Dipping our toes into the Gulf

oil spill question
I started out Day One of the school year with a discussion around what my sixth graders know about the oil spill in the Gulf and what has been happening in the recovery and recapping efforts over the summer months (later that same day, I found out about the explosion of another platform). I shared with one of the interactive maps online that shows the spread of the oil from May to August.

I explained to them that throughout the course of the year, we will be doing inquiry projects and environmental-themed writing that centers around these issues as part of the Voices on the Gulf endeavor. My hope is to touch a wide range of issues as we move forward. I explained this to my principal the other day, and he was very excited about it, wondering how we could use Skype or videoconferencing to connect with other students, particularly those who are involved who live along the Gulf Coast region. I’m going to work on that, I told him.

But first, I asked my homeroom class: What questions do you have about the oil spill? I took their answers and created a Wordle of the responses, which is now posted up at the Voices on the Gulf.

You, and your students, are also invited to join us on this collaborative project. You can read more information about what is required (it all depends on you) and how to get started.

Peace (in the starting),

PS — I’ll leave you with a song that I wrote during late August about my feelings around the Gulf’s recovery. I shared it at Voices on the Gulf, but I was on my blogging vacation back then.

Listen to Ocean Dreams

Joining “Voices on the Gulf”

August means I am already thinking of the start of  the school year , and I decided this week that I am going to join in on the new Voices of the Gulf project that is being launched by Paul Allison, Chris Sloan and others to galvanize students around environmental issues.

I’m not sure how the work with Voices on the Gulf will emerge for my students, but I do like the idea of connecting many youth voices from all over the country together to share writing, images, videos and resources, and then move into positive community action, that stem from the aftermath of the Gulf Oil Disaster.

Last spring, I spent an entire day talking with my students about oil, the Gulf of Mexico, environmental issues and energy policy. I wish I had had that discussion earlier in the year, because they were so fired up to do some sort of community action project even as time ran out on us. I sort of felt like I let them down.

Ideally, I’d like to use the Voices on the Gulf site forinquiry projects for my sixth graders for the course of the year — a common theme that connects at various points. I need to think more, reflect a bit on what that might look like in my Language Arts classes. I’ll share out as I know more myself, and I hope that you, too, might consider having your class join the Voices on the Gulf venture.

Paul and Susan Ettenheim and others have been discussing the idea for a few weeks at Teachers Teaching Teachers, and the podcasts are slowly being published by Paul. It’s a good place for me to start thinking. Their guests have included teachers in areas directly affected by the oil spill, and their students will be part of the Voices on the Gulf, which is a great reason for me to get my students involved.

Right now, Paul is establishing some teacher leaders to help coordinate various elements of the site, and Gail Desler and I have been designated as folks who will be helping with the element of younger students (elementary) on a channel called Our Space (K-6) where students can share stories, poems, reflections, photos and more. Don’t ask me about the logistics, yet, since I am not quite there with the planning.

The other day, Paul asked teachers to begin checking out the Voices on the Gulf website, and adding content, so I created this poem about the Gulf  and shared it there.


The Gulf:  A Poem

By Kevin Hodgson

by negligence
by storms
the coast groans under the weight
of our desires

We ignore the sun
argue against the wind
temper our fears of fusion
and dig deeper than ever
into the depths of the waters

and pray the pipes can hold
so that we can illuminate
and communicate
and move from here to there
in a trail of exhaustion

set out behind us
even as we ignore the near past
in order to gaze into the near future
with no consequences of our actions
on this fragile world

There’s room for you and your students, too, at Voices on the Gulf.

Peace (in the inquiry),