Missed The Marathon; Found Some Poems

Consider the Hinge

My National Writing Project friends at the Morehead State Writing Project hosted a post-election Writing Marathon last week that I had hoped to join but then could not.

Write Our Way Out

Luckily, they shared out the prompts afterwards and so I spent a few mornings, using the prompts to inspire some small poems. I’m sorry I could not join the night of the Marathon, but I was glad to be able to take my time each morning with a poem.

UndertowI was also trying out a new mobile app from the folks at Buffer (which hosts the free Pablo), which I use quite a bit for adding visual elements. The app — Buffer Remix — turns Tweets into an image, with different themes and photo options (including image search from Unsplash). It’s kind of cool. It works best with tweets with fewer words.

Look to the StarsThe Morehead State Writing Project folks are hosting a second event tonight, and while I signed up, I have yet another conflict. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the prompts for further morning poetry writing.

Writer in the Storm of Night

Peace (and poems),
Kevin

WMWP Virtual Writing Marathon for #WriteOut and National Day on Writing

SPAR Marathon SiteWe’re excited to be hosting a Writing Marathon for the National Day on Writing and for WriteOut with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and the Springfield Armory National Historic Site. Last year, we gathered and wrote inside the Armory museum itself; this year, we’re using a Padlet digital wall to offer a series of self-guided writing prompts, with videos from SPAR park rangers, historical documents and more.

If you are interested, you can still register at any time, and we will get you into the mix. This is all self-paced and choose-your-own-writing prompts. Be inspired to write!

Here are some of the prompts we have posted at our site:

  • Ranger Pearl and teacher Harriet Kulig ask you to explore the role of women at the Armory and in the workforce during wartimes. Many women in the Pioneer Valley were recruited as WOWs (Women Ordinance Workers).

  • Park Volunteer Carl gives insight into the recognizable fence around the Armory, and it has an interesting historical story. Consider the role of fences — who do they keep out and what do they keep in?

  • Workers at the Armory came from many different countries, as the war efforts sparked an influx of immigration of workers to the Pioneer Valley. Listen to the historical stories of some of the Armory workers, and get inspired to write them a letter, from the present to the past.

  • Ranger Alex gives an insight into the grounds and landscape and buildings of the Armory site, and asks us to imagine the site from the viewpoint of trees, structures and more.

  • Ranger Dani explains how museums like the Armory cherish and protect historical objects, as a way to remember and share stories of the past, through thoughtful curation. What artifact might you leave behind? What object would help tell the story of us, today?

  • A few summers ago, Springfield middle school students at our WMWP/SPAR summer camp curated videos about the museum floor for the public. Take a look at the YouTube Playlist of their work and respond in writing to either the students or to the museum displays.

  • Ranger Scott gives us a historical look at the Commandant’s House, a celebrated building where the leaders of the Armory often met to plan and party. Scott asks us to consider what happens when Nature takes over buildings, as part of a prompt he did for students in Write Out this year.

  • And more …

Writing Marathon Flier 2020

You can also access more ideas:

Peace (in words, gathered),
Kevin

 

WriteOut: Poems All Over the Map

Writing Marathon BINGO

Since early summer, I have been spending time, wandering as a poet through the handful of virtual Writing Marathons that sites in the National Writing Project had hosted. Each site had created interesting maps, with pins and links that led to historical moments or natural landmarks or buildings with fascinating stories.

I had only joined one single marathon in person, myself, when they were on Zoom (I participated in the Hudson Valley Writing Project event, which centered on the amazing Storm King Museum). But I knew I wanted to explore what the other sites had done, too.

So I took my time. I ambled. Wandered. I wrote over many weeks.

With the third year of Write Out now officially underway, I also decided to adapt a HyperDoc project into a Bingo activity for visiting the NWP Writing Marathons. You can access it here and wander about a bit yourself, and maybe find some inspiration to write. Write Out has resources and activities around creating and hosting Writing Marathons. Check it out.

Looking back on the poems I wrote, here are a few that I think are worth sharing. I chose one poem from each location that I think might have some resonance.


Inspired by New York

Oracle of Lacuna

only half
a house
buried in dirt
becomes
the bricks
a writer
might use
to build
a few words
into only
half a home
for a poem


Inspired by Mississippi

All around this small house
you’ll find cubbies and
alcoves, small nooks
for fingers and dreams,
large enough to hold
the historical legacy
of one, Miss McCarty,
the woman of the wash
who worked her days
planning for another’s
opportunities


Inspired by Arizona

Chiricahua

Rock fists
raised
in protest;
these stone gods
with faces
and bodies hidden
stand strong
against the winds
of every day
turmoil;
change arrives,
incremental


Inspired by Kentucky

Some still dig deep
into this earth,
the past condensed
into their skin
like pressed stones,
mottled with dust
and dirt
and stories
and home


Inspired by North Dakota

Standing still
in the exact
center of this
country, one senses
nearly simultaneously
how solid
and yet how fragile
it all is, these fault
lines cracking, and how
tired is this turtle
of foreverness,
its carapace
not quite designed
for something like this


Inspired by Minnesota

Home
is the place
of all sixteen words
spoken in Dakota,
every doorway
another entry
for the lost
becoming welcomed


Inspired by New Hampshire

Brick dust and bones
and kicked stones
and walls torn apart;
the end is where
this starts


Inspired by Louisiana

Remembering Ellis

The radio show played
the entire concert
of the father, Marsalis,
leading his sons, the family
riffing off each other in front
of an audience, with us
listening in, too, but it was
the son’s voice on the passing
of the father that hung so quiet
in the air, like a complex harmony
of shared jazz improvisation


And then, knowing my writing journey was over for now after visiting all of the places, I wrote this final poem, to celebrate the journey and the hope that what begins in one place continues in another.

All Ends Are Merely Beginnings

What at first
might seem like
merely pins on
the map become
stories of a place
when you dig deeper
in – wrapping fingers
into dirt, resting ear
against wood, scratching
words into stone; so sit
with it for awhile and
let the land tell you
its tale of where it’s been
and where we’re going

Peace (in poems and place),
Kevin

Write Out Takes You Outside and Beyond

Coming Soon to a hashtag near you: #writeout

Starting Oct 11 and running for two weeks, the National Writing Project and the National Park Service will once again host Write Out (#writeout), a free online celebration of writing and the simple pleasures of being outside—all gathered by a hashtag! This year’s Write Out features ideas for connecting classroom learning and the out-of-doors under the National Park Service theme of “Stories Around the Campfire,” including online writing prompt “visits” by Park Rangers, storytelling events for a range of age levels, resources for how to run a classroom-based writing marathon, and more. Keep in mind that Write Out also bookends the National Day of Writing on October 20th. Sign up today for the resource-packed newsletter to get updates and curricular resources to bring Write Out to your classroom, park, community, or school yard.

Sign Up →

— from the National Writing Project Newsletter

Come and play with us!

Peace (outside and in),
Kevin

At NWP Write Now: It’s Not the Tech; It’s the Teaching

Not the ToolsI was asked to write a piece over at NWP Write Now about the sudden rush to technology that has engulfed us all in the Pandemic, with a reminder that it is the teaching and teacher and pedagogy that is always more important than the app, site or platform. I found it helpful in the writing of the piece to remember my own advice.

Read Never The Tech; Always The Teaching at NWP Write Now.

Peace (on/off),
Kevin

Facing Diversity and Race in National Park Spaces

Delaware River Gap: PEC

I took part this week in a retreat this week for a project called Parks In Every Classroom, that is run by the National Park Service in the Northeast region to connect educational opportunities with National Park and Historic spaces.

I’ve been working as a teacher and consultant with the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, in my role with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project site, for the past five years or so, helping to run summer camps at the Armory for urban students and facilitating professional development for teachers. This work with PEC is not directly related to my role in the Write Out open learning initiative (coming again in October) with the National Writing Project but there are overlaps in colleagues and the shared goal of Place-Based Learning for students.

This my second Parks In Every Classroom retreat (last year, we went to the Delaware Water Gap Recreational Area; this year, we were home, zooming) and I continue to be impressed by how well-run the days are, how thoughtful and rich the conversations are, and how the participants (about 40 of us) grapple with tough questions.

This year’s theme was all about diversity, equity and race, and we dove deep into systematic racism, looking at schools and also looking at our National Parks, and how we might design educational opportunities to address why people of color don’t seem to use public spaces in large numbers. This forces sites to look at its own demographic make-up, how a park space is marketed to the public, what kinds of community connections are being made (or not) with what groups, etc.

We’ve had articles to read, videos to watch (including one with Robin DiAngelo, of White Fragility fame), and discussion groups. I’ve explored issues of ‘red lining’ (approval of bank loans for homes based on race and location, creating areas of poverty), and it’s impact on the school-prison pipeline; the way standardized testing’s history, originated in the terrible ideas of Eugenics and race, still has resonate today in who is considered intelligent and who has access to college, all via tests that are often rooted in white culture stories and passages; and an analysis of children’s picture books on why only white characters seem to be shown exploring nature spaces and National Parks, and what that message sends to other readers about who owns those spaces and who is not welcomed.

We worked on site-based action plans and having deep, and sometimes uncomfortable, discussions about race and access, and White Privilege, of noticing the different experiences of people based on race. Like many gatherings of teachers, this PEC group is primarily white and female, but outside consultants have joined in to help ups find ways for us to identify problems in our own systems and begin to play for action to address it.

As a teacher who is technically outside of the National Park Service, I applaud the courage of the PEC organizers to take on this issue of systematic racism, particularly knowing our work might be at political odds with the White House, the ultimate boss of federal agencies. That there are National Park Service folks, like those in PEC, willing to move ahead on race issues and White Privilege even in this rhetorical landscape of this particular time is admirable, and gives hope that our institutions can survive this moment we are in.

Peace (working on it),
Kevin

WMWP: Stepping Back but Not Stepping Away

I’ve written many times in this space and others about my first year of teaching – 19 years ago — when the Western Massachusetts Writing Project was a necessary lifeline of sorts, providing me with mentor teachers and ideas for engaging students through writing, and more.

My participation in our Summer Institute my first summer after my first year led to me being invited to an increased role in the writing project site, and then through my interest in technology and the classroom, to rich opportunities within the National Writing Project (connections that remain to this day) that have included CLMOOC and WriteOut and more.

I spent many of my years on the WMWP Leadership Team, mostly as  the technology liaison and then as the co-director for technology, and finally, for the last few years, I took on the role of the co-director of outreach, allowing me to oversee initiatives like social media and partnerships with local news organizations to feature our teachers as writers.

Last month, after a year of transition with an incoming co-director of outreach (Samantha Briggs), I stepped away from the WMWP leadership team. This is all planned and part of the leadership structure of WMWP — intentional transitioning to bring in new people as leaders (like Samantha). Although it feels strange to not call myself a co-director of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project anymore, it also feels a bit freeing. This morning, I started to edit my online profiles, changing my status back to “teacher consultant” and not “co-director of outreach.”

I’m still involved with WMWP, of course, and I continue to facilitate a partnership with the Springfield Armory National Historic Site and will be involved in youth writing programs and teacher outreach, and more through a larger network partnership between the National Writing Project and the National Park Service. I also aim, after a breather of time, to offer to be part of the WMWP Technology Team again, but as a member and not the leader (that would be Tom Fanning, who replaced me for that position, as planned).

WMWP has long been my home as a teacher, and remains so. I value my writing project colleagues and the programs and support it offers, and the vision for how best to support teachers and students through opportunities and meaningful professional development. WMWP is still my home, even as my role shifts a bit.

Peace (in transition),
Kevin

Interactive Fiction with Young Writers (a resource site)

Interactive Fiction Resource SiteLast week, I was immersed in an online summer youth writing program for middle school writers through the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. My topic: Interactive Fiction (with a focus on ‘choose your own ending’ formats). I had 12 young writers with me on a daily journey via Zoom of writing, exploring, creating and sharing.

I created this online resource site with tutorials on the three main platforms that we used: Inklewriter, Twine and Google Slides.  There are also some student examples at the top. Feel free to use and share anything that might be helpful. I’ll share out some reflections of running an online summer writing program in a few days.

Go to Interactive Fiction resource site

I’d also like to give a huge shout-out to my thinking partner on designing this online program (an offshoot of a project I do in the classroom with my own students ) to Bryan Coyle, a teacher-consultant with the Minnesota Writing Project.

I had learned through the National Writing Project network (via Twitter) that Bryan was also doing an Interactive Fiction summer program, in the weeks before me, and so he and I chatted via email about program design. Bryan was so generous in sharing his resources, and I was able to adapt some of his work for my own program. He also wrote me a lengthy email after his program ended, reflecting on what worked for him and what didn’t, offering advice on how to proceed in an online environment with young writers one has never met. I am most grateful for the connection.

Peace (make a choice),
Kevin

NaPoWriMo: For People of Good Will (In a World of Algorithms)

(I am participating in National/Global Poetry Month as I continue to write small poems each morning. – Kevin)

Day Twenty Four: For People of Good Will (In a World of Algorithms)

Face it – it’s fake –
this world’s overflowing
with modern-day
data-mining automated
Argonauts mixing fame
and fortune, remixing the game
we think we knew rules to play,
and the question remains
of whether or not we care
to share or take the blame
of it all, to bend the algorithms
or to break them

Note: This poem follows the fourth and final session of the NWP Grapples project, in which we have been meeting monthly to tackle thorny and ethical issues of AI and learning, and society at large, and it has been fascinating to dive into the topics. Last night, we spent some time looking at and grappling with what’s real and what’s fake, but a larger discussion led to Richard talking about finding hope and beauty and humanity (a theme that ran through all of the Grapple sessions) in the connections afforded by any technology, and that “people of good will” (referencing gatherings of Civil Rights movement) can push back against algorithms that either purposefully or inadvertently dehumanize our experiences.

Peace (and hope in humanity),
Kevin