|Cover of "The Poetry of Science" Book of Poems by 3rd Graders|
The Poetry of Science
a poetry unit for young students using language arts, reading, public speaking, art, science, information literacy, and computer skillsDuring the Great Recession, when I was not employed full-time, I had a series of part-time jobs, including as an asstistant teacher at a primary school. When the lead teachers learned that I had a Bachelor's degree in education and an advanced degree in creative writing, specifically for poetry, they asked if I would like to take over the Language Arts classes for the month of April to focus on poetry, since April is Nationation Poetry Month. I was more than happy to take up this responsibility and so, over three years' time, I developed a comprehensive integrated poetry unit, that called for the students to use a number of skills in many fields of study.
It's been over five years since I last taught this unit, and I have always wanted to gather all my materials into one comprehensive and shareable place. What better place to do so than here, on my Arts and Culture blog?
I will be using the blog posts as a means to organize what I have, so you will see materials I used, lessons I created, and reflections on the work five years on. It may get a little messy, but that is perfectly fine with me. In fact, one of the first lessons I taught the students was it's good to make a mess, make mistakes, take risks, and meander through ideas when you're starting out on a project (or creating a poem). Later, once you've explored things, that's when it's time to neaten up and organize the brillant mess (aka revise and edit your poems).
Origins of the Poetry of Science Unit for Teaching Poetry to Young Students
The Poetry of Science unit came about first as a supplement to the students' science unit on whales. From that, with my help as the poetry teacher, they made a book of "Ocean Poems." The following year, having had more time to plan, I expanded on the idea of building a poetry unit off a science unit, and - with the help of the science teacher - opened it up to all the science curricula the students had studied since kindergarten.
I was also inspired by a trip I had taken to the New York Botanic Garden in 2010, where there was a large exhibit integrating the science of botany and horticulture with poetry, by recreating Emily Dickinson's garden. The exhibit was titled "The Poetry of Flowers" and that is where I got the name for the poetry unit "The Poetry of Science." We also read the work of Emily Dickinson, and read some excellent children's books about poetry and about Emily Dickinson, along with taking a virtual tour of the NYBG exhibit.
What the Poetry of Science Unit Entailed, and How It Brought Together Several Fields of Study
The end result of all the work the students did for the unit was a book of poems. Each student (and the faculty) wrote, revised, and edited a poem that was - in one way or another - related to a science topic. They used their vocabulary from all the science units, K-3, which the science curriculum teacher provided. They wrote several poems. Then they went to the library to research the topic of their poems, to find more "juicy words" to integrate into their work. They then chose one poem to focus on and went through the revision process for that poem. After self, peer and teacher editing was complete, they typed their poems up using word processing software. They printed these polished poems and used their drawing skills to decorate their page. All the pages were compiled together to create a book. On the day the book was "published" and each student got a copy, we also celebrated with a poetry reading, which they could invite their family to attend, and each student read their poem at the poetry reading.
A Mark of Success
The best part, for me, was when I'd announced, "Okay everyone, this is our last poetry lesson for the Poetry of Science unit," the day after the poetry reading, as we wound down and reviewed what we'd learned. Their reaction was always to gasp and cry out, "Noooo!" because they had come to love having poetry to do every day. Sigh. It was awesome.
Stay tuned for more details on the Poetry of Science unit. You can find all the blog posts related to it at: http://www.anartsnotebook.com/search/label/poetry%20of%20science