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Friday, March 4, 2016

It's great to be alive, it's great to be a Puddle Jumper!

In Forks, everyone is a Puddle Jumper at some
point, but these are the official ones!
Leaving the town of Chelan, in central Washington state, if you drive west until you reach a large body of water, then ride a ferry across that body of water and keep driving west until you reach the ocean, you will find yourself in the tiny, quaint town of Forks. Made famous by the Twilight series, set in its city limits, and still featuring Vampire tours, Music night with Edward and Bella, and Jacob Black's Rentals, Forks is also the home of my new friends, the Puddle Jumpers.

Such is the nickname carried by all students at Forks Elementary, where, I learned on my first day there, "It's Great To Be Alive, It's Great To Be A Puddle Jumper!" Forks is situated in the Olympic Rainforest, and they receive over 100 inches of rain (that more than 8 feet, by the way) a year. I can attest to that during my short 36 hour stay!

Time to kick off a Reading Program!
I was there at the invitation of the Forks Elementary principal, Rob Shadle, who also happens to be a childhood friend of mine. He has done great things there, and there is a spirit not only of learning, but excitement of learning that permeates the building. You sense it in the teachers, and it flows out of them into their students. March 2 was the day they kicked off their Spring Reading Program and I was asked to come and share my love of reading through my book Fibonacci Zoo.

Bring in those Puddle Jumpers!
I gave nine presentations that day, as I welcomed all ages, from the sweet Pre-Ks through the academically strong 3rd graders. The energy was palpable, and summed up best by one of the 2nd grade teachers, Mrs. Haag, who said "anyone who can keep 40 second graders quiet and on the edge of their seats for half an hour must be doing something right!"

The gorgeous Second Beach in La Push
After a short break in the afternoon, spent exploring the rough and rugged Washington coast in "Jacob Black" territory on the Quileute Reservation, I was back for an evening presentation open to the public. It was so exciting to see so many familiar student faces from earlier in the day (who by now knew all the answers!) along with their parents and family members and even community members who came for the curiosity (and delicious cookies from JT's Sweet Stuffs)

Thanks Laura and the
Pacific Inn!
After the presentation, I did a book signing and was overwhelmed by the manner in which parents in Forks support and encourage their kids' love of reading. The town struggles with poverty. While the Twilight mania brought (and still brings) much needed tourism money to town, the elementary, for example, struggles with over 70% of their students qualifying for free and reduced lunch from the government. And yet, parents were quick to buy books, often multiple copies in multiple languages, in order to foster a love of learning in their children.

I sold out of almost everything I brought, including science books and Spanish language versions of Fibonacci. As I drove out of town the next morning on my long journey back home, I was filled with hope for our future. Hope that was evident in the face of every little Puddle Jumper I met there in Forks.
The site of my evening presentation - a beautiful facility!