and far.

Are food for many predators.

Toads:

Live on land, but often near water.

Have rough, dry, bumpy skin.

Have short back legs. They take small hops instead of long jumps.

Don’t have many predators. Glands behind a toad’s eyes produce toxins that give a bitter taste and smell. The toxins burn the eyes and nose of predators.

The list goes on and on. Both female toads and frogs lay their eggs in water. But a frog lays eggs in a cluster or clump under the surface of the water. A toad will lay its eggs in a long chain. Some toads don’t lay eggs at all. They give birth to live young.

For me, one of the most interesting parts of a frog or toad’s body is its tongue. Both have long, sticky tongues that shoot out of their mouths like a New Year’s Eve party favor. A frog tends to have a longer tongue.

Frogs and toads use their tongues to capture insects, spiders, minnows, and other small prey. A toad has a shorter tongue. It needs to be closer to its prey. Toads rarely miss a six or eight-legged meal.

There are other differences as well. But what about this one: Is a tortoise a turtle…or is a turtle a tortoise? Hadley will have to wait. That’s a question for another day and column.


Some hoppin’ fun facts:

  • Toads have rough, bumpy skin. But those bumps are not warts. They are actually special camouflage that helps them blend into their habitat.

  • Frogs or toads live on every continent except Antarctica.

  • A baby toad is called a tadpole, or toadlet.

  • World Frog Day occurs in March each year. Save the Frogs Day is the first Saturday of April each year. National Frog Jumping Day is in May. And the Gary Diamond National Admire a Frog or Toad Day occurs on July 1st.

 

Resources to learn more:

Books:

From Tadpole to Frog by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

National Geographic Readers: Frogs! by Elizabeth Carney

Frogs and Toads Discovery (Discovery Book for Kids) by Kate Cruso

 

Websites:

Lang Elliott Music of Nature
musicofnature.com/calls-of-frogs-and-toads-of-the-northeast/

All About Frogs.org
llaboutfrogs.org/froglnd.shtml

Easy Science for Kids – Frogs and Toads
asyscienceforkids.com/all-about-frogs-and-toads/

 


The award-winning author and editor of more than 50 science and nature books for children and young adults, Conrad J. Storad expertly draws young readers into his imaginative and entertaining “classroom” to help them better understand and appreciate the natural world.

 

Riding Horses at the Deuker Ranch

by Marie A. Fasano

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The Deuker Ranch Equine Assisted Adaptive Riding program is located in Star Valley, Arizona, about 10 minutes from Payson. They teach riding and horsemanship skills with a focus on participants who are challenged physically, cognitively, or socially. Their instructors and volunteers work with youngsters to safely develop independent skills and confidence from horses.­

“I’m really riding!” beamed Charley as she sat astride Autumn, the 850-pound Halfinger. This was her first time riding around the paddock. Dennis, the owner and instructor, walked beside them, quietly giving Charley directions. Prior to this, the little, 9-year-old was petrified to go near a horse. Autumn stands over six feet tall at the shoulders. Her strong, sturdy build provides a safe and stable ride for the children.

“Charley, you are doing so well, tomorrow you can ride big Rex,” Dennis said. He is a Belgian draft horse who weighs in at over 2,000 pounds and over six feet tall at the shoulders, but a gentle as they come.

Although there are several Equine Assisted programs in Arizona, the rural Dueker Ranch, run by husband and wife team, Dennis and Kathy Dueker never charge a fee. It is a 501c3 charitable organization. The ranch began in 2015 after Dennis experienced the power of horses changing lives. Kathy has spent a lifetime around horses, even having worked at Disneyland in California taking care of the draft horses that pull the street cars on Main Street, USA.

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I remember the first time we went to Deuker Ranch and how my niece, Charley cowered as we got near the horses. Kathy gently took her hand and said, “Charley, I have to feed all the horses and I need help, want to come with me?” By the end of the afternoon, Charley was feeding the horses out of her hand. Kathy is as gentle with the horses as she was with Charley.

This is what happens every week at Deuker Ranch with Kathy and Dennis and their volunteers. This Equine Therapeutic riding program is a treatment strategy that in­cludes equine activities or an equine environment. Through the miracles of horses, riders can overcome barriers through the unique power of love and friend­ship with the gentle giants or miniature horses. Their trained volunteers do several tasks. They can be sidewalker/coaches, horse leaders, barn hands, facility maintenance workers, or complete grooming and tacking. They enjoy being around horses.

Research, and the Deukers’ own experience, shows the benefits of therapeutic riding for the participant may include increased strength, flexibility, improved balance and coordination, improved coping and social skills (reduced stress and hyperactivity) and increased quality and quantity of communication.

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The equine movement engages the sensory, neuromotor, language and cognitive systems that support functional daily living skills. Each participant needs a medical release before they are able to ride. The rider always has a volunteer walker next to them while they are on the horse for support, encouragement, and safety.

“I have seen children that were nonverbal speak their first words while sitting on a horse. I have helped children in wheelchairs feel freedom for the first time on the back of a horse. I have taught autistic children to focus and follow directions while riding.” said Dennis.

I spent an afternoon at the Deuker Ranch observing Dennis and Kathy following PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) guidelines working with three teens diagnosed as developmentally challenged, on horseback, each with a volunteer at their side. Adriana, Becky, and Jacqueline come for their riding lessons on Thursdays and call themselves “The Girls Club.”

“I’ll do anything to be around horses,” Adriana said. “It’s stress free, no drama.” Smiling as she mounted Merrigold, a pony breed, 14 hands with stout muscles and strong bones.

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Becky had a big smile when Mat, the volunteer walking by the side of her horse said, “You’re directing Autumn really well today.”

“The horses make the girls feel alive,” says Susan, Becky’s mother. “She is shy, but around the horses she talks more.

When the girls were asked if they have a special horse, Jacqueline quickly responded, “We like them all. We mix it up and ride different ones.”

Jacqueline agreed to write a poem about her experiences at Deuker ranch.

      

Riding Horses

Riding a horse makes me relax.
Riding horses makes me brave and strong.
Riding is fun to do.
Riding is fast sometimes.

 

The in-depth following of directions has helped Jacqueline achieve gold medals in Special Olympic events. “I see more confidence and assertiveness in her, since she began riding here,” says her mom, Lucy.

Today Jacqueline is riding Ruby, who is over 1,800 pounds. These are work horses. Ruby and Rex, two Belgian Draft horses worked side by side pulling a tourist wagon around Yosemite National Park.

“They like to work,” says Kathy. “The Drafts are not so excitable. They are people friendly.” Kathy is the one at the Deuker Ranch who makes sure the horses are trained. 

The classes progress each week from getting up on a horse, handling the reins, balance, and various exercises.

The exercise on this day was balancing on the horse while drawing. Dennis asked each rider to pick a fun drawing that is on a clipboard. The teens are laughing a lot and look again and again at the papers trying to decide. Once they make their decision they move around the paddock directing the horses around the large round drums. They are very good at riding the horses around the drums as they have done it many times.

As they are riding, they get to pick crayons of their color choice that are on the drums. This takes thinking about choices. The volunteer working with each girl hands them their chosen crayons. Once they have gone around all the drums and selected their colors, they must stop the horse, and balance while drawing.

After stopping the horse with a “Whoa,” then holding the horse quietly, the girls start coloring. It’s a lesson in balancing and keeping the stopped horses in control so they can color.

Once they have completed the task, they continue riding. It was a pleasure to observe the teens exercising with the horses, practicing balance and having fun at the same time.

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What about the horses? Children and adults alike fall in love with the herd. At the Deuker Ranch there are three miniature horses, Willow, her daughter Gracie and Kenny. Their small size makes them the perfect horse to meet with small children and those in wheelchairs.

Dennis and Kathy bring the miniature horses to programs and events so children can experience being around horses. One day, at the Payson Community Kids program, the children learn about being around horses by gently brushing them while a volunteer holds the reins. You can sense their calmness while they complete this repetitive task.

Recently, the Ranch acquired Hamish, a Clydesdale colt, its newest addition. Hamish, like their other draft horses, “has an instinct that they want to work and they want to help.” said Dennis. The other “gentle Clydesdale giants” at the Deuker Ranch are the ambassadors often  and used for the Veterans program.

“What makes us different is that our services are free! That’s how important we feel therapeutic riding is,” said Dennis. 

Dueker ranch is a nonprofit Corporation and a 501(c3) Arizona-qualified dollar for dollar tax credit charity.

 

For more information, contact the Deukers at 928-978-7039, DuekerRanch@gmail.com, or visit duekerranchhorsetherapy.com.





Alzheimer’s Disease: The Importance of Minimizing Change


by Patricia M. McClure-Chessier

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June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month—a time for people of all ages to get involved to fight against the disease. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 95. One of the important facts that should be highlighted this month for anyone that is impacted by this disease is how change can have a tremendous impact on a person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. The more prepared the family/caregiver is, the better.

The main underlying cause of memory loss and confusion is the progressive damage to brain cells caused by the disease. Sometimes your loved one may remember an important date about one person and not the other. Sometimes they may remember something significant about someone who they aren’t close to, but can’t remember something significant about the caregiver. There is no rhyme or reason in most cases. The human brain is very complicated, and the condition presents other challenges that scientists still cannot fully answer.

Your loved one may even lash out at the person taking care of them for no apparent reason, and the caregiver may not understand the precipitating factors. The person may get upset easily, use bad language, scream, or hurl insults. Your loved one might even throw things, or resist your care by pushing and/or hitting you. This behavior could be a symptom of the disease, or just a response to them feeling confused. Aggressive behaviors can be verbal or physical, occur suddenly, and could be the result of anxiety and/or confusion. While aggression can be very difficult to cope with, it’s important for you as the caregiver to understand that your loved one is not behaving this way on purpose. Behavior is a form of communication. Aggression can be caused by many factors, including physical discomfort, environmental factors, and poor communication.

Environmental factors play a huge role, but are often overlooked. Caregivers have to be careful with making changes in the environment. For example, modernizing a home could create some significant challenges for the person with Alzheimer’s. Changing from a rotary phone to a touch-tone phone could deter the person from using the phone. We have to give a lot of thought to upgrading microwaves, stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, etc. Changes could have a negative impact on the person’s independence and quality of life. The more they can continue to do for themselves, the better. As caregivers, please consider the impact the change could have on your loved one. Even simple changes can complicate their world, and cause them to regress. So be careful and minimize change!

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Award-winning author/speaker Patricia M. McClure-Chessier, (MBA, MPA) is the author of Losing a Hero to Alzheimer’s The Story of Pearl and A Caregiver’s Guide for Alzheimer’s & Dementia Nine Key Principles. She has worked in the healthcare industry for 25 years and is available for presentations. For more information, visit www.patriciammcclure.com or contact Patricia at pmcclurechessier@yahoo.com or www.authorbookings.com/members/patricia-m-mcclure

A Special Classroom: Visits


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by Dr. Dawn Menge

“Help Queen Vernita with our days of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.” I encouraged the preschool students with Autism as I read to nine different preschool classes. Each class has a population with ages ranging from 3-6 year old and the students’ abilities range from non-verbal to verbal communicatively. “During the Sundays in January, Queen Vernita and her friend Debbie stayed home and read three books. Do you like to read? “Yes,” chimed in several of the students while others nodded their head or attempted to grab the book.

“In February, Queen Vernita and her friend Tommie had a huge snowball fight and made beautiful snow angels.” It has been a highly unusual winter in Southern California with rain and snow for weeks. “Did you get to make a snowman or have a snowball fight?” I asked the little ones, as I imitated throwing a snowball in the air. “The class of nine preschoolers all attempted to throw their own imaginary snowballs through the air. “On Sundays, they lay by the fireplace and took long naps, snoring loudly! Do you guys snore when you sleep?” The room was filled with nine little children snoring loudly and laughing.

“In July, Ashlie and Queen Vernita spent 31 glorious days at the beach. What is she doing in the picture? “Several of the students got up out of their chairs and pointed to the illustration of Queen Vernita and Ashlie building a sandcastle while the verbal students excitedly started reliving their experiences at the beach. “I played in the ocean, but I didn’t like the feel of the sand.” A little boy told me as he rubbed his hands together. Many students with Autism have sensory needs, as textures bother them. This little boy was sensitive to the feel of sand, while others are more sensitive to smells or visuals such as the lights in a classroom. Many of our students cannot tolerate loud or noisy areas and wear sound reduction head phones to limit the input coming to them from outside their worlds. “Queen Vernita ate fried fish tacos on Fridays. Who likes fish tacos?” Most of the students wrinkled their noses but a very verbal little boy informed me, “I go to Hawaii every summer and play in the waves and make sandcastles, but we do not eat fish tacos. That is yucky!” as he turned his head back and forth in an obvious sign of distaste.

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“Then came August and Hannah came to visit. It is a very hot time in the land of Oceaneers. Queen Vernita and Hannah spent all 31 days camping in the mountains. On Wednesdays, they slept outside of their tents so they could count all the stars. Can you help me count the stars?” A little girl jumped onto my lap and grabbed my hand as I pointed and began to count the stars. Those little ones that could count joined in on star counting, fading away as we reached past the number ten. “How many frogs are there? One, two…,” as I held up each finger the students followed along. “Saturday nights they made a campfire and cooked S’mores. They were so gooey and yummy, made of marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate. “Have you ever had a S’more?” I asked as I rubbed my stomach, “I like the melted marshmallows, and I like the chocolate.”

“As the season of summer left, fall came. Along with the changing of the leaves colors, came Virginia. September is apple picking time. Do you like apples?” Apples, repeated a little girl that had been silent up to this point. Echolalic speech is frequent with people who have autism. They will repeat specific words or phrases. The more verbal students who are echolalic come to school and repeat phrases they’ve heard on movies or TV. They also repeat out of context, prior conversations they have had at home or in the community. Their speech is halted short, sometimes limited to a word or two to convey their message to the listener.

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“Tyler Ann stayed until the end of the year. I’m so glad that I have 12 such great friends to come and visit me on each of the 12 months of the year. Thank you so much for allowing me to come and read Queen Vernita’s Visitors to each and every one of you.” I thanked my last group and headed back to my classroom of high school and transition students who are have moderate to severe disabilities. It is always such fun to read to the little ones at the educational center in which the preschoolers who have Autism attend school. Their teachers all refer to them as their friends, creating a warm and friendly environment for children who have high anxiety in social situations. But, after reading to 90 friends in nine different classrooms, my voice is tired and I’m ready to rest until the next year.


Dawn Menge, PhD has won 29 national awards as the author of the Queen Vernita's Educational Series. As an educator, she holds a Master's and a Clear Credential in moderate/severe disabilities and a Bachelor's in human development. Dr. Menge has been teaching severely handicapped students for 16 years.

    

Dr. Dawn Menge Makes Book Reviews a Classroom Project

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“I want to go to the 13th floor!” Mariah exclaimed as we began reading, There’s a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor. My students listened intently as I read the children’s book that was sent to me by Story Monsters Ink magazine to review. “The man was sleepy. He slept in a big room with a dinosaur,” Ryder answered as he wrote his book report. “The dinosaur did not like Mr. Snores on the 13th floor.”

Several years ago I began writing reviews for Story Monster Ink. This is a great opportunity for me as I am able to branch out on my author journey to see the other side of the publishing world. I am the author of an educational series titled, Queen Vernita’s Visitors. My series has won 31 awards; including seven Purple Dragonfly and seven Story Monsters Approved awards. I have a PH.D in Curriculum and Instruction and use many forms of literacy in my classroom that educates students with moderate to severe disabilities ages 12 to 22. During my over 20 years as an educator for students with disabilities, we have provided many forms of academic opportunities including functional reading and recreational reading.

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“Eww, something is dripping on his head!” Jesse notes, “What do you think it is?” I asked, “An ocean or an aquarium?” As an educator, it is heartwarming to hear the animated responses I receive from my students as we read the various books we are given by Story Monsters to review.

As a direct result of these opportunities, I and those around me have been exposed to many quality children’s books that we might not otherwise have had the opportunity to read. “It’s great to participate in reviewing the books, so that we can recommend them to others or buy for gifts.

I am also an active member of the United States Board on Books for Young People (USSBBY). I sit on the committee that creates the International List for the Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities. These books are written either for or about people with disabilities. I have been able to recommend several of the books I have reviewed for recommendation for this list.

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The books presented to me by Story Monsters vary in publishing formats from self-published to traditionally published. Allowing a wide range of exposure to gauge the many components required to judge the quality of the literature. Having been connected to Story Monsters throughout many years, I have been able to watch it grow and expand to an amazing publication that now includes bestselling author James Patterson and Judy Newman, president of Scholastic Book Clubs, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

  

 To submit your book for review, email cristy@storymonsters.com for submission guidelines.

Subscribe to Story Monsters Ink magazine! Get the best news in books for just $5 a year!

 

 



Young Eagles: The Story of a First Flight


by Marie A. Fasano, EAA 635640
photos by eaa.org

Launched in 1992, the Young Eagles program has dedicated more than 25 years to giving youth ages 8–17 their first free ride in an airplane. It’s the only program of its kind, with the sole mission to introduce and inspire kids in the world of aviation.

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I open my eyes and turn in bed to look out the window. I can see it’s a crisp, fall morning with a clear, bright blue sky—perfect flying weather. I learned this is the best time to fly … early morning just after sunrise when the weather still has the cool feel of nighttime. The air remains smooth with fewer bumps. I hurry to get dressed and run to the kitchen to eat my breakfast.

After eating, I jump up from the table and yell, “Mom, let’s go to the airport, I want to fly.”

At the airport, I leap out of the car and run to the hangar. I’m so excited. I’m finally going to take my first airplane ride in a small plane. I see the planes lined up. I later learn they are a Cessna, Piper, Cirrus, home built and more, ready to go. They each can hold from one to three passengers. I grab my mom’s hand as we see the volunteers setting up the desk and registration forms for the parents to sign.

Mom says to a volunteer, “I have two important questions. What does it cost for Danny to fly and is it safe.”

The volunteer answers. “It’s free. The EAA, Experimental Aircraft Association has been flying kids since 1992. So far, over 2 million young people from ages 8 to 17 have had airplane rides for free all over the United States. The pilots donate their time and their planes. It’s the only program of its kind, with the sole mission to introduce and inspire kids in the world of aviation. Each pilot is licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and all aircraft are likewise licensed by the government. The flights are conducted according to federal regulations.”

After mom registers and gives her permission, a volunteer pilot, Paul, says, “Come on over for the pre-flight, the walk around. You’ll learn what the pilot must do to be sure everything on the airplane works OK. The pilot does this check before every flight. Let’s take a look at how the airplane flies. You can get in the cockpit, the area where the pilot sits.”

I climb up and settle in the pilot’s seat in the airplane.

Paul tells me, “The wheel or stick inside the airplane moves to turn the airplane in the air.”

As I turn the wheel, he says “Look outside the plane at the wing and see the ailerons, the small part of the wing. It goes up and down whenever the wheel turns right or left. This is how the airplane turns in the air. Now push the wheel forward and back. As you do this, look at the tail of the plane, with the elevator and see it go up and down. This is how the plane goes up and down in the sky. Next, look at the rudder pedals on the floor. They look like gas pedals in a car. Push one at a time and look out the back of the plane to see the rudder on the tail move. The rudder helps to turn the plane on the ground and in the air. See that lever in the center of the panel in front of you? Push it down to let the flaps on the wings of the airplane go down. Here the pilot checks to be sure there are no obstructions that would interfere with the flap movement.”

“Wow, I see them moving down.” I say.

He helps me out of the plane and says, “Let’s go outside and we’ll do the final check. I’ll drain the fuel from a small opening under the plane to be sure we find no water or dirt in the fuel.”

All my questions are answered from how the fuel pump provides gas, to how the pilot talks on the radio. After the pre-flight, I am eager to fly.

Paul walks me to the airplane to be sure I don’t walk into the spinner and propeller, “A big deal when being around an airplane is safety first,” he says. “Don’t go near the propeller blades because if there is a problem, they may turn without warning and you can easily get hurt.”

In this Young Eagles program, the pilots enjoy introducing youngsters to the joys of flying as much as the kids do. It may be a man or woman, someone who flies for fun, uses the plane for their business, or someone who has spent his life as a commercial, professional pilot flying for the major airlines or the military. Diane, the pilot who is flying me today says, “Most kids want to sit up front with the pilot to be the co-pilot.”

As Diane helps me into the right seat of the plane, I see there are pillows on the seats, so I can reach the wheel and see out the plane.

“I’ll show you how to strap in with the seat belt just as you do in a car,” says Diane. “Then we’ll make sure the doors are shut tight.”

She gets in the plane and helps me put on a headset. “OK, all set, can you hear me OK? We are ready to taxi to the runway.”

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“I can hear you, I’m ready, let’s go,” I answer. The plane moves forward and we are on our way to the runway.

Before we take off, Diane stops at the end of the runway. “I’ll do a pre-check pushing the power up to make sure the engine is running OK,” she says. We’ll use the radio to make a call on the microphone, so other pilots know we are leaving. Pilots use a special alphabet called the phonetic alphabet. “November Five Niner Mike Juliet is ready for takeoff, runway two four.” Diane looks to the sky to be sure no one else is coming in to land. All is OK and she turns to the runway, pushes in the power and I feel the airplane racing down the runway.

In a moment the plane lifts off. “I can see everything on the ground get smaller and smaller,” I say. For the next 20 minutes we’re in the air flying over our town. “There’s my school and Green Valley Park. I think I see my house!” I yell excitedly.

“Do you want to take the wheel and fly for awhile,” says Diane. I grab the wheel. “Gently, she says, it doesn’t take much to control the airplane. I’m here to back you up.”

As I lighten up on the wheel, I say, “Like this?”

“Great job she says,” You’re a natural pilot.”

“How about you make a radio call to let the other pilots know where you are?” “Repeat after me, “Five Niner Mike Juliet on left downwind runway two four at sixty-two hundred feet.”

I call on the radio and think, “I can’t believe she let me do that, just like a real pilot.”

Too soon we are on final to the runway and ready to land. I look down and see my mom waiting. Once we’re on the ground and out of the airplane, I say “Bye, Diane. That was awesome. I want to be a pilot, too.”

“Here’s your certificate and Young Eagles logbook with a personal code to activate your free EAA Student Membership and Sporty’s Learn to Fly ground school course,” says Diane, “You are now a Young Eagle.”

I run to my mom with a wide grin. “That was super.”

EAA will send the new Young Eagle follow-up information about their free online ground school course, details regarding other youth aviation programs, and EAA scholarships. So, take a free flight and become a Young Eagle. Check the website to find an EAA Chapter in your town.


Marie A. Fasano RN, MN, MA, commercial, instrument pilot with multi-engine and seaplane ratings. Marie’s flying, an important part of her life, entailed coordinating for the EAA Chapter #810 Young Eagles for about five years, flying the kids in her Cessna 182 59MJ; taking rural patients to medical appointments with Angel Flight West; and flying medical personnel to Baja, California to dirt strips for clinics for indigent peoples. Marie also spends her time teaching nursing, nutrition, and helping clients with long term care health insurance. On the side, her photojournalism has appeared in nursing and aviation journals and general newspapers.

James Patterson Joins Story Monsters Ink as Monthly Columnist

 

James Patterson has a way with words. Best known for his suspenseful thrillers and middle grade book series, his titles have sold over 375 million copies and he holds the record for the most New York Times bestsellers. With a generosity as endless as his imagination, he has donated millions of dollars to school libraries over the years through his partnership with Scholastic with one simple goal: To get kids reading. From his vantage point as a literary lion, Patterson knows as well as anyone the power that words can wield.

photo by Stephanie Diani

photo by Stephanie Diani

Not only does Patterson write for kids, he will now be writing directly to them and their teachers and parents in a monthly column with Story Monsters Ink magazine. His column will debut in the October 2018 issue of the popular magazine. 

With content kids can relate to, Story Monsters Ink is the go-to literacy resource for K-12 teachers and librarians. Each issue offers the latest book news, reviews, author interviews, reading lists, and more. In their efforts to get more students reading and writing, the editors also work with teachers and parents to publish student-written articles and book reviews in each issue.

“There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading,” Patterson says. “There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books. If we can put the right book in their hands, the story will do the rest.”

To learn more about Story Monsters Ink, visit www.StoryMonsters.com, email info@storymonsters.com or call 480-940-8182.

New Author Enjoys the Challenge of Large Group School Visit

by Carol Hageman

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I am a first-time author of a children’s book entitled Bubby’s Puddle Pond: A Tortuga’s Tale of the Desert. My book has been in publication for less than a year and I have had several book signings and school visits, but recently, I was invited by a school to read my book and do a presentation on the artwork before 800 students in grades K-3.  

The academic coach wanted the students to become more aware of the arts. I accepted the challenge, but after I hung up the phone, I realized what I had just agreed to. Up until now, my presentations were typically in the range of 50 students. However, I reminded myself of the years of experience I had acquired as a volunteer in my daughter’s elementary school and library. I thoroughly enjoyed working with children, tutoring them in reading, and being involved with the Art Masterpiece Program. That’s when I realized, I could take on a project of this size, too.

Just a month earlier, I had the opportunity to purchase all of the artwork from the book. It included pencil and ink sketches, a small draft of the book and all of the watercolors. I thought the children might be interested in learning how a book is produced. I would tie that in with the art that made the book special.

When I arrived at the school, I was led to the auditorium to set up. I was told there would be two sessions. The kindergarten and first-graders would be together for a slightly simplified version of the presentation, followed by the second- and third-graders for a more advanced version. I prepared the tables by laying out the pencil sketches, ink sketches, and the watercolors in succession, as they appeared in the book.

After introducing myself, I asked the students how many of them liked to draw, how many liked to read, how many liked to write. After all the little hands went down, I told them there are many new authors and artists in the audience. I told them art comes in many different forms from paintings to sculptors to crafts and drawings. Just like in my book. All of the artwork was done in watercolors.

I shared a story of my experience years ago, when I volunteered in the classroom helping children produce their own book. The students would hand-write their story and I would type them and make a cover out of construction paper. The students would then illustrate the pages and cover. After everyone completed their book, they would read it to the class.

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I then proceeded to explain what it took to produce my own book. I started with the front cover, the copyright page, the dedication page, content of the story, fact pages, glossary, curriculum page, and the creative team pages. Finally, the back cover. I explained how many professionals are involved in the production process. Starting with the author, followed by the illustrator, editor, graphic designer, curriculum writer, proofreaders, project manager, production staff, and printers.

The academic coach had scanned the book in order to project it on a large screen as I read it to the students. After the story was finished, pre-selected students came up on stage to ask a question, using the microphone before the student assembly. I answered their questions, and followed up by encouraging them to follow their dreams. If they enjoy reading, writing, and drawing, someday they might be an author, or work on a professional team to produce a book.

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Finally, the children were invited to walk by the table to view the artwork. I was so pleased with their responses of enthusiasm! They shared with me who their favorite character was in the story, had positive comments about the watercolors, and thanked me for visiting their school. Needless to say, I left feeling very gratified. I felt very comfortable before 800 children and would love the opportunity to do it again.