ISU's best and brightest show their work at the Honors Poster Presentation Thursday

AMES, Iowa -- As a child, Stephanie Burbridge spent countless hours riding in the car between her divorced parents' homes in Iowa and Missouri. Now the Iowa State University senior has turned that experience into her honors project -- a book for use as a therapy tool for children dealing with their parents' divorce.

Burbridge is one of 32 Iowa State honors students who will showcase their academic talents during the fall 2008 Honors Poster Presentation from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

Whether students conduct a scientific research study or create a piece of music, the required honors project is an integral part of a student's honors education, said Laurie Fiegel, who directs Iowa State's Honors Program.

"The project provides honors students the opportunity to create a scholarly work or creative project that is the culmination of their education, and to work closely with a faculty member throughout the process," Fiegel said.

"The projects involve a wide variety of subjects and can take on many forms. They are amazing and creative projects that reflect students' interests, intellect and hard work," Fiegel said.

Among the projects this year are an investigation of whether or not wearing a backpack destabilizes gait, a study of the relationship between nutrition and cognition in Iowa centenarians, a look at the truth behind lie detectors and a travel guide of Iowa's commercial and public horticultural establishments.

Burbridge, a senior in elementary education, said she selected a project that would "truly be a culminating experience of my time at Iowa State and my years spent in school."

Her project, "Meeting the Needs of Children of Divorce Through Literature," includes not only the 32-page book -- which she wrote, illustrated and bound -- but also a paper that outlines her research on children's emotional experiences during divorce and the use of books as a therapy tool for children.

"I am a child of divorce and spent hours upon hours in the car driving between my parents' houses in Iowa City and Lake St. Louis, Mo.," Burbridge said. "On the drive, we had special landmarks to help mark our journey. I set out to write a book incorporating that physical journey with the emotional journey as well."

Each two-page spread describes a little girl's physical journey on the left page and her emotional journey on the right.

"The left pages are in order of the towns we passed on the way and the illustrations are the landmarks--my mom's favorite barn or the toll booth where she always let me pay," Burbridge said. "The right pages, which tell the emotional journey, are the little girl's journal, complete with doodles."

Burbridge used a software program to convert her own photos of the landmarks along the route into sketches and watercolors.

"While this book appears to be a picture book, it's not the type you would sit down and read to a fourth grade class," she said. "I wrote it as a book that could be used as a therapy tool for children who are struggling through the difficulties and tragedy of their parents' divorce. And before writing the book, I set out on my own journey to find research supporting the project."

She found out everything she could about what children go through when their parents divorce.

"I found that most children react as though they are experiencing a death of sorts. They typically cycle through states of grief, which I addressed in the book."

Burbridge, who has math, reading and coaching endorsements, will graduate next spring following a semester of student teaching.

As far as publishing her book, Burbridge says she'll see how it is received at the presentation.

"I'm very proud of it and my family and friends who have graciously edited it for me seem to like it, so it might make it in the mail [to a publisher] some day!"