Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey Activities

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany is a certified Special Education and Elementary teacher with 11 years experience teaching Special Education from grades PK through 5. She has a Bachelor's degree in Special Education, Elementary Education, and English from Gordon College and a Master’s degree in Special Education from Salem State University.

If you're teaching elementary students about the events of September 11, you may be interested in the book 'Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey.' These activities will help you get the most out of this important book.

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey

Maira Kalman's book Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey is a beautifully told, exquisitely illustrated tale of bravery in the face of the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001. Kalman sensitively tells just enough of the events of September 11 to ground the story in the historical event, while focusing her tale on the history and heroic actions of the fireboat named the John J. Harvey. This book carries a wide range of teaching possibilities for your upper elementary students. Here are a number of activities to get you started.

Activity: More about Fireboats

Objective: Research fireboats.

Materials: Chart paper, research resources

  • Preparation: Gather resources with information about fireboats.
  • As a class, create a KWL (Know, Want to know, Learned) chart about fireboats. Fill out the ''know'' and ''want to know'' sections.
  • Distribute different resources about fireboats to students or groups of students.
  • Students read the resources and take notes, paying particular attention to the answers to any questions the class asked on the KWL chart.
  • Complete the ''learned'' section of the chart as a class.

Activity: Journal Prompts

Objective: Write journal entries related to the book Fireboat. (Specific parameters and expectations for journal entries will be determined by your class's current needs.)

Materials: Journal and pencil

Suggested journal prompts:

  • The crew of the John J. Harvey acted heroically to help save lives in a dramatic crisis. What does it mean to be a hero?
  • Have you ever met a hero? Describe what makes this person a hero.
  • The John J. Harvey was able to help on September 11 because it was built differently than the other fire engines. In your experience, have you seen differences that turn out to be strengths, or is this a rare occurrence? Explain your opinion.
  • The book Fireboat is written so people remember the crew of the John J. Harvey. Write about someone you know who you want people to remember.
  • Why is it important to remember events like those of September 11?

Activity: Honoring Heroes

Objective: Read about other heroes from September 11.

Materials: Information about other September 11 heroes, materials for illustrating

  • As a class, review further information about the events of September 11, 2001. Choose information appropriate to the age level of your class.
  • Discuss the ways people show appreciation for heroes who help.
  • Students create posters that show appreciation for September 11 heroes.
  • Display your posters in the hallway or lobby of your school.
  • Optional: Do you and your students know any local heroes? Create posters appreciating your local heroes, display them, and invite your local heroes to come and see the display.

Activity: Events of 1931

Objective: Research notable events mentioned in the story.

Materials: Research resources

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