Bucyrus Elementary School students had a unique opportunity to learn from an author whose life journeys have inspired his many books that children read all around the globe. From newspaper delivery boy to National Park Service ranger, Stephen Swinburne's path to becoming a best selling children’s author has had many turns along the way.
“I’ve had a long and crazy career that’s spanned many different professions,” Swinburne said. “Despite the many turns in my career, I was still writing and keeping journals.”
Swinburne credits his penchant for the written word to his grandmother and father. The journals he kept were tucked away, and he would spend his nights writing about his different experiences. It wasn’t until he and his wife had their first child in 1988 that Swinburne realized his passion for writing.
“I found one book in particular, ‘Owl Moon’ by Jane Yolen, and I realized that I’m a naturalist and that I love animals,” he said. “It was a slow process that began around 1990, and then I started writing children’s books full time in 1994.”
Since becoming a full time author in 1994, Swinburne has published over 30 books including his newest book, “Safe in a Storm,” coming out in January 2016 from Scholastic. “Safe in a Storm” was inspired by the events around 9/11 and the sounds associated with that day in American history.
“I love writing and I am passionate about bringing my nature stories to children all over the world,” he said. “The students in this beautiful building (Elementary School) in Bucyrus may never get to the ocean and may never see a sea turtle, so I’m sharing with them animals they may never see in their life.”
Swinburne spent an entire day with BES students and staff sharing pictures of real wildlife that he has observed throughout his time writing children’s books on Tuesday, Oct. 6. And his lessons about writing, about animal conservation and perseverance were well received by all students during the day.
“My students immediately began making connections between sea turtles and the concept of urban sprawl that we studied in language arts,” third grade teacher Kim Haldeman said. “And, they can't wait to study another animal species.”
Fifth grade science teacher Pam Meadows was appreciative of Swinburne’s journaling skills because it helped reinforce the activities she’s doing with students in the classroom.
“I liked his mention of always ‘journaling’, which is what we do in my science classes all year when collecting data during a science investigation,” she said. “His mention of ‘food chains’ will be helpful when the students are asked to make a food chain of their choice. Both of these are connections’ that will be useful in my science classes.”
Even the youngest Redmen enjoyed the time they spent with Swinburne, learning about animals and just having the opportunity to meet the author whose books they have been reading in class.
“They are learning about non fiction books and discovering how exciting it is to learn facts about so many animals,” kindergarten teacher Amy Hawkins said. “Many kids will never have the opportunity to meet the author of our stories and were so excited to have him at our school!”
Overall, Swinburne says he received a wonderful response from the students and staff at Bucyrus Elementary School.
“A successful school visit depends greatly on how well the students are prepared,” he said. “Diane Kaple, Kim Binnix and all the teachers and staff are great at bringing in authors to the school and making sure they are prepared.”
Swinburne’s visit was made possible through funding provided by the Bucyrus Elementary School Parent- Teacher Organization (PTO).
“You could tell during the presentations that the students had seen my books and knew what was happening,” Swinburne said. “There’s a level of enthusiasm with students about what they’re learning and it’s really fun!”