August 24, 2022 | Sarah Heinonen
EAST LONGMEADOW – “All the kids love big trucks and diggers,” said architectural photographer Erin Chrusciel. As part of her work, she often sees these machines. While taking photos of the construction of the MGM Head Start Center, at 149 Union St. in Springfield, she kept thinking that the kids would never see the people who built their school. Then she realized she could show the kids exactly who built their school and how.
“I couldn’t help it,” Chrusciel told Reminder Publishing, writing his children’s book, “Who Built My Ziggy-Zaggy School?”
Her kids were about the same age as those who would be attending the MGM Head Start Center, so she brought them to the job site to see their reaction. She said they liked seeing the building go up and one commented on the Head Start’s “ziggy-zaggy” roof. “I had my title”, recalls Chrusciel.
For the MGM Head Start Center, she took photos from the first stage of the project, right up to the ribbon cutting. The book used the actual architectural drawings of the building, as well as photos Chrusciel took of the construction process. Chrusciel wanted the target audience of 3-5 year olds to imagine themselves as carpenters, painters, roofers and other building professionals, so her friend, artist Jill Kovalchik, drew the Tyeka character and graphic designer Chris Mullins superimposed the illustrations in the photos to create an imaginary world, where the little girl shows the readers the construction site.
Chrusciel worked on the book for about three years. Because the book was created with learning in mind, there are questions throughout the pages, such as “What tool would a carpenter use to nail wood” and “Water, walls and the windows all start with what letter? With help from Head Start teachers, Chrusciel created a list of questions and activities at the back of the book for teachers to explore with their classes.
One of the aspects of the construction that Chrusciel wanted to highlight was the environmentally sustainable systems built into the school, such as the solar panels on the roof and the rain barrel, which collects water from the roof for the use to irrigate the land.
The author also wanted to make sure the book was representative, so that any child could see themselves being built.
“I intended to make sure there were women represented,” Chrusciel said, as well as people of color, as there is a large population of families of color in the community where MGM is located. Headstart.
She named the main character after Tyeka Robinson, a carpenter on the project. In fact, the book is dedicated to him and “those who work hard in all weathers to create safe and beautiful places for people they may never meet.”
In March, Chrusciel read the book to children at the MGM Head Start Center. She said the preschoolers yelled, “This is my school,” as she read and ran to hug her afterwards. “Honestly,” she says, “that’s why I wrote it. That moment right there. The students each took home a copy of the book. publish enough copies of the book to have one in every school library in Springfield.
To learn more about Chrusciel’s photography or about “Who Built My Ziggy-Zaggy School?” », visit https://www.instagram.com/erinchrusciel.