Frankie and the Fossil by Jess McGeachin
Frankie knows all there is to know about dinosaurs because not only is she fascinated by them but she has memorised all the labels at the Natural History Museum, a place she loves to visit. But one day she notices a new sign, one that says "Don't feed the fossil". Thinking that was unfair, she pulled a cheese sandwich from her pocket and sneakily gave it to the dinosaur.
That single action leads to a whole new 'career' for Frankie as her knowledge about dinosaurs deepens to understanding.
In an earlier time, the significance of this book may well have passed me by but with so many schools currently in lockdown and students isolated at home. no plan to get them back to school because school staff have still not been identified as front-line workers (and where they have, vaccinations are stretched too thinly), and many surveys examining the effect of the lack of contact with others on children, particularly their mental health, this underlying message of this story was crystal clear. Both people and dinosaurs are herd creatures and lack of contact with others can and does have a long-term impact. (My friend and I still laugh that going for our flu shots in 2020 (on her birthday) was the best outing we had in weeks! So now we make the most of our days as we can.)
So in these days of enforced confinement, how can we as teachers, promote our students connecting with each other? Can we design collaborative projects? Can we develop a team game or challenge? Can we plan an online celebration like a dress-up for Book Week or an unbirthday party? Can the walk around the neighbourhood looking for teddies in windows be expanded to something more? What are the students' suggestions? How can they connect with a family member, a neighbour, someone else they know so they can make that person's life easier? Classmates are the equivalent of the dinosaur's herd and the teacher is the leader of that herd, so apart from setting lessons, what else can we do to promote connectivity and well-being so when our kids do return to school their resilience and enthusiasm for life is intact?
When Jess McGeachin first started planning this story, she would have had no idea of what was to come and how timely its release would be. But what a windfall that we can share the story (Penguin Random House, the parent publisher are permitting online readings) and then use it to help our students and help them help others.