Grades 2 and 11 collaborate – Part 2: Squirt’s Reef Adventure

Jason SandCase study, Collaboration, Education, Photography and art

ADEs Jason and Robyn present another fantastic collaboration between their students.



Jason SandJason Sand is a Multi-Media, Digital Citizenship and Personal Branding Online teacher for Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. He enjoys helping students build a positive digital footprint as they generate digital media in a variety of forms.

Jason became an Apple Distinguished Educator in 2009 and he is currently a member of the Canadian Board for the program. Jason presents regularly at conferences and delivers PD on digital media, digital citizenship, personal branding online, and the effective use of technology in the classroom.

robyn-torryRobyn Torry is a grade 2 teacher for Lloydminster Public School Division in Lloydminster, Alberta. She encourages her students to create, collaborate and share their learning with students from around the world.

Robyn became an Apple Distinguished Educator in 2013. She has presented at regional conferences on innovative ways to use educational technologies.


Why we used Book Creator

To build upon the process from the recent publication of ‘My Pet Monster’, we wanted to create and publish a different type of ebook. Our aim was to further refine the process to increase student learning whilst trying to increase the quality of the publication.

Book Creator allows us to collaborate with ease and create professional books that are ready to share with the world.

Book launch - class photo

The idea behind the book

Non-fiction text and web features anchor chartRobyn: We had been exploring the genre of informational text. The students had been reading non-fiction books and articles about ocean animals. They were analyzing the features of a non-fiction text, such as the table of contents, glossary, captions, and diagrams. From here the idea of creating a non-fiction informational text came to fruition.

Jason: In our discussion about creating this book we wanted to have a constant narration, so the idea of the penguin (Squirt, who was named by students from Robyn’s school while she was on supervision) came to be, so there would be a consistent mechanism to deliver the information of this book.

The process

Robyn: For this publication the students were faced with the challenge of collaborating with each other along with Mr. Sand’s class. The students chose a coral reef animal together, researched their topic and began the writing process.

They have been learning how to write dash facts and/or sketch notes on their iPads to help them recall the information they had read. Unlike ‘My Pet Monster’, the students’ research had to be more focused.  

They were writing “to inform” the reader this time. The research was then used to write their informational paragraphs. Once completed the students’ paragraphs were shared with Mr. Sand’s class.

  • Editing and revising information in Google Docs
  • Typing out rough drafts of descriptions

Because this was the second publication for my class, I wanted my students to create an accurate depiction of their coral reef animal. The students analyzed pictures of their animal, noting key details to include. To help with creating detailed illustrations, the students had the opportunity to Skype with Jason.

Skype session anchor chartWe discussed what made up an illustration as well as how to try and create aspects of a realistic image. During our Skype lesson I took the grade 2s through the steps of drawing a jellyfish. We started with outlines, added in colour and details. One new concept for the grade 2s was to learn about transparent layers and they saw how you could create depth, shadow and detail from this technique.

After we finished the jellyfish we looked at how to draw eyes. We illustrated an eye so that the grade 2s could look at adding in more detailed elements to their illustration. Using the information learned from the Skype lesson, the students created an anchor chart that they could refer to when creating their illustration.

The next step was to allow the students to begin to create their own illustration.  Once the illustrations were complete, they were shared with Mr. Sand’s class.

Student with her finished illustration

Jason: For this publication I challenged my class to take their design further than any class I had previously worked with. In the past, in books such as ‘My Pet Monster’, each of my students designed two pages for the book.

The first page was a white background with black text on it and the second page was a full page illustration.

For ‘Squirt’s Reef Adventure’ we decided to make a full colour double page spread so that every page in the book would be more visually engaging for the readers. This meant that my graphics students needed to understand the concept of negative space to create a background where the text would still stand out of the full colour illustration.

Along with creating a full colour double page spread we now had to create illustrations for a non-fiction book, and try to stay true to aspects of the grade 2’s drawing. My students had to do their own research on what the reef creature they were illustrating actually looked like so they could refine and further develop the creatures along with their backgrounds.

To add another layer of complexity to this assignment my students were also collaborating in groups of 2 or 3 to generate their pages. So as a group they needed to look at the two students’ illustrations and their paragraph write up to determine what their individual role would be in their own collaborative process. This collaboration between my students in my own class as well as  with the grade 2s created a very authentic publication process. No one was working in isolation and the end product was a true collaboration that had many layers.

Technical elements that my students had to address in their illustrations were:

  • Full colour background
  • Realistic cartoon based imagery that kept aspects of the grade 2s work
  • Consistent light
  • Surface texture of the creature
Squirt's Reef Adventure - page view in Book Creator

Future plans

We will continue to collaborate with our new classes. We’re planning to spotlight two projects for the 2015-2016 school year.

In the Fall, our book will be a make-believe fiction book where the grade 2 students will transform themselves into different creatures. Each creature will be tied to an emotion of his or her choice. The goal of this book is to help young children understand emotions in a fun way. Our desire for this book is to also help older students with autism understand how they feel and react to their emotions.

In the Spring, we have plans to continue the Squirt series. Squirt will visit and discover a new ecosystem and the creatures that inhabit it.

Squirt's Reef AdventureDownload Squirt’s Reef Adventure

Squirt’s Reef Adventure is available for free on the iBooks Store.

 Download here

Jason Sand is a Multi-Media Teacher for Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Jason became an Apple Distinguished Educator in 2009 and he is now a member of the Canadian Board of Apple Distinguished Educators. He's also a Book Creator Ambassador.

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