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The assignment kicked off when teacher James Mascia read the Dr. Seuss classic “Green Eggs and Ham” to his students.

His mostly 17- and 18-year-old senior English students at Westlake High School.

“It is a life lesson ... try new things,” said Mascia about Seuss’ book. “We came up with a whole lot more.”

From the creative writing project for the seniors sprang children’s books based on advice.

The lessons — don’t talk to strangers, keep trying, be yourself — were drawn out of a hat by teams of three or four students in Mascia’s and teacher James Webb’s English classes.

The groups then created a children’s book centered around the theme.

Not only did the stories have to be hand-illustrated, they had to tell a tale that would engage, and hopefully captivate, young audiences.

The student authors and illustrators got the chance to see if their stories made the grade with their target — and definitely cute — audience, kindergartners at nearby William B. Wade Elementary School.

The project, Mascia and Webb hope, is one that allows high school students to be creative in an unconventional, not-so-dry kind of way.

“They learn more from things like this than they would in any textbook,” said kindergarten teacher Donna Kitlas, who shares a classroom with teacher Donna Robinson and welcomed the seniors.

“Stranger Danger,” written by the team of Ryan Beasley, Markus Carter, Alexis Collins and Tianna Price, was an interactive hit among the younger set.

Telling the story of a boy named Caleb, the team asked that the audience yell “Stranger Danger” when they saw the guy in the green hoodie approach Caleb.

Reading duties were split among the team members, and tiny gasps could be heard from the kindergartners when they spotted the stranger in the green sweatshirt before erupting into squeals of “Stranger Danger!”

Creative process

With six to 10 days to come up with a story, illustrate it and get ready to read it aloud, the groups worked during class and whenever they could find time.

The team of Caitlin Curry, Ariana Franco, Ashley Impastato and Mariah Lancaster tackled the subject of “never giving up.”

Their book centered around Perry Penguin and the Frigid Fest’s annual statue-making contest.

They worked on their rhyming story in class, but it was a four-hour marathon session at Panera Bread that brought the tale together, Caitlin said.

Reading the book to younger students is another life lesson, the teens said.

“It’s good to pass on that reading is important,” Mariah said.

At the end of the project, the kindergartners got a chance to share their writing with the older kids.

“We do a lot of reading and a lot of writing,” Kitlas said. “They love to share anything they write.”

Ryan McKelvin, 6, liked the stories by the Westlake students.

“I thought they were nice,” said Ryan, flipping through his journal looking for just the right entry to share. “I do have a story about my grandma I want to show them.”

This is the second year Westlake and Wade students have participated in the project.

“This is validation for the stuff they do,” Mascia said. “The [kindergartners] are genuinely excited to hear the stories.”

Webb agreed that bringing the stories to Wade validates the hard and creative work the seniors pour into the laminated books and it might even be a treat for the younger children.

“Everybody likes to have a story read to them,” he said.

staylor@somdnews.com