Something Fishy

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Second graders ask good questions

Outdoor writer Phil Junker sits and chats with a second grade class at Madison Creek Elementary, where his granddaughter, Meredith Fields is a student.

Public speaking is something that makes lots of people very nervous. Some people will do almost anything to avoid talking to a group.
This old writer/communicator has never been intimidated by public speaking. My work often put me in front of people, microphones and/or cameras. No big deal. The “ham” in me actually made such speaking somewhat enjoyable. But, these opportunities always were before adults or older youths.
And then, my granddaughter Meredith Fields’ second grade teacher, Monica Ingham invited me to come to her classroom to talk to her second grade class about writing and the outdoors. Now, anticipating that talk was really scary.
Meredith is fortunate to have Monica as her teacher. Monica has a strong interest in the outdoors, and she also is interested in teaching her Madison Creek (Tennessee) Elementary students to write about it.
Monica has adopted a class theme for the year. It is camping. Her classroom is decorated with outdoor pictures and materials. There also is a rabbit, two bearded dragon lizards, and I think a bird.
Last year, Monica’s class had a small python, but it grew larger and she says with a smile that the snake now is being “home schooled.”
Had I known the extent of Monica and her classes’ interest in the outdoors, I might have been less apprehensive about talking with the group.
Sitting at home in my sunroom easy chair, I kept a writing pad at home to jot down any ideas about what to tell second graders about writing and/or the outdoors. I fretted for several weeks without much being written on the yellow note pad. I even contemplated a general email distress call mailing to some of my outdoor writer friends for ideas.
I wanted something meaningful to tell the youngsters, but what? I knew I should keep it simple.
Finally, as the classroom appearance neared, I came up with a couple of ideas. Something that would last about 20 minutes.
My first thought was to tell them about writings four or five W’s. Explain that most news stories are based on Who, What, Where, When and sometimes Why. I also thought I would take in my backpack and show them some of the items I carry when hiking or going out in my boat.
It worked. And much to my surprise, Mrs. Ingham already had to W’s up on the board and they had talked about them.
We again covered the W’s, and the youngsters began to ask questions. When and how did you get started writing? Who helped you? How do you get ideas for stories? The time went by quickly.
I explained I started a class newspaper when I was in about the fourth or fifth grade, that my teacher supported and encouraged me, and that I carry a notepad to write down ideas for future columns. Today, I’m sure most writers use the cell phone or other electronic gizmos to record ideas.
Next, I showed them my backpack, and pulled out camera, notepad, hand cloth, flashlight, safety whistle, small first aid kit, disposable rain poncho, snacks, and several other items. I also carry a knife, but did not include it in the school show and tell.
Also, I emphasized the need to always let an adult know where you are going, and if that is OK with the adult. I also suggested always hiking with someone for safety reasons.
Thanks to help from my daughter, Michelle, and the teacher, the old outdoor writer enjoyed the visit, and thinks the students did as well.
If you ever have a chance to share your experiences with youngsters, do it.

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