SNOW HILL – A book written by local second graders will soon be helping students across the world appreciate the ocean.
A book written and illustrated by students in Mackenzie Keyser’s class at Showell Elementary School during the 2020-2021 school year is now being published. Proceeds from the book will support the Kelly Slater Foundation, which raises awareness and provides funding for environmental causes.
“All the money is going to go to the Kelly Slater Foundation, which is going to get the books into schools around the world,” Keyser said. “Our local kids are going to be teaching other kids.”
In the fall of 2020, when virtual learning was in place as schools were closed during the pandemic, Keyser said she was struggling to keep her young second graders engaged.
“A big thing for me as a teacher is I want to bring the real world to my kids,” she said.
That was difficult to do through a computer screen, but when it came time for a lesson on biographies, she came up with the idea of finding someone famous who’d be willing to chat with her students via Zoom. Keyser, who grew up in the Ocean City area, immediately thought of someone she’d always looked up to—Slater.
“I asked and he responded right away,” she said. “He stayed on Zoom with us for over two hours.”
He answered kids’ questions, told them stories, took them on a tour of his house in Hawaii and even played the ukelele for them. The story that stuck with them, Keyser said, was that of a surf trip when he’d get tangled in handfuls of trash each time he paddled. They were worried about that happening here.
“The Ocean City Surf Club lets you adopt a beach,” she said. “Our class adopted 15th Street.”
They went on to pick up trash for months, logging their finds in a database. When Keyser advised Slater of the impact he’d had on the students, he suggested the class create a book on the topic and Zoom with him again. That they did, writing and illustrating a book that shows the impact of trash and how easy it can be to keep the beach clean if everyone takes part.
“He said he loved the message in the book and would love to publish it,” Keyser said.
Di Angelo Publications will be printing “Keep Our Beaches Clean! What if Everybody Did That?” which will be available through preorder on the Di Angelo Publications website and will be on sale in bookstores in March 2024.
Keyser advised the now-fourth graders of the exciting news earlier this week. Between the interaction with Slater and the publication of the book, Keyser believes students have had a truly meaningful experience.
“They’re never going to forget this,” she said.
She’s thrilled that her former students will be able to share a part of that experience with other students through the book. She pointed out the talk with Slater was all it took to inspire them to want to clean up the beach in Ocean City.
“It shows that kids naturally care about their world,” she said. “They want to take care of it.”
She said proceeds from the book would go to Slater’s foundation, which will use the money to get the books into classrooms around the world to inspire interest in protecting the environment among young students.
“It’s incredible that our little small town is being recognized worldwide,” Keyser said.