Boulder Valley School District

Gold Hill Elementary students publish “Happy, Healthy Habitats” book

Gold Hill students on nature trip
Alejandra Corchado-Rodriguez


This past fall, Johanna Morrison’s classroom at Gold Hill Elementary school buzzed with excitement as a dedicated class of young naturalists delved into studying the intricacies of water-edge ecosystems, called riparian zones. 

From raising water insects to nurturing rainbow trout right in their classroom, the students were immersed in hands-on experiences that went beyond textbooks. 

“This fall our school focused our Life Science studies on the Riparian Ecosystem. Along with our classroom activities we took the students on several field trips focused on healthy ecosystems and key indicators of a healthy riparian ecosystem,” said Morrison. “The students also got to go on a few fly fishing field trips to connect all their knowledge of the local ecosystems and its inhabitants.”

Gold Hill student

Gold Hill School is a special and unique 150 year-old mountain community school with a small population that utilizes its amazing location in nature along with their instruction whenever possible. Morrison teaches kindergarten, first and second grades at Gold Hill, however she worked with students across the school in kindergarten through 5th grade to incorporate everyone in the ecosystems studies.

As an exciting extension of their studies, Morrison’s students embarked on a creative writing and art project, resulting in the publication of a book titled "Healthy, Happy Habitats" for which each student created their own story and picture to add to the book. 

“The idea for publishing a book on the topic came from the writing and art extension the students worked on where they wrote their own stories about different animals and their habitats,” said Morrison.

The school utilized “a step-by-step writing experience for kids from brainstorming, to story maps, to the final product,” said Morrison. 

“Each student hand-writes their final story and creates a picture for the book. The book publishes the student's work as is, which is so lovely to see and preserve their unique handwriting.”

  • Gabey Maedke, a 2nd grade student, drew inspiration from unexpected sources, "I really liked the story I wrote. I got the idea from a YouTube video about what would happen to the Earth if rocks disappeared."
  • Juniper Jacobs in 4th grade most enjoyed the illustration piece "I really liked creating my own picture for the book."
  • Kainoa Swift, in 5th grade, expressed his sense of accomplishment, "it feels good to make our own book."
  • And Sophia Buis, a 1st grade student said "It feels good to me to be in a ‘real’ book. It makes me want to write more books.”
    Gold Hill students showing off their book

The Healthy Happy Habitats book stands not only as a testament to the students' academic exploration but also as a celebration of their creativity and connection to the natural world. 

The students dedicated the book to "our Ancestors, family and friends and all the animals in the forest and to all the farmers who make our food," the book reflects the students' gratitude for the interconnected web of life.

Morrison shared that through this project, the students at Gold Hill Elementary have not only become authors and illustrators, but ambassadors for environmental awareness.

A copy of the book “Happy, Healthy Habitats” can be ordered from Student Treasures. Choose the option to order an already published book under the “parents” tab and enter the PIN number: 8273011.

Through this project, the students at Gold Hill Elementary have not only become authors and illustrators, but ambassadors for environmental awareness and ecosystem preservation.

VIDEO: “Gold Hill students see their published book for the first time


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