Pre-WriteOut: Making a ‘Zine

With WriteOut around the corner (Oct.9-23), the National Writing Project is hosting a series of invitations for “pre-makes” before the official events, and the first was an invite to create a ‘zine.

I did my best, making a small ‘zine about the path of music across the pages.

Here’s how to make one (thanks to Margaret for sharing):

And the WriteOut invite:

Peace (and trying to make it),
Kevin

Write Out: A Collection of Journals

As we gear up for Write Out 2022, with a STEAM theme, we are also exploring how notebooks and journals can be used, and have been used, for inquiry, writing, data collection, etc. My teaching and online friend, Brian Kelley, had gathered and curated a collection of journal pages and information from many artists, scientist, writers, etc. and he gave me permission to pull them into a video collection to share with others.

Write Out takes place in October and is a partnership between the National Writing Project and the National Park Service for place-based learning. There are free resources for teachers, and live events. More information about Write Out is here, including a sign-up for a newsletter.

Peace (sharing it),
Kevin

Book Review: Old Growth

I am pretty sure I heard about this collection from Maria Popova at Brain Pickings (now called The Marginalian and always worth a follow, for sure) and I was intrigued by the mention of essays about trees (particularly when I was engaged in the Write Out project). Old Growth (The Best Writing About Trees from Orion Magazine) is what it says — a beautiful gathering of stories and essays and poems about the forests and trees of our world.

There are personal narratives here, and there are some slightly analytical scientific pieces (but still very accessible), and there are explorations of climate change and there are the discovery of old and wonderful trees in the most inaccessible places.  There are childhood memories, and some pieces are only adjacent in theme to trees (such as a wonderful piece about the writer and his immigrant father pruning trees together). Poems fill the gaps between the prose pieces, too.

I read these pieces slowly, a few each week, in order to savor the substance of the words, and as always, I came away with a deeper appreciation of the trees and foliage of our world, and how much we often taken their natural magic and generosity for granted.

I recommend this collection for anyone who wonders, and maybe worries, about our wood companions on this planet.

Peace (rooted),
Kevin

Book Review: Campfire Stories (Tales from America’s National Parks)

Campfire Stories Book | Parks Project | National Park Gifts

We bought this book for educators who took part in a Professional Development course through a partnership between Western Massachusetts Writing Project and the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, and then the Pandemic hit, and so we only recently were able to get the book to those past participants because the Springfield Armory was closed up. (We also sort of forgot about the books).

And I finally, too, got my own copy of Campfire Stories: Tales from America’s National Parks, edited by Dave Kyu and Illysa Kyu, and how happy I was to immerse myself in the stories of Acadia, Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountains, Zion, Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks.

Each section opens with an introduction by the Kyus (a married couple) about the park and then they share the research they have done to surface stories of the places, collected from library archives, and oral storytellers, and interviews with Native American elders and more. The editors purposely avoided the dominant stories of these places — the official stories, crafted by park officials — in order to explore other narratives, many from the margins.

This approach – to spend time with forgotten voices — works very well, as the collection of short essays, stories, poems and more bring the reader into the spaces from different angles, always with the awe and inspiration that each of these National Parks bring. I was almost disappointed that they only were able to do this work for six parks, but what a collection of parks!

The Kyus also framed these as “campfire stories” — thus, the title — meaning they chose narratives that could, and maybe should, be read aloud. I know as I read the stories, I could hear the voices of the writers and oral storytellers, and poets, in my my mind. The editors chose their pieces wisely.

This book was a nice addition for me to the Write Out celebration from October, reminding us all how to explore our natural spaces, and our National Parks, through story, remembering that the dominant narratives we often hear and read about spaces is merely the surface of something deeper, and richer, and discovering those voices makes for a grand adventure.

Some quotes:

Peace (in the wild),
Kevin

#WriteOut Park Ranger Writing Prompts Map

Ranger Writing Prompts for Write Out

If you missed any of the National Park Ranger prompts from Write Out this year, or last, I have gathered most of them together onto a Padlet Map. I like the visual, showing links across the country to the various National Park sites where rangers have participated. We used quite a few in my sixth grade classroom to spark inquiry and writing.

Check it out

Made with Padlet

And remember, all resources with Write Out remain available, even though the official two weeks are now over. It’s always a good time to write out.

Peace (on the map),
Kevin

A Gift of Calligraphy: Transforming a Nature Poem

Poem Calligraphied

I regularly share my morning small poems over at Mastodon each day, connecting with some other writers, and then share it on Twitter, doing the same. It’s just a few places where my poems might catch a breath and live for a bit. Sometimes, there’s reaction. Sometimes, not. It’s fine either way. I write poems for myself, to get my writing brain ready for the day.

So I was honored when a connection (Welshpixie is their social media name) on Mastodon (someone I have connected with there before — see their art site here) asked if they could take one of my nature/tree poems from the Write Out project and practice their calligraphy skills with the poem.

Of course, I said yes, and then I was so very pleased when they shared it out to me. It’s a beautiful remix, where the wording is art and the convergence of nature and calligraphy (plus, the trees at the bottom) was just wonderful.

Peace (in wonder),
Kevin

WriteOut: Making Tree Maps

For one of our last activities for Write Out, I took my sixth grade students outside the school building for a long walk around the perimeter of the property. Notebooks in hand, their task was simple: count the trees by making a tree map of the school property. We first watched the video (above) to explore the effort that had gone in to trying to tally how many trees are in the world (and to look at the very cool mapping project).

We counted about 40 trees on the main property of our school (not including the trees lines of the property border) and in doing so, my students really “noticed” the trees for the first time, asking about the varieties of trees, and why one stretch of seven trees was planted in a single file, and why did the Weeping Cherry appear like a bush, and I explained how a group of students planted some of the trees on the playground years ago to create shade for future students (now, there is shady areas, which the current students enjoy).

We also watched this Park Ranger video from last year, about trees and roots and Sequoias:

The Tree Map activity was pretty simple — the video of the world’s trees sparked high interest in what was right outside our window, and any opportunity to go for a writing walk on a beautiful New England Autumn day is always worth it.

Peace (planted),
Kevin

WriteOut Cadences: Remixing The Sounds of the Rainforest

With the themes of ‘Palettes, Storyboard and Cadences’ for Write Out still resonating with me, I found an interesting high-definition audio file of the Hoh Rainforest in Olympia National Park and I decided to do a remix, adding a musical composition which I created, inspired by the sounds of the rain forest.

I worked to make the music non-intrusive to the sounds of the rain forest, tempering the beats and tracks to be as complimentary as possible. In particular, the frog and bird sounds seemed to be the guide of where the beat would be, even if not a traditional counting off.

I found some Creative Commons images of Hoh and I found that the combination of image, sound, and music was fascinating to pull together, creating another soundscape from afar of a most interesting place.

Peace (sounds like),
Kevin