Educational Programs: Author John C. Mitchell

John Mitchell was born and raised in the Detroit area at a time when the Motor City manufactured most of the world’s automobiles. He later graduated from the University of Michigan where he worked as a reporter and editor for The Michigan Daily.

During the last quarter century, Mitchell teamed up with friend and noted illustrator, Tom Woodruff to create a series of four popular history books for children: Michigan (1987); Great Lakes and Great Ships (1991); Indians of the Great Lakes (1994); and Prehistoric Great Lakes (2001). In 2007, Mitchell wrote Wood Boats of Leelanau: A Photographic Journal, which won the Historical Society of Michigan’s annual State History Award.

Grand Traverse: The Civil War Era, published during the Civil War Sesquicentennial, explores the region’s extensive involvement in this revered period of American history.

Mitchell has taught history and writing programs in schools as a National Endowment for the Arts scholar and continues to appear as a speaker and writer-in-residence throughout the Great Lakes region. The author has lived on the Leelanau Peninsula for forty years, where he raised two boys and continues to work in history-related ventures. He resides with his wife, Ann Marie, near Omena.

Full-Week History Program

The knowledge students gain through a series of historical presentations is crafted into a detailed story about a time when Native American people ruled the Great Lakes region. Students love to imagine living in the woods and on the water, and given a structure and facts they find interesting to work with, the stories they write are always good, and often remarkable.

Classroom presentations by John Mitchell

We begin with a presentation to upper elementary students and teachers, where I introduce myself as an author and the methods I use to research and write books. The balance of the first day is spent in the core writing project, usually with 3-4 classes of 20-25 students in Grades 3-5. Daily we meet in 50-minute sessions, 5 groups/day. I meet at least once day with the core writing groups, and we continue to explore history topics and build stories. If time permits, I am happy to present to classes not participating in the writing project during any remaining time.

Topics covered include, but are not limited to:

Civil War; Native Americans/Birch Bark; Great Lakes Indian Nations; Iroquois Confederation and the U.S. Constitution; Native American Months; Travel by Water; Fur Trade; Michigan Lumbering Era; Frontier Michigan; Petoskey Stones and the Prehistoric Great Lakes; Bookmaking and 4-Color Printing; Vocabulary-driven Writing.

The full week program allows time to develop the writing ability and historical knowledge of students and usually concludes with the production of a book containing all student writers' works.

Author John Mitchell working with students

One-Day History Program

During a one-day program I reserve five sessions a day and combine several large audience presentations to various grade levels and several more detailed presentations to smaller groups. This program can be modified to accommodate specific goals.


In the past several years, I have had the pleasure of working with the following schools, and offer them as references.

Ann Arbor: Angell Elementary, Bach Elementary, Burns Park Elementary,
Dicken Elementary, Lakewood Elementary, Mitchell Elementary,
Pittsfield Elementary, Wines Elementary
Columbiaville: Columbiaville Elementary
Traverse City: Interlochen Elementary
Elk Rapids: Lakeland Elementary


For More Information: Phone (231)271-4749 or email