Eighth-grader Kimberly Jones looked at the photo handed out in her Feb. 27 Riverbend School writing project that asked her to describe what was in the picture.

The photo captured the back of a man in military uniform and the gleeful faces of five individuals running toward him, all with huge smiles. The girl at the front of the group had both arms stretched wide.

What happened in the moment — just the moment — before the picture was snapped, was one of the 20 instructions the writing assignment asked.

“I see an Army father returning to his family. The girl running up to hug him is his oldest daughter. She’s missed him very much and he’s missed her too,” Kimberly wrote.

“It’s probably been months, maybe years, since he’s seen her,” she stated “She’s been waiting for him to come home.”

In her one-page essay, Kimberly identified the relationship of each of the five individuals to the returning soldier.

The boy directly behind the girl with outstretched arms is the oldest of the children, she wrote. He’s also happy to have his dad back. The younger girl in the photo is “proud of her dad.” She told her whole class at school her dad is in the Army and he’s a pretty cool guy.

The youngest boy does not look happy to see his Dad, she stated, maybe he doesn’t know his dad very well.

In the final paragraph, Kimberly goes beyond the family moment.

“By the fashion statements in the picture, I’d say this picture is from the 1960s or 1970s,” she wrote. “In the background, I see the wings of a plane. The air smells of plane fuel. There’s an awful lot going on in this picture.”

For two days, Feb. 26-27, it was nonstop writing for eighth-graders.

Riverbend School teachers reached into every aspect of creativity to inspire students with authors, songwriters and writing exercises to put words on paper.

The program was part of the Meramec Valley School District Write On project that involved all students in writing. Genetta Tomnitz, at the middle school, and Randy Myers, Riverbend School, spearheaded the districtwide project.

Entertainers, authors, musicians and high school speech team members visited with Riverbend students to talk about the creative process. When they weren’t listening to visiting speakers, students completed four independent writing activities.

In one exercise, students were instructed to write something inspirational, silly, thought-provoking or clever on a dry erase board, and then take their photo next to their comments. The pictures were hung on walls throughout the school.

One of the photos depicted a smiling boy holding a large sign that read “FREE HUGS.”

For two full days, scheduled programs called for students to listen and write.

Among the speakers were David Graham, St. Louis comedian and entertainer; Kate Klise, Missouri Ozarks journalist and author; Jacob Schmidt and Josie Raab, Pacific High speech team; Kyle Walz and Cody Goggin, local musicians and songwriters; and Ed Cieslak, Atlanta-based author of “The Locals,” a book set in Pacific and Catawissa.

Students listened attentively, took notes and applauded at the end of each presentation.

Wild applause and shouts filled the Riverbend gymnasium when storyteller Jacob Schmidt completed his animated tale of a box of crayons on revolt, in a story titled “The Day the Greyhounds Quit.”

At the end of each day, students were instructed to complete one short reflection piece on the day’s activities and to remember to include their names on their papers.

The several hundred papers completed in the two-day writers week were hung on the walls throughout the school.