Students from Drexel Neumann Academy sit with author Donna Jo Napoli.
With a bit of inspiration and a great deal of collaboration, Neumann University hosted a true celebration for this year’s Bock Book Award! Sr. Dorothy A. Bredehoft, Ed. D., Assistant Professor of Education, Sr. Patricia Hutchison, Ed. D., Director of the Neumann Institute for Franciscan Studies, Sr. Mary Ann McCarthy, O.S.F., Assistant to the Director of the Neumann Institute, and Tiffany McGregor, M.S., Interim Director of Library Services came together to “grow” this year’s celebration to new heights!
The Frances and Wesley Bock Book Award is given each year to a book acknowledging Franciscan values in children’s literature. This year’s winning book was Mama Miti, written by Donna Jo Napoli and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. The story of Mama Miti was inspired by the life of Wangari Muta Maathai, the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, which honored her creation of the Green Belt Movement, whose purpose is to encourage the planting of trees across Maathai’s native Kenya.
Twenty- two of Sr. Dorothy’s students from Neumann University Education and their partner fourth grade students from Drexel Neumann Academy participated together in this annual event. The partnered students sat together to share in the inspirational message of this beautiful story. Following the reading of the story by the award-winning author, the DNA students enjoyed a luncheon and an educational program by the education staff of Tyler Arboretum. The program brought home the message of Mama Miti and focused on the care of creation for students right here in the Delaware Valley. The workshop included investigation of local flora and fauna samples, opportunity for questions and answers, and an engaging hands-on activity. To wrap up the program, Tyler helped the students imitate Mama Miti‘s care and respect for the earth by planting their own trees. Students transported the acorn plantings back to their classroom, hoping to watch saplings grow.
Along with watching the acorn seeds grow, the next step in this adventure included the NU students visiting the DNA students six times during the spring semester to plant the seeds of good writing skills in order to assist the students in writing about their adventure. Each visit by the NU students included a focus on grammar skills and reading and writing. One on one working experience proved advantageous for both NU and DNA students. The DNA students waited eagerly for each visit of the NU students. These visits fostered and celebrated their relationship as sisters and brothers as NU and DNA shared and worked with one another. Truly the Franciscan values of service and sharing with compassion and love was evident with each classroom visit. From the award winning book through the planting the value of reverence for creation was demonstrated by all involved.
Culminating the adventure included Sr. Dorothy’s NU students and DNA fourth graders journeying to Tyler Arboretum in March to plant the saplings. Happiness abounded as the DNA students and NU students experienced a first visit to Tyler Arboretum and planted eight of the saplings that sprouted from the planted acorns. The entire experience speaks to Neumann University’s mission of educating a diverse community of learners based on the belief that knowledge is a gift to be shared in the service of others and that learning is a life-long process.