‘I wanted them to shine’: Sixth-graders at Dexter Park write book about pandemic

  • Students in Kathleen Koonz’s sixth-grade class at Dexter Park Innovation School in Orange wrote a book about their experiences with COVID-19. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Students at Dexter Park Innovation School in Orange wrote a book about their experiences with COVID-19. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • “COVID Through Our Eyes” by sixth grade students at Dexter Park Innovation School in Orange. Students sign each copy of the book. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/1/2022 4:07:07 PM
Modified: 5/1/2022 4:05:34 PM

ORANGE — The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to spawn a film genre, perhaps a cinematic way of detailing a worldwide catastrophe and trying to make sense of it all. But if you’re awaiting a book of the same ilk, Kathleen Koonz’s sixth-grade class at Dexter Park Innovation School has already delivered.

The 22 students spent a few months drafting essays about young life during a once-in-a-century public health crisis and compiled them into “COVID Through Our Eyes,” which they are selling to raise money for a field trip.

“I wanted them to do something special,” Koonz said in her classroom on Friday, “because they’re a great class. They’re great kids and I wanted them to shine. So we talked about writing a book and what to write it about.”

The students wrote about their experiences during the pandemic, its effect on people and how to prevent the spread of the virus. Cory Tanner and Evan Piscitello transcribed an interview with three medical professionals and Khalil Roberts wrote about the variants of the virus.

“I think we all did a very good job and I think it really changes the perspective on how a kid dealt with COVID,” Evan said.

“I feel like, like Evan said, we all did a good job and I feel like we all added to the book with what we wrote,” Cory added. “I feel like we have some good content in there.”

Koonz explained the class voted to go to a trampoline park toward the end of May. There is one in Marlborough and one in Manchester, Connecticut. The field trip will likely cost $1,400.

The students had raised $810 as of Friday morning, selling the signed books for $10 apiece. They can be purchased at Trail Head Outfitters & General Store and the Quabbin Harvest food co-op, both in Orange, and at Olde Time New England Seafood Co. in Athol.

Makenzie Shaw said the most difficult aspect was figuring out what to write about, while Carly Walsh said it was probably finding businesses to sell the books. Reece Hains said it was easy to find a topic, having lived through two years of a pandemic, but it was challenging to pick the right words to properly convey their message. Taylor Paluk was relieved the process was simpler than she expected.

“I definitely thought it was going to be more difficult than it was, because we had … everyone helping us,” she said.

Koonz said the students wrote the essays, edited them and made sure they were printed, laminated and bound. The youngsters started the process shortly before Christmas and began selling the books just before April vacation. The essays had a unique insight, as most of Koonz’s students contracted COVID-19 at one point or another.

“We definitely had to climb the mountain to get to the top, and we had a lot of bumps along the way, but we made it,” Evan said.

Students sign each copy of the book, and it seems as though writer’s cramp sets in.

“I heard complaints, ‘We’re selling too many,’” Koonz said.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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