Before they left for Christmas break, a group of Grade 9 English students at Seycove finished a book.
It wasn’t assigned reading but rather a book the students wrote themselves, called Seycove’s Thunder.
Before the precocious scribes put pen to paper, they took a short trip from their school to the Tsleil-Waututh community.
They listened intently as First Nations writer Wab Kinew read from his new book Go Show the World, inspired by Indigenous heroes.
“After hearing him read his book, we thought it would be cool to write our own one,” explains Seycove teacher Andrea Yeo, who helped the students create Seycove’s Thunder.
The class took the same literary format as Kinew, using small poems on each page and a tag line that carries throughout the book to tell their story.
Small groups of students each took their own page to express their thoughts through words and illustrations, focusing on a mental health topic and what it’s like to be in Grade 9.
The tag line the students collaboratively came up, which captures this tumultuous stage of their life, says: “Always, do your best then you’ll never have to wonder, what you could’ve done if you used all your thunder.”
One page of Seycove’s Thunder features an illustration of a keyboard with highlighted letters that spell out words such as dumb, ugly, fake and weird.
Above the illustration reads the following powerful poem:
When you’re online, you should always be kind. People can be mean, you might find. We all know it’s hard to leave it behind. We are all the same, we are all mankind.
“The students wanted to focus on positive aspects of mental health so we didn’t focus on what causes one’s mental health struggles,” explains Yeo. “That being said, in our discussions, students did say that fitting in, peer relationships and social media did have a big impact at their age.”
As a teacher who is new to the English department at Seycove, Yeo says she learned that students actually don’t mind taking a while to work on a project they feel proud of.
“We worked on and off on this project for two months and the students reported really liking not only the end product, but the process to get there,” says Yeo.
“Some Grade 9s were able to use their digital media skills to create the book, so it was awesome to utilize knowledge from two subject areas to produce one project.”
Student Julian Cortina says the project allowed her to explore drawing, as she was in charge of doing the illustrations for her group.
“I had to research some drawing techniques so I could create something everyone would like,” explains Cortina.
Once the book was complete, the students decided to read it to a kindergarten class at Cove Cliff Elementary on Dec. 14.
“The kindergartners at Cove Cliff were very respectful and inquisitive,” says Yeo.
“They thought the students were so talented. One Grade 9 student explained that he made a mistake on his drawing so found a way to cover it up and a kindergarten student called out: ‘My teacher, Ms. Dudley, loves it when we make mistakes because it means you are learning.’”
Two copies of Seycove’s Thunder were printed, one for the authors and another for the kindergarten students at Cove Cliff.