I struggle with how to get more poetry in the hands of kids. Why? It all starts with my hope that others can have what I have. For me, poetry provides a place to slow down and see what is often unseen, to fill what might be empty, to hear a murmur in a world that shouts. In my hubris, I believe others might be like me in this regard.
Somehow I found out about Seattle’s Poetry on a Bus project. The project seeks to put poetry into the daily lives of people. Here is an example from this week’s featured poet.
But it is more than just poems on buses; it is also about fostering a city-wide poetic reflection on the theme of “home” as experienced by the citizens of the many home places that make up the people of Seattle. Poets fanned out into neighborhoods to teach workshops on how to write poetry. They met in community centers, churches, schools, businesses, wherever the people of that neighborhood met. Then they wrote poems. The poems on the buses are written by the people from the neighborhoods, regular people who have a story to tell, an image to share.
To build interest in poetry, one idea I had was to create a publically shared Poem Place outside my classroom where others could stop by and read as they went about their daily activities, kind of like a stationary bus, I guess. At first, I would just put up poems that struck me or seemed to fit the time of year. Since I am inclined to look to the natural world and we live in a rural part of a rural state (Iowa), probably some of these would be connected to what students might see around them. I might also couple these with a short informational piece written by either me or by someone I found online, sort of like what Joyce Sidman has done in many of her wonderful books.
Since we recently moved to a 1:1 digital learning environment, I thought I could link the informational text(s) via that method as well.
So, maybe something like this, coupled with informational text on the history of tomatoes.
Or this one since the bats are out at night, coupled with some short text/video about bats.
Or this one, since dogs are always so interesting to kids, then coupled with something on the history of dogs, or the science of anxiety.
My plan is to post these outside my room and online in a section of my classroom website. While I will be curating and publishing many of these early in the year, I hope that some students will begin to take over the job of finding poems and turning them into posters.
Maybe these poems and informational texts will foster conversations among students, between parents and children? Who knows?
Ideally, we might actually move toward something like what Poetry on a Bus does, which is to hold poetry writing workshops and gather poems from the students themselves. (I think I know some 7th and 8th graders who might be interested in that part!) But even if we don’t get that far this year, or ever, I think the project might be worth trying anyway.
I will keep you posted on how it goes as the year goes along.