I learned something interesting as soon as I walked into Binks Forest Elementary School in Wellington, FL. The school and the area surrounding it got its name “Binks,” because it was the nickname of the man who used to own the land there. I also couldn’t help but be impressed with how helpful the staff was as soon as I opened the front door. Several smiling people helped me drag my books and props in and out, and they couldn’t be any friendlier.
Well to say the least, this was a very special author visit, as I did two presentations with 500 students in each group! Talk about an energetic crowd!!! You never know what will get kids going, and every author visit I do is different. Well, when the 2nd-5th graders learned that many trees are planted by birds because they poop out the seeds, this caused a hilarious uproar that lasted some time. Naturally it put a huge smile on my face.
With the school’s terrific technology I was able to show my animal posters on a big screen so the crowd could see them better. I was asked some terrific questions about those animals, and one 4th grader let me know he had just been to Costa Rica, where he saw a Howler monkey!
One of the highlights of this visit was telling the children that the paintbrushes I used for my illustrations belonged to my grandfather, and I’ve kept them for 30 years. They sure do love watching the magic of watercolor pencils blending with just a touch of water on a brush.
The students are always shocked when I give them statistics on how “Geography Illiterate” Americans really are. I encouraged them to ask for a wall map for the holidays or their birthday. They’re very affordable, and oh so fun to look at and learn about the world.
Media Specialist Sharon Wedgworth absolutely loves her job and it shows! Her library is big and inviting and the students are welcome to browse the shelves at various times throughout the day. She works with readers of all levels and comes up with creative ways of motivating reluctant readers.
Tell me you wouldn’t want to linger in this library for a few hours! Notice the pile of Lilly Badilly books on the table I autographed.
Binks Forest Elementary’s music teacher, Devon Heinrichs has an incredible music program and provides the children with live performances from every genre of music. His classroom is full of interesting instruments, and his students are so fortunate to benefit from his passion for music. It’s teachers like Mr. Heinrichs who can inspire a child to master a musical instrument or sing like Broadway star. And we all know how much music ability and math success go hand in hand.
Music is not the only wonderful part of the Fine Arts classes at Binks Elementary. Check out these impressive painted self-portrait tiles made by students a few years back.
There are many aspects to being a children’s book author that make it so fulfilling. Without a doubt, one of the best parts is visiting a harmonious school, where the teachers truly care, the parents are hands on, the students are curious, and the resources are abundant. Binks Forest is one of those schools, and how lucky these students are to have the privilege of attending!
Thank you Mrs. Wedgworth for inviting me to your school and putting together such a well organized event. Thank you, too, to all the teachers I met, who were so kind and welcoming. And of course, I must express my gratitude for 1,000 beautiful, smiling, giggling children, who were eager to learn and who told me how much they enjoyed the visit.