OMS StoryBox students

On a snowy day in February, a large box marked “top secret” arrived at Osseo Middle School all the way from New York. Forty excited Osseo Middle School students opened the Storybox to discover what stories, treasures and artifacts existed inside. Much of what is within the Storybox must be kept a secret, but here’s what we can tell you:

Thirty unfinished young adult stories were included in the box, and the students were tasked with choosing one and writing as much or as little as they felt was needed to finish the story. Their goal was to keep the author’s voice, add onto the story and collect artifacts to include inside the box. Published young adult novel authors wrote the first few pages of unfinished stories, and Osseo Middle School students signed non-disclosure agreements stating they would not tell anyone about the information contained within the stories.

For the past two months, Barbara Kinsmith, library media specialist, and Sandy Otto, instructional coach, both at Osseo Middle School, have been getting students ready to participate in the national Top Secret Unfinished Storybox Program, organized by Master storyteller and author Kevin Cordi.

Osseo Middle School is the only Minnesota school to participate in the program. “We knew this was an incredible opportunity for our students to become co-authors by finishing stories that might one day be published,” said Barbara Kinsmith.

Jay, an 8th-grade student and one of the Unfinished Storybox writers, explained why she chose to participate in this opportunity: “I wanted to challenge myself with creative writing. I’ve never actually finished a story. I love the idea of possibly having this story published.” Another student, Achiamah, said “I am most excited about being able to write in another author’s style, and that I will be able to view what future authors have in store.”

On March 8, all the students gathered into the media center to send off the Storybox to students at Indian Trail Middle School in Olathe, Kansas. They worked hard to add creative pages of writing to finish the authors’ stories and can’t wait to see if they get published. After the final school works with the unfinished stories in the Storybox, it will be mailed back to Kevin Cordi and his team of readers and publishers in June. If published, the stories will include the OMS students’ names within the book.

RELATED: CCX Media segment "StoryBox project helps Osseo Middle School students finish the story"

PHOTO: Osseo Middle School students stand proudly together as coauthors and celebrate their stories on March 8, 2018. 

bg wonderland webMore than 60 student-actors at Birch Grove Elementary School for the Arts will put a new spin on a classic tale this weekend as they present their spring musical, “Wonderland!”

With Birch Grove drama teacher Kris Holsen and music teacher Ben Pogatshnik once again helming the production, students will take audiences through the looking glass and into a colorful world filled with colorful characters.

“It is always a challenge to find just the right show for our kids,” Holsen added. “We are looking for something age-appropriate—with lots of parts for a large cast—and a good variety of interesting character parts to challenge our growing actors. ‘Wonderland!’ checked off all these boxes.”

Nearly 100 students auditioned for the show in late November. Since rehearsals began in December, Holsen said she has seen students grow in several different ways. Teamwork, she added, has been an integral part of the show’s success thus far.

“We have a lot of new actors in the show this year, along with some we have worked with for many years,” Holsen said. “They have learned to help each other by listening and trying out ideas together. Our students helped to develop almost all of the choreography in this show. It’s a really fun and rewarding part of our process to send them out in small groups to create dances and then assemble their ideas into our finished product.”

Aside from the talented performers who light up the stage, there is a crew of behind-the-scenes support that helps bring “Wonderland!” to life.

“We are so thankful for everyone who help us make it happen,” Holsen said. “Theater is a family and it takes a village. We love doing this together as a Birch Grove community.”

Buy tickets online

“Wonderland!” performance schedule:

  • March 9 at 7 p.m.
  • March 10 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
  • March 11 at 2 p.m.

PHOTO: Zaria Gladen (left) as the Mad Hatter and Anika Olson (right) as Alice in Birch Grove's 2018 spring musical, 'Wonderland!'