Burke’s Big Sisters eBook Project

The Big Sister Little Sister eBook Project has been an important part of Burke’s curriculum for over three years.

Big Sisters and Little Sisters are an integral part of Burke’s School Families, a longstanding tradition that promotes bonding and unique friendships with girls across grades.  Lower School Makery Integrator Jenny Howland describes it as a part of Burke’s “builder community model.”

Kindergarteners get paired with a fourth grade “Big Sister”. The older students take the youngsters under their wings and help them learn how to navigate their new environment. At the end of the year, the Little Sisters present the fourth graders with homemade gifts at the Stepping Up Ceremony, as those Lower School seniors prepare to make the leap to the Upper School. On Pansy Day, departing eighth graders present their green and gold ribbons to the fourth graders, who have become Big Sisters themselves by then.
The book project itself is a cross-collaboration between the Makery, Language Arts, and Library programs. The theme for this year is “Courageous Moments”, and the students are writing about a moment of courage in their own lives as a part of a non-fiction memoir writing assignment. It’s a collaborative and exciting way to learn about different aspects of book writing, from what it means to be an author, to the actual work it takes to create a book. 

In the Makery, Ms. Howland takes joy in showing fourth-grade students the mechanics of making books. The steps Include everything from design principles to layout techniques for words and pictures. The students create an illustration of their own moment of courage in a green screen app, which Ms. Howland uses as another educational opportunity: to improve students’ digital literacy. By creating an illustration out of a combination of photographic images, the students gain a hands-on understanding of how easily realistic images can be created, while also learning about the importance of using images that are properly licensed, and crediting the artist. Once a student has moved through this process, they then get to dedicate their moment of courage to their Little Sister. 

In a pre-pandemic year, fourth-graders would get together with their kindergarten Little Sisters and read them the book in person. This year, Ms. Howland called upon her creative imagination to design a distanced option that still provides that feeling of connection for her students. Her solution is novel: fourth graders will read to their Little Sisters in real-time via Zoom, and create an audio recording so that the stories can be listened to anytime. Another exciting 2021 addition is creating squash, or explosion books. Exploding books are fun and colorful, filled with pictures, jokes, and quotes that each Big Sister has chosen specifically for their Little Sisters One fourth grader drew a dragon, with the quote: “if you want the rainbow you gotta put up with the rain.” 

Kindergarteners and Fourth Graders met and shared their books in Zoom breakout rooms in early March. Although students can’t currently gather together to share their stories on their iPads, there are some virtual highlights from the Makery, one of which is that students who are sharing from home can now include costumes that tie into their stories! If you’d like to take a look at some of the beautiful creations of Burke’s fourth grade Big Sisters, check out our album here
Burke's mission is to educate, encourage and empower girls. Our school combines academic excellence with an appreciation for childhood so that students thrive as learners, develop a strong sense of self, contribute to community, and fulfill their potential, now and throughout life.


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7070 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94121
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