Jeannette Lutkins’ fifth grade Emily Howland Elementary virtual classroom received a request for young writers. Principal Jean Amodeo’s email stated that Elaine Meyers was writing about Anne Frank’s virtual birthday celebration on June 12, and wanted to speak with students who loved writing and Anne Frank.
Emma Bailey was the first to respond, and our conversation began with journals. We realized that the moment you open a journal, you encounter the writer’s unique penmanship. “My handwriting is different than other people, but my friends think it’s neat.” Emma continued, “My journal is about my different feelings. While you sometimes forget words, you never forget the feelings you had when something happened. One day my younger sister read my journal, and I got mad. I didn’t want anyone to read my journal. I almost stopped writing until my friend Reagan gave me a great idea. I should write something that I did want people to read — like a newspaper or a comic book. I tried some writing, then remembered how much I loved reading when I was little. I decided to write a book for children.”
Emma’s children’s book is titled "I Saw Raspberry the Bear Cub." The story begins when Meagan and her family arrive at their vacation cabin and Meagan immediately leaves the family to explore the nearby woods and trails. An unexplained noise from a raspberry patch prompts Meagan to act.
“OK, I will approach it slowly,” Meagan said. When Meagan got to the bush, she took a deep breath, grabbed the bush, and pulled it back. There tangled up in the raspberry bush thorns was a small baby bear.
Our conversation turned from Raspberry the baby bear to Anne Frank. Emma had just finished a project about Anne Frank and the Southern Cayuga School’s Anne Frank Tree. Her report concluded …while Anne wrote in her diary she would always look out at the famous Anne Frank chestnut tree that a few schools have, including ours. Emma contrasted Anne’s life and persecution with her own: “Can you imagine having Nazis barging into your house? And I am so lucky that I have my friends to talk with and am not limited to just writing in my journal. I think Anne would have liked talking to me and my friends about her writing.”
When Emma and I hung up our phones, I realized that Emma had set the stage for her friends’ writing. I would ask her fellow fifth grade writers to describe the view from their windows during their days of virtual school and social isolation. The following descriptions are testimony to the power of today’s young writers:
"I'm sitting by my window and I see a big grassy landscape with big trees and small trees. A garden that my dad planted is ready to sprout. My cat is ready to pounce on any small animal she sees. My dog is eyeing the cat as if she were a treat. A concrete wall with an elegant, but simple stone pattern on it catches my eye. Far down the valley I see pretty houses with horses and a barn. Woods that swallow the landscape with many blooming flowers are in the distance. People are biking. My dog is barking with howls, yips and ruffs. I see a beautiful bush as old as time, and trunks of trees covered in moss. That is what I see." — Kaeleigh Kessler
"As I sit in front of my office window, I don’t see much. I see the road with cars zipping by. I see the pear trees, budding and blowing in the breeze. And I see the birdfeeder, my favorite part of my view. The birdfeeder is a sight that never gets old, attracting everything from a sparrow, to an oriole. It is ever changing, and wonderful. As I watch, I think about all that is happening and that has happened in the world. I find many similarities between us and Anne Frank. She was in hiding, just like we are in hiding, though our reasons may be different. And, just as she did with the chestnut tree, we must find hope in ordinary things to remain content in our isolated lives. Anne Frank is a hero, a symbol of hope for all. I believe I have found that in my window, I am hopeful for the future, and happy in the present." — Sophie Vitale
"When I look out my window, I see cars, bikers and people walking. I am so happy to see people outside again, even though in Aurora we typically have a lot more visitors at this time of the year. And then onto my favorite part of the view — the lake. Something about the lake never gets old. Today there were fishermen, a lot of them sitting in their boats, and others on the dock. I also see the church. The church is empty, which makes me sad because usually there are always people in the church, but now there aren’t. As I write about everything I can see from my own bedroom window, it makes me wonder how Ann Frank always found something new to write about. I feel that, like us now, nobody was really outside very much at the time she was writing. I don’t know how, but she always found happiness in writing about her life and a chestnut tree. When I think about how Ann Frank could look out her window and find joy in a difficult time, then we can also look out our windows and find joy in a difficult time of our own." — Daegan Miller
The Southern Cayuga Anne Frank Tree Project Committee invites you all to our virtual celebration of Anne Frank’s birthday on June 12. We urge you to bake a cake. Take a picture of your family with the cake and send it to us at email@example.com. Then continue the celebration by visiting our website at sccsannefranktree.org to watch our Anne Frank sing-along video.
Elaine Meyers, of King Ferry, is a member of the boards of the King Ferry Food Pantry, ABC Cayuga and the Southern Cayuga Anne Frank Tree Project, and a member of the Southern Cayuga Garden Club. She coordinates a literacy support program at Southern Cayuga Central School.
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