(This is for the Slice of Life, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective and then all through March — every single day … You write, too.)
Here in New England, this October is breathtakingly beautiful. The trees are in the midst of change. The air is crisp and clean but still warm enough for comfort once the day kicks in. And with the start of the annual Write Out this long weekend (Write Out runs for the next two weeks), I was determined to get outside and be outside, and I am happy to say: mission accomplished.
On Saturday, we went for a long hike in a neighboring town, on a historic trail. On Sunday, I was for a long bike ride and found a nice “sit spot” along a canal, which is part of a state park area. And yesterday, my wife and I drove an hour north, into Brattleboro, Vermont, where we found a nice boat put-in that began in an alcove of the Connecticut River, and then led us to the river itself, where for a long time, we didn’t see a single person (until a fishing boat showed up).
Write Out is a partnership between the National Writing Project and the National Park Service, and it starts today and runs for two weeks. There are plenty of free resources, events, writing prompt and more for teachers, students, families and others to do as a celebration of place-based learning, with a STEAM twist.
We hike a lot but we always try to get out on Write Out weekend, which falls during the start of the changing of the trees here in New England. Yesterday was no exception and we went into the woods to learn more about the disastrous flooding that took place here in our area in the 1800s when a massive dam fell apart, causing the river to rush downstream, destroying villages and killing more than 150 people, and forever altering the landscape.
The Williamsburg Historic Dam Trail had informational markers, and as we wandered into the forest, we imagined the size of the dam (40 feet tall and 500 feet wide) through what remains of it and the damage it must have done (and we got angry about how the wealthy owners got away with it, even though it was their negligence that led to the disaster).
Here are three small poems from this week, as part of my morning “write a poem” routine (and don’t worry too much about editing and revision). These all come via one word prompts off Mastodon, and dovetail nicely into the start of the place-based, nature-themed Write Out project that kicks off tomorrow.
My friend and NWP colleague shared this out for Write Out (which kicks off this Sunday) as part of a prompt about finding your own Writing Spots. Here, this video essay focuses on a Listening Spot in the natural world, and it is just beautiful.
As the title suggests, this picture book for older readers explores the tricky science of re-introducing species of animals and plants — who are either no longer in their native landscapes or are on the brink of being lost to the landscapes — to their native habitats.
From the Tigers of Sariska to Snot Otters to Wild Horses, Lynx and Peregrine Falcons, to Island Foxes and Maine Caribou, and so much more, the book explores the success, failures and worries of the movement to help animals get a solid footing in places where humans or climate change have forced them out. The book acknowledges rather openly how difficult the process can be, and how controversial it can become, particularly when it comes to larger predators being introduced in areas where farms and communities have been established.
But the overall theme is one of finding balance in nature, and of humans doing their part to perhaps right some of the wrongs of the past, when our need for land and resources overrode our need to share the land with other creatures. There is no one fix, nor one way to make amends, the book suggests, but perhaps, with our own skills in science and innovation, we can help some species to survive.
The artwork in the book is wonderful, and engaging, and this book would be a perfect fit for any upper elementary or middle school classroom.
Note: I read this book because of Write Out kicks off in a few days. More information is here: https://writeout.nwp.org/ It’s free, place-based activities connecting writing and inquiry to the National Park Service, and other spaces, through the coordination of the National Writing Project.
My National Writing Project friends down in Southern Connecticut are hosting an event this month at the Weir Farm National Historic Site, inviting their educators to a theme of “Reading Landscapes & Writing Nature” for the 2022 Write Out Project. Bryan C shared out a StoryMap he has been building, and shared it out, and I followed his map and story, but I kept coming back to the phrase: Reading Landscapes.
I had this inspiration to make a piece of instrumental music, using that theme of “Reading Landscapes” that eventually morphed into “Listening To Landscapes” as my guiding muse. So I pulled out my keyboard, opened up some music software, and began to compose.
All through the making of the music, I had certain memories in my mind — of wandering through a forest on a path, of pausing on a rocky overlook on a mountain top, of floating on a river on kayak, of sensing peace in a dark wooded area, of returning to the path.
In WriteOut, which starts on October 9, some of the pre-work has centered on making journals. The second Make suggestion was to create a Nature Journal with paper, rubber bands and a stick for a spine. I went out to the yard to collect leaves for my journal experiment.