Belle Fourche MS Broncs Head to South Park Elementary

A new year with new traditions and habits to take in is upon us! During the 2023 parts of the school year, our schools have been really focusing on building leadership and collaboration opportunities within our schools and students, and this school year, we have started what we hope to be the start of a truly meaningful and collaborative leadership opportunity between our elementary and middle school students! While the beginning of each month is always dedicated to recognizing our students’ leadership skills both inside and outside of the classroom at each of our schools in the Belle Fourche School District, the rest of the month is dedicated to really practicing and building those leadership skills in ways that uniquely empower our students to inspire collaboration, connection, creativity, and authenticity. In Belle Fourche Middle School’s eighth grade, one such leadership, book-related opportunity has been brewing since September in a brand-new creative collaboration effort with our second grade South Park Elementary students.

Created by eighth grade Belle Fourche Middle School teachers Penny Louks and Jane Heck, eighth grade students were presented with the opportunity to create authentic books for younger students within the school district, more specifically, for South Park Elementary second grade students. With the help of South Park’s second grade teachers, eighth grade students were given the opportunity on September 26th to be partnered with and interview a second-grade student – to gain background information on their second grader in order to create an original story for each designated elementary student. The eighth-grade students then worked creatively and diligently through September, October, November, and December, working on outlining, drafting, revising, and illustrating their stories personally crafted to meet the interests and needs of their specifically designated second graders.

It was then on Thursday, December 14th, that it all came together for both the eighth and second grade students, as eighth grade students got aboard a school bus and made their way to South Park Elementary School for a Book Celebration – a day for the eighth grade Broncs to share their lovingly crafted books with their designated, excited second grade Broncs. The eighth-grade students patiently and thoughtfully read the books they made to the jubilant second grade students, taking their time to go over the pictures and story details that were personally put together specifically to excite and engage their second-grade peers in creative ways. In between snacks and cozy Christmas decorations and background music, it was so exciting to see so many beaming second grade faces and proud, bright eighth grade faces in each of the second-grade classrooms, as the two largely different grades came together to bond and experience warm joy in such a creative and meaningful way over literacy.

Many exclamations of “Wow!” and “Thank you so much!” and “Hey, that’s me in the story!” could be heard throughout the second-grade classrooms as the second-grade students truly and fully took in this amazing experience with their middle school peers. The second graders’ appreciation did not just stop at words either. To give a full, genuine thank you to the eighth-grade students for creating, sharing, and gifting their well-crafted books to their younger peers, each of the second-grade classrooms put on a performance of their Christmas Program songs and dances for their eighth-grade audience to help spread the cheer!

2nd Grade & 8th Grade 2023 Book Celebration by Smith, Katelyn

Overall, this was an amazing time to inspire our eighth-grade students with the joy and excitement of writing something that is meaningful and personal, while also gearing up second grade students into the personal excitement and magic that reading a special book can bring into people’s lives! The importance of writing and reading has always been a highly regarded priority in our schools, and we know here in Belle Fourche School District that the true key to learning and engaging children in such important learning practices, is to provide our students with meaningful, hands-on opportunities that ignite a passion to make that learning our own in a connecting, lifelong, and life-altering way! We are so excited to have had this amazing opportunity to share the joy of writing, reading, creating, and collaboratively sharing what we learn and experience together with the people around us, and we hope to keep this Authentic Books opportunity going in the coming school years. Way to go eighth grade Broncs and staff for your patience, arduous work and inspiringly big hearts and inventive minds, and thank you South Park second grade staff and students for your willing and excited participation in this very meaningful project!