January 27, 2006

2006 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Book shares creative side of Aurora students

By Mike Krokos

The sun shines in the morning air,
The moon will glow when you say a
The sky is so blue you’d think it’s a
Southern Indiana will fill you with

Titled “Southern Indiana,” that poem by sixth-grader Margo Tedesco begins Along the River in Southeastern Indiana, a collection of fictional stories and poems written by students of St. Mary of Immaculate Conception School in Aurora.

What makes the 121-page book, published by Pen & Publish in Bloomington, even more impressive is the fact that all 145 of the school’s kindergarten through eighth-grade students share their talents. While some students wrote poems or stories, others used their artistic gifts to draw illustrations.

“A parent suggested it,” explained Beth Eldridge, the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade language arts teacher, of the book project. “I got the kids started on it at the beginning of the school year.”

What followed was two months of brainstorming and work where the students focused on creating fictional stories about southeastern Indiana.

Some chose to focus on well-known local sites such as Hillforest Mansion and Riverview Cemetery. Others felt compelled to include other nearby treasures like the Ohio River.

Sixth-grader Mark Hetzer’s poem titled “The Ohio River” speaks volumes about how he feels about the body of water that plays a big part in the life of many Aurora residents:

The Ohio River runs by here,
I like it a lot cause it’s so near.
Boats go by every day,
But never stop to chat and play.
I swim and I fish,
And boy do I wish
To go for a sail,
And see a big whale!
It can sometimes be quite a bore,
To sit and watch along the shore.
I will grow up and move away,
But I’ll always remember where I
used to play.

Seventh-grader Taylor Tufts’ fictional account of “The Mystery Flood” deals with a catastrophe that initially wipes out all but one resident of the town, 5-year-old Annebelle.

“Ms. Eldridge gave us an idea,” Taylor said of the project.

“I liked that everybody could throw their own ideas into it and show their abilities in writing,” Taylor added.

Seventh-grader Natalie Horn penned “The New Tool,” the story of two plow horses—Dark Sunshine and Phantom—who were out of a job when a farmer purchased a new tractor to work his fields. In the end, the machine breaks down and the horses save the day by showing what a valuable commodity they truly are.

“I like that students were able to put their ideas into the stories,” Natalie said.

There was no lack of enthusiasm for the project, Eldridge said, but the biggest challenge was “getting organized and getting all the students involved.”

The community response to the book project was overwhelming, Eldridge said. Seventh- and eighth-grade students went around Aurora seeking $10 donations from businesses to help pay for the book’s publishing costs. More than 40 businesses contributed—with some giving as much as $50 each for the project.

To date, 220 copies of the book have been sold, and the proceeds are being used for the school’s accelerated reading program.

Despite the challenges and hard work, Eldridge said she hopes to repeat the project.

“I got to see all types of creativity,” she said.

In the end, the various gifts that students shared are what really make the book so special, the teacher said.

“I’m so proud of the students and the work they did,” she said, “and I think they’re proud of it as well.”

Taylor agreed.

“It was awesome,” she said.

(For more information or to purchase a copy of Along the River in Southeastern Indiana, call St. Mary School in Aurora at 812-926-1558. The book may also be purchased online at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.) †


Local site Links: