The students of Oak Lake Community School – all 110 of them – have written a book. Not an ebook but a real paper and ink book of 425 pages entitled Our Story. And to celebrate its publication, a Canadian author attended their book launch at the school last week.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “Well, that doesn’t happen every day,” you’d be absolutely correct.
In fact, Canadian author Sigmund Brouwer, the advisor on the project, said, “We don’t know of any other community school that’s done this. And done it so well.” And he should know.
Brouwer, of Red Deer, Alta, has written over 100 books and has worked as writer-in-residence at schools across the country. But, he says, this project was unique in its scope and level of difficulty.
The contents were created by OLCS students from kindergarten to Grade 8. They drew the pictures, compiled short biographies, and wrote two stories each: one creative and one factual.
Teacher Kim Williment coordinated the project. When the boxes of books finally arrived, she describes the feeling as, “…a real sense of pride because my own kids go to this school, but as a teacher they’re all your kids. To know that 110 of my children have published a book is pretty special.”
At the launch in the gym on Thursday, June 27, several students read their contributions out loud, principal Brenda Masson read her dedication, and Brouwer addressed the audience of students, teachers and parents.
He said, “When you see these books, you’re going to be blown away. You’re going to say ‘This is unbelievable.’ It turned out so beautifully.”
Brouwer travelled from Red Deer to Oak Lake twice during the creative process to work with the young writers, and he Skyped with their teachers to keep the project moving forward. Williment says the kids loved working with “a famous author.”
“We have his books in the library, so to be able to form a connection between an established author and the up-and-coming authors here, that’s huge.”
Being designated as a community school means this sort of project is more the norm than the exception for OLCS. Along with academic basics, students also study real world subjects like food security, ATV safety, coding for robots, how to apply for grants, and character education. The latter is mentioned often in the Our Story book, as in this excerpt:
“Building character means being a good person. Being a good person means respecting others. When you’re part of a community school, you get to take part in things like Artist in the School, like African and Japanese drumming…. Most importantly it teaches you to be a good person.” -Prabhji Khosa
Initially the plan was to sell the books to students’ families for $24 each, but Williment says there was enough money in their provincial grant to ensure every family got a free copy. It was just the right thing to do, she says.
“We’re a tiny school but we have big dreams and big goals, and when our school family comes together, we can achieve them. This book is proof.”