AUSTINVILLE – Ask any farmer and they will attest a successful harvest is the result of a combination of many factors. Local farmer and author Kellie Worrell is hoping for a bumper crop of interest in young minds with a pilot project launched last week at Laurel Elementary School.
Her foray into print media itself is the culmination of a varied list of experiences. Worrell has 10 years of experience as a teacher, a passion for the family farm and a new skill set cultivated through learning how to produce a book from concept to being something concrete. Bear in mind each of these carries its own skills which continue to be more technology driven.
Her first work, “From Our Farm to You,” received Virginia Agriculture In Classrooms’ book of the year honors three years ago with about 3,000 copies circulated. The most recent work, “The Most Important Job on the Farm,” includes QR codes and links so students can take their own content-enriched side trips as they read the text courtesy of the Internet. Worrell’s work also includes lesson plans and activities which a teacher may use to further interest students.
“This book is the culmination of every experience I’ve had as I learned to design, publish, as well as knowing the venue to distribute it,” said Worrell, who was inspired by watching a bee work a bloom on the farm. “I love our life on the farm and I wanted to share this. This book is so people will find out about the work we do. I wanted to find the best way of getting the story out of what’s happening on the farm to kids.”
In addition to finding out about pollinators, students are also taught through the book there is no one job on the farm any more important than another. It takes everyone doing their job for success.
Worrell opened the pilot project with Amy Hash’s students. She explained to them the process of writing and taking photos and then using Photoshop software to create the book. She told them she printed the work herself because she wanted to have control over the elements, even in an ongoing way based on observing their reactions.
Worrell told them she’d like for the newest book to become an Agricultural in Classroom book in every state nationally. She said she plans to send copies to each state for consideration, an effort also helped by technology. She told students the effort included “tons of edits,” filling notebooks with prototypes as she printed and glued elements in place. Worrell said the effort took months to get all together, and that one important thing was getting a lot of people to read the early drafts to help her find and correct mistakes.
“When someone publishes a story the first time, it’s not the final copy,” said Worrell. “It takes time.”
Hash said the response to the book has been good. She praised Media Specialist Angie Robinson for her efforts, which created an Accelerated Reader activity to get students involved even before the books arrived.
“They loved it and were excited about it,” said Hash. “They all dug right in and loved talking with Michael (Worrell) about it.”
Just like the farm, the book has become a family affair with not only Worrell’s son being a classroom resource, but her mother, Kathryn Farriss, providing illustrations for the work.
Hash praised Michael Worrell’s ability to help classmates relate and noted “the kids rally around each other,” making for a positive collaborative learning atmosphere. She said the accompanying activities, lesson plans and the Internet resources in the book gets students to not only read, but write and dig deeper for context.
“These kids are dialed into technology,” Hash said. “That’s the language they speak. I use technology a lot. There’s so much kids can do with technology. They are engaged. This group has had technology since the third grade and they are not scared of it. Look around this room. You see some comfortable with paper and pencil to an Ipad.”
Worrell’s QR codes pull information from a variety of sources such as The Smithsonian. The activities and lesson plans are free.
“I want to stress this comes with online content and lesson plans and activities which are online for teachers to download free,” Worrell said. “It’s nice to see the students sitting around engaged in the book.” Worrell has scheduled a book signing at The Hillsville Public Library on March 5 from 1-3 p.m.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on [email protected]