#Writeout: Hanging Out to Talk Writing Out

WriteOut Hangout2Last night, the Write Out project had its second Google Hangout, and it was a full house of educators and park rangers. Dorothy and Vicki did a masterful job of coordinating the large group of participants.

We celebrated some of the work already being done in various spaces, explored ways we might get student writing published and connected during the school year, and then we focused a lot on partnerships between National Writing Project sites and National Park sites. The Write Out venture, now in its second week, is designed to help connect teachers and park rangers, and to encourage place-based writing (even if you don’t live or teach near a National Park.)

I joined in the discussion, too, with my NPS partner  and friend – Scott Gausen — from the Springfield Armory. We shared our summer camp for youths and the professional development we do for teachers at the Armory itself, as we explore themes of social justice and civic action with primary source materials at the historic site.

Here is the recording of the conversation from last night:

Note: there’s a Twitter Chat tomorrow (Thurs) at the #writeout hashtag, starting at 7 p.m. EST.

Peace (hanging out),

Slice of Life: Get Out and Wander Around

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I’ve been part of the Write Out project, and although I have in the past spent quite some time at our local National Park Historic Site — the Springfield Armory — mostly the past week, I have been wandering our local neighborhood on foot to pay closer attention to nature.

Yesterday, I started a walk before the summer rains returned. In the early morning, it was downpours for long stretches of time, following on the heels of rain the day before. I wanted to see the river, and boy, was it flowing! I had wanted to get a few more pictures, but the rains drove me home.

After the Rain

Recently, I wandered on foot to the nearby city-protected watershed area. It’s a beautiful place, and I startled a Blue Heron on my walk and then watched it float effortlessly and seemingly with patience right over the reservoir. I didn’t get the heron on camera because I didn’t want to interrupt the moment.

Walking the Watershed

Finally, the nearby bike path is also a protected Greenway Space, so I spent time along there the past few days, too, poking my way off the foot trails.

Mill River Greenway Walk

What have you been seeing in your world?

Learn more about Write Out, a partnership between the National Writing Project and the National Park Service.

Peace (in the world),

From Possibilities to Connections

Write Out Map, wk 2

We’re entering the second week of Write Out, where the themes do a natural shift from “mapping possibilities” to “mapping connections” as we urge educators and park rangers to make plans and efforts to connect with each other.

We have nearly 85 pins on our GeoLocation Map (which has been viewed now more than 1,300 times) and this week’s newsletter is now out with all sorts of invitations for you to think about. While the hope is that teachers will write with rangers, the larger aim is to make connections so that students will also have those opportunities.

As with the first week, we have broken down possibilities based on time you have available, so whether you only have a little bit of time (you might Wander) or a significant amount of time (you might Camp Out), there are possibilities for you to consider.

Read the second Write Out Newsletter

See you on the trails! (Live events include a Connect with Me Google Hangout session on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. est and a Twitter Chat on Thursday at 7 p.m. est).

Peace (outside and in),


#Writeout Soundscape Poem: Hiking the Wild Mind

from National Park Service Sound Gallery


For our Write Out project, Ranger Cris Constantine of the NPS Northeast Regional Office shared out a wonderful page of park resources for teachers, which included a link from the Park Service of collected sounds from various park sites. I soon found myself immersed in the audio. I decided a day of approaching rain was a good day for an imaginary hike in the form of a poem, with embedded audio clips after each stanza. The source link for each audio file is down below. — Kevin


Hiking the Wild Mind

This morning, we heard
the rain fall
after many days
of sun
(audio link)


Stuck inside,
imagine yourself
on a journey

of sound
(audio link)


Eyes closed:
Hike the hills
Sneak behind the rock
of the mountain top
to watch nature
play its terrible games

of BigHornRam collision.
(audio link)


In the distance,
the pack always hunts,
calls, careens into the bush:
coyotes on the prowl.
(audio link)


At night,
another world of
the wilderness
comes alive:
what is it that
flies above you
below the stars?
(audio link)


Again, by day,
the unknown unfurls its wings
sings a song of
the wild edges,
places you have yet
to imagine
(audio link)


And there, beneath your feet,
where the rains have loosened
the earth, where the moisture
has woken up
the sleepy-eyed creatures of the season,
you startle that which startles you
(audio link)


So settle down,
stake a tent,
claim some ground:
listen until the morning
arrives, and wonder if the sun
still follows the stars
(audio link)


Gather up your world
and head back


Peace (in the sounds),

PS — Sources via National Park Service Natural Sound Project:

#Writeout: Old Maps Uncover Stories

Maps of the Armory collage

Spending time at the Springfield Armory Historic Site immerses you in many maps. They are all over the place, helping to tell the story of the Armory over the course of time. Our writing project has a strong partnership with the Armory, where we have run professional development for teachers and summer camps for urban middle school students.

The collage above is some of the maps on display, and below is a poem I wrote about maps.

This is for Write Out, an open learning project sponsored by the partnership between the National Writing Project and the National Park Service.

Peace (outside the grid),


#WriteOut Twitter Chat Curation: Exploring the Terrain

write with wonder meme

Last night, Bethany hosted an amazing Twitter Chat for WriteOut, in which participants explored a sense of place, the value of maps as a literacy tools, whose stories are not being told and more. This curation does not collect every tweet (there were more than 250 responses to just six questions, if my count is right), but I tried to gather as many as I could that kept the discussion flow going. I apologize if something you tweeted that seemed important to you got left out of the mix.

From a personal stance, I found the thread about a common appreciation for maps to uncover stories to be interesting, and it makes me think about explicit teaching of not just reading maps (valuable) but also the making of maps to tell stories. And there is the notion of what is left off the map, of course, and whose hand is behind the construction of a map (and what they want to highlight and what they want to leave off).

I also think the final question — about whose stories remain hidden in public spaces like National Parks and other historic sites — is critical for teachers to help students grapple with. Using primary sources and other historic materials, we can find those stories, and bring them to the surface in interesting ways. Park spaces are part of a nation’s memory, and we can’t forget the stories of those who have been lost or purposefully marginalized.

The curated chat is here, via Wakelet.

Peace (gathering and collecting),

#Writeout: Heading Outside to Listen to the World

Mill River Greenway Walk

Since yesterday was the World Listening Day and another day in Write Out, I decided to head into the woods to a local protected greenway space to listen to nature.

First, I captured my walk in sound and video.

And then, I stopped in another spot and composed a poem on the fly (no paper) as I put my audio recorder app right near the bubbling stream, so that the water became both the inspiration and the soundtrack.

What are you working on?

Peace (in the listening world),

Map with Me: A #WriteOut Hangout

Map of Connection

Last night, we gathered together for the first live event for Write Out, an open learning experience that comes from the partnership between the National Writing Project and the National Park Service with a focus on place-based learning and writing.

In the Map with Me hangout, we talked about the partnership between NPS and NWP, the value of making maps as a literacy device for storytelling, why and how place can inform learning and writing, and what we have been up with Write Out.

We also did a mapping activity in the chat, asking folks to map out an organization they are part of. We then shared our maps during the course of the session (mine is above, showing the bridges between our Western Massachusetts Writing Project at the University of Massachusetts with the Springfield Armory Historic Site and the urban school system and the specific social justice middle school we work with.)

You can find more information about Write Out at the website.

Peace (mapping it),

PS — there is a WriteOut Twitter Chat tomorrow (Thurs) at 7 p.m. est, using the #writeout hashtag. If you have never done a chat, we have a tutorial with helpful tips and information.

#WriteOut: Mapping the Immigrant Experience at the Springfield Armory

Write Out Springfield Armory Map Photo Icon

One of the hopes for Write Out — an open learning experience now underway by National Writing Project and the National Park Service — is to use mapping as a way to surface stories, and make connections. I’ve worked with the Springfield Armory now for a few years through our Western Massachusetts Writing Project. I’ve led professional development for teachers and facilitated summer camps for inner city youths at the Armory.

What often surfaces during our dives into primary sources and themes of social justice is the immigrant worker experience, and how many of the workers during the heyday of the Armory arrived in Springfield, Massachusetts, from other parts of the world, and that immigration wave changed the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts forever.

The map I created, using Google’s My Maps, is designed to visually show the country of origin of a number of Springfield Armory workers, complete with a short biography, and connections from their home countries to the Armory itself. Using primary source material, I found short bios and photographs of seventeen workers and I asked some of the other teachers and rangers involved with me at the Springfield Armory to record readings of the text.

Each pin of each immigrant worker has an image and a voice narration as a video.

What comes to visibility are the stories of these workers, with snippets of their home countries, their families here, the work they did at the Armory, and other odd facts. It’s not much but it’s enough to give a flavor of the immigrant experience, and the map makes those stories more visible than ever.

Here are all the videos, gathered together into one video:

How can maps help tell your stories? (There is a helpful guide to various maps at Write Out, if you need inspiration)

Peace (coordinate it),



GeoLocating Yourself on the #WriteOut Map

We have a map theme going for the Write Out project, an open learning invitation now underway from the National Writing Project and the National Park Service designed to support place-based writing. Teachers, park rangers and writers are invited to play with media and writing, and the theme this week is Mapping Possibilities.

Thus, the open and editable Google map.

If you are not sure how to add a pin of your location (and hopefully a video or an image or some text, too) to the Write Out GeoLocate Yourself Map, we’ve created a tutorial to help with step-by-step instructions. You do need a Google account (unfortunately) and Chrome browser seems to work the best. And you need to be at the map in Google (you can’t add a pin here, in this embeddable version, which is a read-only version)

We’ve got 40 pins and counting …

You also can read the first newsletter to get a sense of some of the many different mapping-style activities you might want to consider with Write Out. There are also a ton of resources around place-based learning and around the use of mapping to tell stories in many ways.

Peace (coordinate it),