When I set out to read the 2013 Newbery Award winner The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate to my 4th graders, I knew I wanted the experience to be something special. I invited my students' parents to read along with us, gathering about ten copies from the Cincinnati Public Library, which is great about getting teacher collections together. They were snapped up by parents right away, and I kept them circulating as I read the book aloud to my classes. They loved my voices for each character, and I loved their reactions to the funny AND sad parts of the book, trying to keep it together during the sad parts. I admit I choked up a few times, even when it was my 3rd or 4th time reading those scenes. As I neared the end of the book, I started planning a Parent/Student Book Club meeting, just like the one we had for Wonder earlier in the year (click on Parent/Student Book Club to see my blog post about that meeting). One of my students started talking to me about Gladys, our local zoo's baby gorilla, and it dawned on me - we would have our Parent/Student book club at The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden!
The day dawned bright and sunny, albeit chilly. We all met at the beautiful entrance of the zoo, which was adorned with tulips of all colors. Our zoo is one of the best in country, and that day it felt every bit as wonderful as it is touted to be. I hadn't been there in years, and it was fun to see all the changes and updates it had made. We started with about 30-35 people - students, their parents, siblings, and even a cousin. I took a picture of each family at the entrance. Here are a few:
To celebrate Stella and Ruby, our first stop was the Elephant Encounter, where we met two Asian Elephants:
Even though there are no giraffes or cheetahs in The One and Only Ivan, we still wanted to feed the giraffes and catch the Cheetah Encounter:
Confession: Giraffes are my favorite wild animal! It was so fun watching the kids feed him crackers and their faces when that long purple tongue reached out to their hands! There is even a baby this year:
Next, the cheetahs ran for us:
We found a great place for all of us to eat lunch. Lunch was our book discussion time. I printed out copies of The Harper Collins Children's Discussion Guide, which is excellent, and groups talked about the book:
The finale was the Gorilla Encounter, where we paid homage to Ivan. The silverback featured at the encounter was cooperating beautifully and hung out regally the whole time the zookeeper was talking.
This reminds me of when Julia and Ivan press their hands together on the glass of his cage - one of my favorite moments in the book.
Doesn't he look like Ivan?
Gladys, the baby gorilla at the zoo, isn't able to be shown to the public yet, but here is an adorable picture of her:
We took group pictures of the people who were left - unfortunately we didn't get everyone since some people had to leave early.
On my way out, a peacock graced me with a goodbye show in the tulips that was spectacular!
What a wonderful day! It makes the day even better knowing I will be moving up with this group to the intermediate 5th/6th grade building in our district next year! I'm so excited to be spending three years altogether with these kids and their families! How lucky am I?!
I loved the silverback and elephant stuffed animals one student bought at the zoo gift store, that I bought my own to put in the classroom to remind us of this terrific day!
Thank you, Ivan, Stella, Ruby, Julia, and Bob for inspiring us to be kind and devoted friends!