“Students got to know B95, a small bird that has flown the distance it takes to get to the moon and halfway back, when author and Indiana University graduate Phillip Hoose came by Summit Elementary. To tell third-, fourth- and fifth-graders about B95, Hoose shared pictures of the red knot, a shore bird with a speckled back that travels more than 9,000 miles from its breeding grounds in the Arctic to South America each year. He played his guitar, leading students in sing-a-longs, and the crowd of almost 200 students “awww-ed” at the sight of photos of baby red knots, with their fuzzy white feathers and tiny beaks.
When Hoose asked for questions, their hands shot up into the air. They wanted to know if the baby bird’s mother and father help it learn to fly and how the red knots are able to fly such long distances. They also asked how Hoose got his ideas to write a book like “Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95” and what his other books were about. Talking with youngsters gives Hoose a chance to spread awareness about the reduced populations of animals like red knots.
“My major weapon is a good narrative,” the author said. The nonfiction story of B95 doesn’t only describe the life of one bird, but it also “portrays the worldwide crisis in species loss.” During his presentation, Hoose referred to young people who were working to protect red knots, and he said, “we could use some letters,” because writing messages to legislators might help the long-distance fliers become recognized as an endangered species.
Hoose has been going from school to school talking to kids for about 30 years. “I love kids,” he said. “I want them to know that a writing life is available and there are real people who do this.”
Erika Peek, a fifth-grade teacher at Summit, had a similar idea when she invited Hoose to speak. “It’s inspiring to see someone doing something that they love,” Peek said. As a teacher, she hopes students will grow up into people who can make their passions their livelihood. “It was nice for the kids to meet a speaker with Bloomington ties,” she noted. She hoped it helped the students realize that authors could be among their next-door neighbors.
After Hoose’s presentation, Peek’s students settled into their desks to write poetry or read his books. Leading up to the author’s visit, they had been working in all of their classes on projects related to writing or the subjects of Hoose’s nonfiction, and they will continue to do so after his visit. Peek intends to tailor her upcoming lessons to the students’ interests by exploring areas they were curious about through research activities.
“The speaker may be gone, but we can find other ways to answer their questions,” she said.”