Friday, April 28, 2006

Students research to compose

Seventh-graders delve into Regional History Library

Express Staff Writer

John Chrysikopoulos and Emma Wilander gather information from Chris Millspaugh, Regional History director for The Community Library in Ketchum. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Community School in Sun Valley is in the business of education, and of book publishing. At least that's been the tradition in the seventh grade for five years.

Humanities teacher Joel Vilinsky team-teaches with science teacher Scott Runkel. Each spring their class researches, co-writes, edits and produces a complete novel. The book is sent off for binding and each student then receives a copy at the end of the year.

This year's seventh-grade class is combining several aspects to create an historical, scientific mystery that takes place in the Wood River Valley in 1918.

The catalyst for the tale begins with an actual letter to the editor published in the Wood River Daily News in 1918. The writer, Jack Shelb, has been forced to leave town. Why? Was it the Spanish flu epidemic that was sweeping the country or something else entirely?

"Because of the avian flu scare right now, there'll be an avian flu news break between each chapter," Runkel said.

With help from The Community Library's regional historian, Chris Millspaugh, pairs of students spend Thursday mornings at the library sifting through old newspaper clippings and photos to enhance their individual chapters.

"It's pretty fun researching. There's so much we didn't know," said Natalie Vorsteveld, who with Laura Baker is responsible for Chapter 9.

"It's a tradition and the books from past years are so good," Laura said, as the two sorted through information on a computer. Their fellow students stood over opened file drawers and flipped through folders, while others carried around photos wondering if this or that home should be the mayor's and what cars would have been seen on the dusty dirt roads of Hailey in 1918.

Stay tuned for the finished product. Best seller? Who knows? That, too, is a mystery awaiting resolution.

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