First Graders' claymation brings "The Snowy Day" to life

In 1962, Ezra Jack Keats, a Jewish immigrant, published a simple story about a young boy going outside to play in the snow. The Snowy Day was one of the first children’s books featuring an African-American character that wasn’t about race, segregation, marginalization or inequality. His iconic, red-suited boy, Peter, represented universal winter experiences – smacking a snow-covered tree with a stick, dragging your feet slowly to make tracks and plopping down to make a snow angel. It is a book about childhood wonder, curiosity and innocence. Who hasn’t experienced that feeling of disappointment when you discover that you can’t preserve a snowball in your pocket?

From the collaged backdrops, plasticine figures, expressive narration and special features, such as floating bubbles and falling snow, my first grade students staged all of these scenes, moved the characters inch by inch and used the Koma Koma app to document it all, one photograph at a time. Pretty extraordinary! They widened their life lens as they built paper cityscapes of a New York neighborhood and molded characters with different skin tones from their own.

I am often asked what my “favorite” project to do each year is. Honestly, I don’t have a perennial favorite. The Snowy Day ended up being an unexpected jackpot as it fused creativity, collaboration, diversity and literacy skills. We are so proud to share our efforts with you. Enjoy watching on this snowy day!

- Sarah Dawe