Emily Williamson, an author who worked with students from Ghana to create a book about African folktales and pollution, came to JCDS on Jan. 16 to do a storytelling and writing workshop with the fifth graders.
Fifth grader Adi was introduced to Williamson and her colleague, John Schaidler, after reading a Newsela article that outlined the duo’s book, “Gizo-Gizo: A Tale from the Zongo Lagoon,” which they wrote in tandem with the students of the Hassaniyya Quranic School in Cape Coast, Ghana. Williamson and Schaidler were influenced to write the book alongside the Ghanaian students after noticing that their water supply had gone down in quality.
After reading about the Zongo Storybook Project, Adi was inspired to write an email to Emily and John, asking them for more information about their book and writing process. Adi and the authors exchanged multiple emails, and before they knew it, Emily was flying home to Boston from Ghana, and had planned a trip to our school!
Following Emily’s presentation, she led the students through a storytelling workshop, where they considered how two different types of characters might first meet. They then created written and visual representations of these stories. Emily was ecstatic to meet the students and is eager to check back in to see the progress of their stories later this school year.
In the words of budding author Adi, “Emily’s story shows me how, if you put enough work into an idea, anything is possible.”
Kait Birghenthal is a third- to fifth-grade science teacher and Adi H. is a fifth-grade student at JCDS.
The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

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