Refugee Experience Challenge

Alan Gratz

After reading Refugee by Alan Gratz this summer, students returned to school and embarked on a short research challenge. They browsed through the UNHCR website to learn about a variety of refugees around the world. After deciding on a focused refugee story, the students created a short profile for the refugee. Thank you to Emily at for the idea and resource. We hope you enjoy reading a few of these profiles written by some of our students.

The Refugee Project

Refugee Profile Project

Refugee Profile

Board Game Creation

Taj succeeded in creating an engaging board game for his classmates to play in stations. This passion project exam was well planned out and designed.  Taj was able to tie in themes from the graphic novels titled, Cardboard and When Stars are Scattered.  Congrats on making a fun game for the class!

Poetic Passion Project

Prior to our holiday break, I decided to ditch the traditional paper and pencil exam for a fun project. Students were given many choices in how they could demonstrate and apply reading and writing skills.  For a little over a month, students dove deep into critical and creative thinking in an independent passion project.  Below are two original poems written by Kate, and inspired by The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl and When Stars are Scattered.

Moving on for the Better

By Kate

Ever since lighting struck me

it also struck my life.

It changed.

From there I became a savant, a genius, in math

But little did I know I was drowning in loneliness

Numbers, online friends, and my alone time became my friends

Although, my grandma tells me that I’m lonely

I thought that deep down inside I had everything that I needed

It turns out that all I needed were friend

but I didn’t have what I needed.

I finally found my place.


Change is Good

By Kate

As I looked around the tents

Spread all around, my life

Stuttered as if I didn’t know its worth.

As I stared at the stars, I couldn’t help

But wonder what was really out there

Waiting for me.

Was the rumor true about my
Mother’s passing? Could I go to college in America and leave my friends behind?

But no, change is not good.

It is bad. I should stay here.

With Fatuma and my best friend.

My mother is alive and I know it.

Or should I change my perspective?

I know change will hurt, but I’ve realized here at the camp that change is good.

Do it for Fatuma, do it for my family,

do it for your friends.

do it for my brother,

but most of all do it for yourself.

Change is good.




One of our favorite digital tools to use for publishing is Book Creator.  It is user-friendly and a great way to share with a larger audience.  Recently, we read the graphic novel Cardboard by Doug TenNapel and were inspired to write short graphic-style stories.  We had too much fun creating characters and developing a short plot using Book Creator’s features.  We hope you enjoy some of our stories on Book Creator.

Informative Essays

After learning how to use Noodle Tools, students researched a holiday of their choice and wrote an informative essay.  We learned so much about many holidays that people have been celebrating for years.  Please take a moment to read a few of our showcased essays below…..


By Taj

Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is known as the Festival of Lights. The holiday is celebrated by Hindus across India. Diwali is the largest holiday in India that lasts five days. It was said that the holiday started from religious stories about the triumph of good over evil. Diwali is an ancient holiday that is full of traditions, culture, and celebrations.

Diwali is a very popular holiday in India that many people celebrate. The holiday dates back nearly 2,500 years ago. The festival is five days long and the date of the festival changes every year but is always in the fall. Diwali 2021 is very soon on November 4th. Diwali marks the start of the Hindu calendar. While Diwali is mainly celebrated by Hindus, other religions such as Buddhism, Jankism, and Sikhism use Diwali to mark special events in their history. Diwali is very popular with people all around India celebrating.

On each day of Diwali, families will do the special traditions each day. On the first day, the families will clean their homes and buy new kitchen appliances. On the second day, people will decorate their homes with clay lamps called Diya. On the third day, neighbors gather together and pray, called puma, and make a shrine to honor the gods and goddesses. On the fourth day, families will give gifts to each other. On the fifth and final day, brothers will visit their married sisters. Many families will gather and decorate their homes for the Festival of Lights.

Diwali may have started from a legend about Lord Rama and his wife Sita. Rama was the eldest of four boys, and he was destined to become king. Rama’s stepmother wanted her son, Bharata, to rule. Rama’s stepmother was promised two wishes she desired by her husband, the king. She demanded that Rama be banished for 14 years and Bharata be crowned. Rama agreed to show good faith to his father. Rama’s wife, Sita, begged to accompany him. After Bharata found out what his mother did, he pleaded with Rama to be crowned instead of him. Rama refused to go against his father and only would go after his sentence.  Later, the evil 10-headed king, Ravana, kidnaps Sita. Rama builds an army to kill Ravana and succeeds. It is said that people celebrate his victory by lighting up their homes. Now people celebrate by launching large fireworks.

People will celebrate Diwali by cleaning, giving gifts, and honoring gods and goddesses. All across India people will decorate and set off large fireworks. This ancient foreign holiday is celebrated all across India.

Descriptive Companion Essays

After reading the novel and viewing the movie, The Call of the Wild, students followed that with a short story titled “Dirk the Protector”. The similar themes students found were companionship, survival, and friendship.  These stories helped us make connections to personal people and pets in our lives that we consider true companions.  These stories inspired us to write descriptive companion essays. Below you can read two of the essays that are being showcased on our classroom blog.


by Nicole

A furry beast walks, he is white with grey tips and has gorgeous green eyes.  He watches over the house thinking he is the boss of everyone, and he sort of is.

This furry beast I speak of is my adorable little cat, Cosmo.  He is fluffier than you could ever imagine.  He snuggles up with me at night and he truly is my little protector.  When there is a bug in the house, Cosmo will not hesitate to kill it.  Cosmo is the sweetest cat but he has a big ego and thinks he is as big as an elephant.

I have had Cosmo for almost three years and he has been so good to me.  He is a great cuddle buddy and is there for me when I need a shoulder to lean on.  He loves attention but gets scared around people he has never met before, and sometimes hides.  He is my best friend, the one I can always count on and I am forever grateful for him.



My Dog Penny

By Mac

Penny is a puppy with a huge heart.  She is one year old and will turn two in January.  Our family got her on a camping trip in North Carolina on St. Patrick’s Day.  She is an Irish Doodle which is a mix between an Irish Setter and a Poodle.  She is big weighing almost 90 pounds and can rest her head on the table.  Penny is always there for me and she makes me smile when I am feeling sad.  I like that when I go to the pool she comes with me and we swim together all day.  We love being together and she always shows me how a dog is a man’s best friend.

I can not imagine life without Penny.  Her fur is soft and warm like a blanket.  She seems like she always has a smile and is always happy to stand up and give a hug.  And when she does, she is as tall as I am.  Without Penny, I think I would be less joyful and a little less responsible.  Penny makes me happy and I am responsible for taking care of her.  For example, I make sure that she has food and water every day, I take her on nice walks and play with her outside all the time.  I think Penny would choose me out of anyone in my family because she is always wagging her tail around me.  Her tail is so big and strong that it has broken things.  Penny will never win the award for the most graceful or calm dog, but I think she would win the award for best spirit and happiest.



2021 Sunshine State Book Reviews

Over the summer, my middle school students read When Stars are Scattered by Omar Mohamed and Victoria Jamieson, and were encouraged to read novels from the Sunshine State middle school list.  After reading Omar Mohamed’s true story, my students created time capsules that included details from the story.

In the last two weeks, the students worked on a two-paragraph review of their chosen Sunshine State novel.  Below are a couple of honest reviews by my students.

Invasion of the Black Plants
By Luddy

     In the book, Bloom, Kenneth Oppel tells us a story about what happens to three teens when the world is invaded by aliens. Three teens named Anaya, Petra, and Seth have unusual problems.  Anaya has severe allergies, Petra is allergic to water, and Seth was born with an unusual bone growth that looks like wings.  In Bloom, random black plants start showing up everywhere and growing multiple feet in just a few hours.  These plants start mutating into human-eating plants.  The teens have to go save Anaya’s dad who is stuck on an island that has soil that can kill the mysterious murder plants.

This book was entertaining for me, but the pacing was a bit off.  For example, they did not go to the island that her dad was at until the last quarter of the book and once they got there everything went so quick.  Overall, this novel had good action and a unique idea of killer alien plants.  So, I would recommend this book to people who like action, but if you do not like action then I would not recommend this book.

Listen to Kenneth Oppel do a read-aloud of the first chapter to decide if this is a book for you.

Wildfire by Rodrick Philbrick: Book Review

By Jameson

     The book Wildfire written by Rodrick Philbrick is about a forest fire.  The book starts with a boy named Sam who was at a summer camp in Maine.  It was very humid in Maine and a forest fire broke out.  Sam was going to head towards the buses to evacuate, but he forgot his phone and went back to get it.  After he got it, there was so much smoke and he had no idea where he was going, so he got lost in the forest.  Later in the story, he found a girl named Delphy.  They worked together to try and get out of the forest fire.  He found a jeep to help them move quicker but ran into the people who started the fire.  They would have to go quickly before the fire also catches them.

This book was really interesting with all the problems Sam and Delphy were trying to avoid.  This book reminds me of the forest fire in Australia, where people would get lost in the forest.  I would recommend this book because it shows how forest fires are so dangerous and hard to get out of.  This story is also like a survival book if you ever are in a forest fire.  I really enjoyed this book because I think forest fires are interesting.

View the short book trailer to see if Wildfire is the book for you!




Greek Gods and Goddesses Mini Project

We’ve been reading some Greek Mythology in class: Icarus & Daedalus, Echo, and Narcissus to deepen our connection to the world, other stories, and vocabulary words.  After embarking on a some research, my students designed modern-day business cards that showcased unique qualities for their God or Goddess choice.  Here are a few for you to consider!

Designed by Caroline

Pet of Hades




Zeus Electrical

Greek God business card

Designed by Liberty


Designed by Gabriella


Designed by Sinthya