Today I was part of a group of Environmental Educators celebrating our Wetlands. We hosted fourth, fifth, and sixth graders from 9 – 2pm in thirty-minute stations. I had the pleasure of seeing 177 students, plus all their teachers today for lessons on Nature Poetry.
Since our stations were only 30 minutes each, I had to give some thought as to how I would structure my session. The organization of lessons and activities are important components of my teaching. I seem to have an innate sense of timing and can usually fit the pertinent information in a time block without much difficulty. I’d like to think this trait comes from my years of experience in working with elementary-aged children and planning my own lessons. I don’t spend much time anymore thinking about why this works for me, and rather just feel grateful that it does. The group that hosted us was also organized with the provision of timelines, schedules, and a fair amount of time allotted for the students to move between stations.
Haiku = Nature
The stations included: Storytelling, Build a Fish, Peregrine Falcons, Nature Poetry, Leave No Trace, Marsh Animals, and Duck ID. Organizations that participated were US Fish and Wildlife, WisCorps (Wisconsin Conservation Corps), and the Mississippi Valley Conservancy, a local land trust, which is the group I represented. WisCorps was the hosting organization.
Earlier in the week, I had planned to be outside the whole day, as that is what the initial schedule showed. As I sat at my son’s soccer game on Tuesday afternoon, I thought about what a cold day I would have on Thursday and Friday. I was also resigned to this plan for I know how it is to plan a full day of activities for outside participants and if this is what the organizer had planned, then I would go with it! After all, the kids would be as cold or colder than I. But, then, I got the final schedule and had been moved inside by the event’s coordinator. I was in the Marshview Room which I was familiar with as I had attended a Forest Bathing Hike that began in this room less than a month ago. I was very happy to know I’d be inside for the day.
But, as I thought about my session, I decided that it be best I take the students outside for at least part of the thirty-minute time block. I came up with a 10-10-10 format that included a ten-minute introduction to myself, the Conservancy, and Haiku writing. The second ten-minute block would be going outdoors to observe the marsh and pollinator gardens at the park. During this time students were encouraged to use all of their senses with the exception of the sense of taste to gather descriptors for the nature they were witnessing. Instead of being told “not to touch” I encouraged them to touch the seed heads, dry grasses, and spent plants. The students were advised, however, not to touch the prickly pear cactus that lived in the garden. I do wonder how many were surprised to see a cactus flourishing in Wisconsin! Lastly, they were introduced to Big Bluestem, a native prairie grass growing on the grounds.
Of course, each group saw different things. One group was treated to a pair of bald eagles soaring over the marsh, most probably looking for food. Another group saw a handsome grasshopper, camouflaged in his colors of brown and green, as he sat on a dried-out prairie plant. The morning groups had overcast skies, while the afternoon had bright sunshine that put our surroundings in a totally different light.
After observing the nature at hand, we returned to our classroom to write our haiku with the ten minutes left to our session. I have to say, I was impressed. Almost all of the students took this activity seriously. I was proud of them and told them so. We took a few minutes at the end of each session to share our poems. Most gladly shared with their classmates. Their teachers, seemingly happy for the activity, collected their poems before heading off to the next station.
As I have in the past, I wrote right alongside my students today. I feel this is so important to do. When a teacher does this you are showing them that you are also a writer, learning, growing, and using different techniques, just as they are. Writing is a process. We all need to start somewhere.
It was my hope today to connect students to our local lands – particularly, our wetlands. We live in an area of great topographic and geographic diversity. Just a few miles from any of our homes are not only wetlands that encompass the great Mississippi River but also the Black River and La Crosse River with all their tributaries and sloughs. The Driftless Area of Wisconsin also boasts bluff lands, farmlands, prairies, and forests. It is truly an area like no other and one I am so proud to call home.
Please stop back tomorrow for some examples of the Haiku we generated during our session today. Another group of students will be visiting tomorrow and I am sure we will have more observations to share though our Haiku!