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Community building through reading

Article and photo by Celeste McNeil

Photo of Outside, Inside book cover

The Douglas County School District (DCSD) held a “One Book, One District” event in early November. The book chosen to foster community building across the entire district was Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham.

The committee selected Outside, Inside because it is a “beautiful, timely, and very highly reviewed book which recounts the experiences we all lived through during the isolation of the early days of the pandemic, and because it gives students the opportunity to explore their own emotions and understanding of this global event through art,” said Jennifer Gaffney, DCSD librarian. “The book also has a very positive message with its focus on all those who worked to help others during that difficult time.”

Several districtwide events were held concurrently, and individual schools and classes were encouraged to participate as much or little as they chose. Many secondary teachers creatively found ways to incorporate the picture book into their discussions and lesson plans.

Earlier in the school year, an art contest focusing on the themes of Outside, Inside was held for secondary students. Rock Canyon High School digital arts classes taught by Kennetha Miller, participated in the contest, with great results. The first prize winner, RCHS student Madison Friar had her art featured on T-shirts for the weeklong event in November. Runner-up contestants saw their work published on bookmarks, including RCHS student Kira Zizzo. Friar and Zizzo are both in Miller’s advanced placement graphic design class.

Many primary and secondary schools held spirit week-type activities around the book and its concepts of self-care, community service and health. Buffalo Ridge Elementary and others organized a food and toiletry drive, and yoga, mindfulness, and gratitude days to help students and staff internalize the collective themes and community building of the DCSD project.

“One of the most heartwarming outcomes of this week has been hearing the responses from our eDCSD Online students who are all still learning from home. The fact that they all could feel connected to the rest of the students in DCSD through this book makes us feel this ‘One Book, One District’ event has been a success,” Gaffney stated.

Pham held a virtual author visit for elementary schools to kick off the week of activities. Friar and Zizzo provided the author introduction live from the RCHS library at the beginning of the livestream. Pham additionally held a separate art-focused virtual visit for secondary schools.

January will see an Art Expo reception at the Douglas County Libraries – Lone Tree to showcase some of the student art inspired by the “One Book, One District” program.



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