Our school is very lucky in that on April 2, we will be having a special guest. Artist and author James Gurney will be coming to talk to the students about his work. Gurney is a world reknowned artist and illustrator who is best known for his illustrated book series Dinotopia, which is presented in the form of a 19th century explorer's journal from an island utopia where dinosaurs and humans peacefully co-exist.
I think Gurney's work is a good example of how our school subject areas all run together in the real world. He is an artist and a writer, but he also does an amazing amount of research in the fields of science and anthropology to make his fantasy work "believable". He has degrees in anthropology and fine art, but he is also "self-taught" in many areas. He stays up to date on new discoveries about dinosaurs so that his paintings are as authentic as possible.
Gurney's interest in paleontology and anthropology began in his childhood sandbox. As he says on his blog,
When I was in second grade, I was convinced that if I dug enough in my
front yard I'd find the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh or the skull of a T. Rex.
Never mind that I grew up in Santa Clara County, California, the heart of
suburbia. You can't talk a determined archaeologist out of his steely
determination. My dad couldn't talk me out of it either.
I was the youngest of five kids, and by the time I came along, my dad had
pretty much given up on yard maintenance. He didn't mind too much if I dug test
pits in the yard. The Tonka trucks stayed at it for months. All the neighborhood
kids helped out. Eventually their moms banned them from coming over because they came home with their shoes and their pockets full of dirt."
When I heard this story, it made me think of so many of the kids in our school who have what I call "healthy obsessions". Who knows what careers these interests may lead them to? As Gurney says, "Big dreams are born in little people, and I am always grateful to my school teachers, my parents and my older brothers and sisters for encouraging me--and letting me dig up the yard. "