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‘Welcome Baby Hummingbirds’: Local photographer and La Jolla second-graders collaborate on book

Stella Maris Academy teacher Michelle Campagna (back left), Principal Francie Moss (back right), and second-grade students
Stella Maris Academy teacher Michelle Campagna (back row left) and Principal Francie Moss (back row right) are pictured with second-grade students who wrote the text for the book “Welcome Baby Hummingbirds.”
(Karen Perkins Moore)

A new project has taken flight among local photographer Essy Ghavameddini and students at Stella Maris Academy in La Jolla.

Over the past few months, Ghavameddini and the children have composed a book called “Welcome Baby Hummingbirds,” a collection of Ghavameddini’s photographs of a hummingbird and its babies with text written by the students.

The concept for the book was laid when Ghavameddini visited friends in Rancho Santa Fe. Their 2-year-old daughter was enamored of a hummingbird and its nest just outside their front door and showed Ghavameddini.

Ghavameddini, who once owned a photography gallery in La Jolla’s Village and has 30 years’ experience as the official photographer for San Diego’s sports arena and several more years shooting national sporting events, decided to photograph the hummingbird and her babies every other day over 28 days.

As his idea to compile the photos into a book grew, Ghavameddini felt it would be best if the words were written by children.

He approached Stella Maris Academy Principal Francie Moss for help.

Moss asked her staff if anyone was interested in taking on the project and said second-grade teacher Michelle Campagna volunteered, an arrangement that aligned with her class’s curriculum on animal habitats.

The book “really fit in beautifully” with the students’ studies, Moss said.

Second-graders at Stella Maris Academy wrote captions for Essy Ghavameddini's photos.
(Courtesy of Essy Ghavameddini)

She said Campagna then displayed each of Ghavameddini’s photos and asked her 17 students to write text for them.

The students then voted on their favorite text for each page, and Campagna ensured each student had one page in the book.

The text, Moss said, serves as captions for the photos “but it’s in children’s language, taking on the persona of the hummingbird [such as] ‘Oh, the baby birds are hungry. Feed me, Mommy. … Daddy’s home; you’re safe now.’”

“[It’s] pretty different than any other kind of book,” Moss added.

Ghavameddini said visiting the classroom and watching Campagna lead the students in the writing project was “so exciting ... the greatest time in my life.”

Photographer Essy Ghavameddini hopes to share “Welcome Baby Hummingbirds” with children all over the country.
Photographer Essy Ghavameddini hopes to share “Welcome Baby Hummingbirds” with children all over the country.
(Karen Perkins Moore)

The 29-page book also contains a brief description of the discovery of the nest, plus class photos and more, Ghavameddini said.

He said he hopes to share “Welcome Baby Hummingbirds” with children all over the country. “It’s a really good book: educational and something brand-new. “

He said he has pre-sold several copies to various organizations and contacts and will donate some to groups that work with children.

“Part of the reason we wanted to get involved was because of the charitable end of it, making sure that it goes to hospitals and libraries and new mothers,” Moss said.

Ghavameddini said the book will be printed by spring and will be sold at various locations. Each purchase will come with a three-minute video he made of the baby hummingbirds in their nest.

He added that there will be a big reveal of the finished product with the students who wrote the text, along with a day when the children can sign their pages.

Now that the students’ work is finished, “the fun part starts — the anticipation of the book coming out,” Moss said.

Ghavameddini said he enjoyed the process so much that he’s getting ready for a second book.

“Welcome Baby Hummingbirds” is available for pre-purchase for $25. To learn more, email essysstudio@gmail.com.