Drawing on my experience as a K-12 teacher, children’s author, and journalist, I love visiting schools with my presentations for kindergarten through fifth grade. I explore what it means to be a hero while teaching students about Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Alice Paul, Margaret Hamilton, and other brave historical figures from my nonfiction picture books. My talk also delves into the secrets of being a writer and putting together a book.
A single presentation can run anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, for any combination of grades. I can also visit for a half or full day of activities. I typically appear in a school auditorium or library, using PowerPoint slides, props, call-and-response, and other interactive elements to engage the students. Though my primary audience is K-5, I also give talks for older students.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to discuss booking me for a school visit or a speech. You can also book a school visit through Scholastic for a half-day, whole day, or multiple days, including large-group presentations and talks for individual classes.
Elementary school teachers often assign classroom activities before or after one of my presentations. See below for examples of curriculum ideas tied to my children’s picture books Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass (Scholastic), Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote (Knopf), and Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing (Knopf), along with activities tied to my presentation on heroes and writing.
Your presentation was spot-on for our classes. Thank you for developing such a brilliant way to reach these children! I was so impressed by their questions and responses (yours and theirs). It was exciting to watch their brains ticking away as they processed this information. I loved the way they identified qualities that make a hero…you have planted a seed that is already growing. I also want to thank you for the attention you paid to each student as you signed their book. That was more than the icing on the cake–that was an integral part of the experience for them.
—University of Wisconsin-Madison Odyssey Project
Dean Robbins made a memorable connection for students between historical heroes and how kids could be heroes in their own lives. Our students were engaged in the history and the beauty of his book. It was a great presentation!
—Madison Elementary School, Milwaukee, Wis.
You introduce today’s children to people who’ve made a fantastic impact on the world. You’ve brought the past to life in a way that inspires them to learn more!
Activities for Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass
See here for Scholastic’s extensive teaching guide for Two Friends, including pre- and post-reading activities, reproducibles, and tie-ins to Common Core standards. Below are some additional ideas for classroom activities.
- In Two Friends, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass do not have the same rights as other people. Make a list of rights Susan and Frederick want for themselves. Then list the things they do to get those rights.
- In Two Friends, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass face problems that keep the world from being a better place. List those problems. Then list the problems that keep your neighborhood, your school, or your home from being a better place. How would you solve those problems, the way Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass solved theirs?
- In Two Friends, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass work hard to get rights for women and African Americans. List Susan and Frederick’s special qualities—the ones that allowed them to win their battles.
- In Two Friends, artists Sean Qualls and Selina Alko have put words in almost every picture: in people’s clothes, in the roads, in butterfly wings, in the snow, on tree bark, and even in the steam coming out of a cup of tea. They did this to show how important words were to Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, who never stopped reading, writing and talking about freedom. Look through the book and list all the unusual places where words show up in the pictures.
- In Two Friends, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass learn about rights by reading. What might they have read? Teachers can explain about the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and speeches by Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others.
- In Two Friends, two real-life heroes team up to make the world a better place. If you could team up with a real-life person, who would it be? List the problems you would solve.
- In Two Friends, two real-life heroes team up to make the world a better place. Think of two of your favorite real-life heroes who could have teamed up—even heroes who might not have lived in the same place or at the same time. List the problems they would solve. Draw a picture of them having tea together.
- Draw a picture of yourself having tea with one of your favorite heroes, the way Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass do in Two Friends. List the things you and your hero would talk about at your tea party.
- Interview a man or a woman you admire, like your mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, or teacher. Ask about their biggest accomplishment or how they have tried to change the world.
Activities for Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing
- Margaret and the Moon has a beautiful picture of Margaret Hamilton looking at the night sky. Draw your own beautiful picture of the night sky with stars, planets, and the moon.
- On the Apollo 11 mission, the spacecraft that landed on the moon was called the Eagle. Draw your own spaceship and give it an interesting name.
- Spaceships don’t have a lot of room, so astronauts can only bring along the things they really need. Make a list of what you’d pack on a trip to the moon, including only the things you really need.
- In Margaret and the Moon, Margaret Hamilton decides to study hard in every subject at school so she can grow up to be anything she wants. What is your favorite subject in school? List the kinds of jobs it might lead to when you grow up.
- In Margaret and the Moon, Margaret Hamilton measures how far it is to the moon, how fast the moon moves, and how big around it is. Pick your favorite planet or star and try to find out how far away it is from Earth, how fast it moves, and how big around it is.
- Margaret and the Moon has a picture of astronaut Neil Armstrong taking the first step on the moon. Draw a picture of yourself walking on the moon in a spacesuit.
- In Margaret and the Moon, Margaret Hamilton wants to use her computer to help get astronauts to the moon for the first time. She tries to think of everything that might go wrong during the trip, and then programs her computer to prevent those problems from happening. Think of a big thing you might want to accomplish, like sailing around the world or climbing a mountain. Make a list of what might go wrong, and another list of how you could prevent those problems from happening.
- In Margaret and the Moon, Margaret Hamilton makes computers do amazing things they’d never done before, like predicting the weather or tracking airplanes through the clouds. List some of the amazing things you’d like to program a computer to do.
- In Margaret and the Moon, Margaret Hamilton is one of the first computer scientists, and she works on some of the first computers. They look very different from today’s computers. Draw either a picture of one of the old computers in the book or one of today’s computers. What are some of the differences?
- In Margaret and the Moon, Margaret Hamilton helps Apollo 8 orbit the moon ten times. She helps Apollo 9 connect two ships in space. She helps Apollo 10 get within ten miles of the moon’s surface. And she helps Apollo 11 land on the moon. Look up the other Apollo space missions and list some of the important things they did.
- In Margaret and the Moon, Margaret Hamilton worked on one of the hardest problems humans ever tried to solve—flying people to the moon. Make a list of other hard problems humans have had to solve, like building the first airplane or inventing the telephone.
Activities for Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote
- In Miss Paul and the President, Alice Paul has lots of creative ideas for convincing President Woodrow Wilson that women should have the right to vote. Make a list of her ideas.
- Make a list of other ideas Alice might have tried.
- In Miss Paul and the President, Alice Paul convinces President Woodrow Wilson to support women’s right to vote. List Alice’s special qualities—the ones that helped her win her battle.
- In Miss Paul and the President, Alice Paul chooses a single problem to solve: giving women the right to vote. If you were to choose a single problem to solve in your school, your neighborhood, or the world, what would it be? What creative ideas would you use to do it?
- In Miss Paul and the President, Alice Paul and her friends carry signs that tell President Woodrow Wilson what he can do to make the world a better place. What would you write on a sign to tell someone—a teacher, a parent, a friend, or even the president of the United States—how to make the world a better place? Draw a picture of yourself with your sign.
- In Miss Paul and the President, newspaper headlines tell the story of what happens to Alice Paul as she tries to win voting rights for women. Tell an exciting story from your own life in the style of newspaper headlines, using three or more.
- In Miss Paul and the President, Alice Paul plans a parade to convince President Woodrow Wilson to support women’s right to vote. If you planned a parade to make the world a better place, what would it be like? What signs would people carry? Draw a picture of your parade.
- In Miss Paul and the President, the women who want the right to vote choose special colors for their group: yellow, white, and purple. If you led a group trying to make the world a better place, what special colors would you choose? What kinds of hats, sashes, shoes, or gloves would you wear? Draw a picture of your group in their special colors and clothes.
- In Miss Paul and the President, Alice Paul meets with President Woodrow Wilson to ask him to support women’s right to vote. If you could meet with the president of the United States, what would you ask him to do?
- In Miss Paul and the President, Alice Paul leads a parade of fancy cars to convince people that women deserve the right to vote. Draw your own fancy car, with its own message trying to convince people of something important.
- In Miss Paul and the President, Alice Paul names a train “The Suffrage Special” and sends it across the country to spread the important message about women’s right to vote. Draw your own train, give it a special name, and explain what it will convince people to do.
- In Miss Paul and the President, Alice Paul convinces people to write letters to the president of the United States about women’s right to vote. Write your own letter to the president of the United States about something you think is important.
- Interview a woman you admire, like your mother, grandmother, or teacher. Ask about her biggest accomplishment or how she has tried to change the world.
Activities for Dean Robbins’ Presentation on Heroes
Author Dean Robbins wanted to be like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman when he grew up. As Dean got older, he discovered real-life heroes like Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Margaret Hamilton, and Alice Paul, who also fought hard to make the world a better place. Just like his favorite superheroes, these people had special powers, including courage, kindness, and persistence.
- If you were a superhero, what would your special name be?
- If you were a superhero, what would your special powers be?
- If you were a superhero, what problems would you solve to make the world a better place?
- Draw yourself as a superhero in action, using your special powers to make the world a better place.
- List the special powers that can make someone a real-life hero.
- List the qualities that might keep someone from being a real-life hero.
- List the things you could do to be a hero in your own life, your own home or your own school.
- List your favorite superheroes, explaining what you like about them.
- List your favorite real-life heroes, explaining what you like about them.
- Draw one of your real-life heroes as a superhero in action, using special powers to make the world a better place.
Activities for Dean Robbins’ presentation on ‘The Three Secrets of Writing’
- Dean Robbins’ first secret for writing a good book is coming up with a good idea. Think of your favorite book and describe the author’s main idea in a sentence or two. For example, the main idea of Peter Pan is that the three Darling children meet a boy who never grows up and have adventures with him in a magical place called Neverland.
- Think of your own good idea for a good book and describe it in one or two sentences.
- Dean Robbins’ second secret for writing a good book is having good information, even if it’s a completely made-up story. Think of your favorite book and make a list of everything the author needed to learn about before writing it. For example, the author of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie, needed to learn about pirates, dogs, crocodiles, and fairies.
- Think of what good information you’d need for your own good book and make a list of everything you would need to learn about before writing it. Make a list of the places where you could find the information, like libraries, books, or a computer.
- Dean Robbins’ third secret for writing a good book is telling a good story—in other words, all the important things that happen in the book. Think of your favorite book and write down what happens in the beginning, what happens in the middle, and what happens at the end. Explain how these three parts come together to make a good story. For example, in the beginning of Peter Pan, the three Darling children meet Peter at their house and then fly off with him to Neverland. In the middle, Peter clashes with the pirate Captain Hook, who captures the Darling children. At the end, Peter rescues the children and gets them safely back home.
- There are many ways to tell a good story, but a common way is to have a hero, a villain, and a problem for the hero to solve. Think of a book that tells the story this way and identify the hero, the villain, and the problem. For example, in Peter Pan the hero is Peter, the villain is Captain Hook, and Peter’s problem is rescuing the Darling children from the pirate ship.
- Think of your own good story for a good book and describe the hero, the villain, and the problem the hero has to solve.