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Author Inspires STEM Academy Students

By Nico Gentile, Lauren Serdy, and Juliette Fraser, Grade 7 students – Sandwich STEM Academy

“Reading makes your brain stronger!” said Linda Sue Park during a Skype session with the seventh graders of the Sandwich STEM Academy on January 7th.  The teachers and the kids both loved it! Getting to meet a great author of the book every 7th grader had just read, A Long Walk to Water, was an experience that won’t be forgotten.  

At the beginning of the Skype, Mrs. Park explained her life and what she does day to day by presenting a powerpoint which showed how she began writing as a child, and how she spread the unbelievable true story of Salva and the Lost Boys of Sudan by writing A Long Walk To Water. The school learned that she was Korean, although English is her first language. They learned about a fun Korean game that kids play at the age of one where parents put five objects out for babies to pick. The children pick one item of the five and it supposedly tells their future. These items include a book for a reader, a pen for a writer, a bag of money for being wealthy, a spool of thread for a long life, and cakes for being greedy. Linda explained to the grade how her mother told her she had picked the pen, even if Linda Sue herself is not totally sure that is true!

She told the kids that reading makes your brain stronger and you always need keep reading, even when you’re older. She talked about how the new generation is getting more into electronics and it’s up to us to stop it.  She said jokingly, “Stop the stupid!” She also shared that just writing three paragraphs a day is her motivation, even if those paragraphs are bad. She explained to the kids that you just need to motivate yourself to get a little reading or writing done everyday, even if that little bit isn’t great, at least you’re still doing something to keep your brain active. It’s all about getting yourself started and not giving up on something just because it isn’t perfect the first time.  Pick up a piece of paper and a pen and let your thoughts come to life instead of picking up the electronics. The book the 7th grade STEM Academy read, A Long Walk to Water, was her 17th draft of the book! Other novels that she has written have gone up to 34 drafts!

At the end of the Skype session, students had the opportunity to ask questions and learn from an author’s perspective. The first student to ask a question was Nico Gentile, who was the person that first filled out the contact information to Skype with Linda Sue Park.  Jordan DeSilva, who says she is Salva’s biggest fan, told Mrs. Park that all the seventh graders loved her and Salva.  Students in the audience yelled, “We love you!” so Linda Sue Park could hear everyone.  Students asked questions about the theme of the book, the main character of the book A Long Walk to Water (Salva), where she has traveled, and if she has traveled to South Sudan to see Salva and about his founding Water For South Sudan.  She told us that the theme of a book you are reading is what a reader feels the main message is. She explained how the theme of a book varies from person to person, and there’s no “right” or “wrong” theme.

Seventh grade English teacher Mrs. Morris commented, “The experience was invaluable for the understanding of an author’s ability to change world thought on a problem and motivate action.” When Mrs. Park talked about Salva’s organization she explained what it is and how people should help. The organization takes money donations and uses it to dig wells for the families in South Sudan who need uncontaminated water to live. The seventh grade is planning some fundraising events to raise money for Salva’s organization so be on the lookout for information on social media and through email announcements. Salva’s website is:  http://www.waterforsouthsudan.org.

At the end of the Skype session everyone cheered and clapped for this amazing author, whose name we hope to see on more books in the future that all readers will enjoy and love just like  A Long Walk to Water.

Note from Mrs. Karen Sabetta, Grade 7 English Teacher

Students lined up for a chance to use the microphone and ask a question of Linda Sue Park

Students lined up for a chance to use the microphone and ask a question of Linda Sue Park

The author Skype session with Linda Sue Park would not have been possible without the initial contact made by seventh grader Nico Gentile.  Thank you to Nico from all seventh grade students and staff for having the drive and desire to reach out to Linda Sue Park via her website. Special thanks to Karen McGrath and Josh Rodrigues for their tech assistance in setting up the Skype, Melinda Lasit for assistance with the auditorium sound system, and administrators Gil Newton, Beth Hebb, and Ellin Booras for their support.  In addition, thank you to all the seventh grade STEM staff and English Department Head Martha Martin for their support of this amazing event.  

Linda Sue Park presented her thoughts about empathy and reading in a December 2015 Ted Talk in Boston.  You can watch the Ted Talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40xz0afCjnM