Friday, July 22, 2016

Inspired by Nature, Inspired by a Teacher

Fingernail Clams Feeding from Western New York Woodland Vernal Pool
(Scooped from a Vernal Pool in Winter, Returned in Spring)
Video by Mark VanDerwater

Students - It is good to have a special place where you can go to be alone, to think and to pay attention to the world.  Here on our property, we have a vernal pool, a little body of water that just stays for part of the year, and my husband Mark loves to go and visit the critters.  There is a vernal pool at his high school too, and above, you can see a video Mark took of some of the teeny critters in wintertime, after they had warmed up inside his classroom.

When we are quiet and when we visit a place again and again, watching and writing, looking and drawing, we can learn very much.  About the world and about ourselves too.

I have another teacher friend who loves vernal pools too...

Today I am absolutely delighted to introduce Christie Wyman, a wise kindergarten teacher at Country Elementary School in Weston, Massachusetts.  I have followed Christie's beautiful teaching on Twitter (@MrsWymansClass), and I feel very lucky to welcome her and her last year's students to The Poem Farm today.  Enjoy this watercolor celebration of words...paying tribute to some plants and animals who live close by.  Welcome, Christie!  Welcome, writers and artists!

My Kindergarten students and I are inspired daily by the natural beauty of the school grounds of our PreK-3rd Grade elementary school and adjacent town conservation trails. 

Not far along one of the walking trails sits a vernal pool -- the first in a series of them, in fact. We visit this particular spot every 6-8 weeks to observe the changing of the seasons, learn about communities and habitats, and the wildlife that make their home in this truly magical place. Some animals are seen; some leave signs of their presence; others remain elusive throughout the year.

As the year progresses, our knowledge about vernal pools and their inhabitants grows. We use a schema chart with Post-its to record our thinking throughout the year, including our current and new learning, our misconceptions, and questions. Nature’s “cast of characters” inspired us in a new direction this year --writing poetry about them and painting their portraits in watercolors.

We began our poetry project by adopting a character. Each student researched their vernal pool community inhabitant and made a list of facts they had learned. After individually conferring about these facts, we gently -- ever so gently -- shaped them to take on a different form: poetry. Some Kindergarten poets chose to have their character do the talking, while others preferred to ask them questions. All are a lovely intermingling of science content knowledge and literacy learning. 

We’d like to introduce them to you now!

Thank you so much, Christie and students, for joining us today.  These poems are works of art are luscious, and if the critters and trees could read...they would surely feel honored.

Teachers - This is an exquisite example of tying poetry and art to science, and these young writers' poems would be magnificent mentor texts for other young writers studying habitats near to their own schoolyards.

In other happy news...  Many many congratulations to wise poet Irene Latham, winner of the 2016 International Literacy Association Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award for her wonderful DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST!  Irene shared a bit of her revision process here in 2014, and I am so happy that her book - and her gifts - have been recognized with this generous award from Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Chelanne is hosting today's Poetry Friday party over at Books4Learning, and she offers a peek into Irene's book too.  Don't miss!  Each Friday, someone new hosts Poetry Friday, a listing of the week's poems and poetry ideas all around the blogosphere. All are always welcome to visit and share.  Happy Poetry Friday!

Please share a comment below if you wish.


  1. Mark's video is awesome, but what I adore is that the kids were really 'there", and didn't just study from books. The poems and the illustrations make me smile. What a great time they all must have had studying around the pools. Thanks, Amy and Christie.

  2. Oh what beauty from these young poet-artists and Mrs. Wyman! I am especially enamored of Isabel's woodpecker's peck peck peck. Our world does put on a magic show, doesn't it? Thank you, Amy, for your poem, for showcasing this classroom's work today, and for your kind words. (Now tell me more about Spain!!!) xo

  3. What wonderful writing and illustrations from these tiny poets! Thank you for sharing their work and for introducing me to Poetry Friday. It's really neat!

  4. Each of the children's poems was a gem of stopping to notice. What a treat to read them, Amy!

  5. The children's poems are awesome. I love how they use so many senses in their poems. The art work blows me away. I enjoy ink and water colors.

  6. The video is a fascinating peek into a secret world! I guess the Kinder poems are too, in their own way!

  7. Amy,
    The art and poetry by kindergarten students and their learning process was so much fun to read and see. Thanks so much for sharing another terrific post.

  8. Truly a farm for poems and poetry with this harvest. I'm so impressed with the teaching and the learning. Thank you so much for sharing the work of these children. My heart is happy to think they have this learning in them for their future selves.

    I enjoyed seeing Irene Latham's revision comments. I'm always so fussy when revising poems. It feels like clipping a bonsai tree --- and I've never even done that!

    Beautiful experience at the Poem Farm today. Thank you and thank you again!

  9. Dear Ms. Wyman and Kindergarteners--

    You spent a lot of time and attention learning about the inhabitants of your vernal pool. Your artworks show some of your knowledge, but your poems show even more! I enjoyed every one, but especially Ryan's rhythmic "Salamander" poem and Luke's "Worms" which squiggles and stretches like a real worm.

    Thank you, Amy, for sharing!

  10. What detailed and educated poems. I love the illustrations, too. They must have worked very hard to do such wonderful work at such a young age. It's exciting to know such great work is being done only a few town over from me.

  11. Our world does indeed "put on a magic show"! How lucky Christie and her students are to have access to a pool they can study and use as a doorway into so much learning. Thank you for sharing their wonderful poems and art with us, Amy!