Last summer Math Specialist Heather Zetterberg was brainstorming ways to make math more visible on Foote’s campus when she discovered a StoryWalk in Branford, CT. The event, led by the Blackstone Library, showcased Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay page-by-page in the windows of local merchants inviting readers to get outside and experience the story as a community. The format captivated Zetterberg, and she proposed creating a StoryWalk at Foote at a faculty meeting in January.
Several faculty members jumped at the idea and soon the StoryWalk Team was formed featuring Head Librarian Jennifer Friedman, Middle School Math Co-Chair John Hay, Grade 1 Teacher Margy Lamere, Grade 4 & 5 Music Teacher Dana Kephart Queiros, and Art Associate Elizabeth Roberge. With the group’s diverse set of interests Zetterberg realized the installation could easily extend beyond the math curriculum and worked with the team to create a list of criteria that the featured books should represent. Some of the criteria included featuring underrepresented groups, people who made a difference in their community, and stories that aligned with Foote’s mission and values. Additionally, Zetterberg added that the books should “create rich connections beyond the story”. Several books were proposed and The Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague was chosen as the first book to be featured.
After selecting the book the team consulted with former Foote parent and board member George Knight and alumna and current board member Mai Wu ‘84, both New Haven based architects, to determine the best location for the walk. With the goal of keeping the StoryWalk outdoors, despite the variety of New England weather conditions, it was decided that the covered walkways in the lower school would provide the best environment to maintain the installation long-term. 24 weather-resistant lockable frames were purchased and installed along the walkway by Foote's maintenance staff with numbers indicating the page order. The book was then carefully disassembled and mounted page-by-page within each frame.
Students and faculty were immediately captivated by the walk upon its debut following Spring Break. Teacher Cara Hames used it to enhance Language Arts lessons and presentation skills in her 3rd grade class. Hames began by dividing students into 3-4 person teams, and tasked each group with summarizing a few of the pages out of order. Then she had the groups present the main ideas of their pages to the class in order. “When we were finished, it was like we all read the entire story” she reported.
The Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague will be on display through the end of the month after which point another book will be displayed. In addition to featuring a variety of published work, the StoryWalk committee hopes to feature student-generated writing and artwork in the future as well.