Before The WMWP/SPAR WriteOut Event

Sun Shade Temperature Data Collage

Later today, the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and the Springfield Armory National Historic Site is hosting a live event for the national Write Out project. We’ll be at the Springfield Armory grounds, facilitating activities for educators on Climate Change, STEAM, Data Journals and more. It’s going to be a beautiful day and our two hour session will be outdoors, using the park property as our classroom.

One of the activities will be centered on understanding the impact of tree plantings as part of heat mitigation efforts and Urban Tree Canopies. We’ll be doing some measuring of temperatures, and creating data charts. I figured I should try it out myself, so yesterday, I did a little research around my own home. (see above).

There really is a huge difference between shade and sun areas, even during this Autumn time of year when things are cooling off.

Meanwhile, this morning’s Daily Create for DS106 was to design a launcher for Seed Bombs, which are made of special clay and hyperlocal seeds. We’re going to be making and launching Seed Bombs today at our event, but I went creative with another saxophone music seed for the design prompt.

Sax Seed Bomb Launcher

Peace (and plantings),

Write Out: A Focus On A Scientist

Featuring Brian May

Last night, in a live session, Karen Romano Young led teachers through her wonderful project — I Was A Kid — that shines an artistic spotlight on a diverse group of scientists. She creates these one-pagers (after extensive interviews and visits with the scientists in their fields of study) and I thought it would be interesting to try a modified version myself, to see if her work might inspire something I could do with my students.

Last night, she shared insightful interviews with scientists, chatting about how they use data journals and field notebooks for their work, and it was pretty fascinating to hear the scientists and to see their journals in all of the variety of forms.

For my activity that is inspired by the work of Karen Romano Young, I chose Brian May, the guitarist and founder of Queen, because of his work as a creative artists a much a his work as an astrophysicist, and I just find his life to be pretty fascinating for the way his curiosity sparks his path forward.

I did my research via Brian May’s website and Wikipedia, and used an art app called Sketchpad to create my piece. The image used a photograph of May, but filtered with Lunapic for effect.

More about Write Out and the use of STEAM notebooks:

Peace (and music),

Slice of Life: Hiking, Biking, Boating

tree in fall(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).

Kayak in Vermont

Now, I am planning out ways to get my students involved in the Write Out activities, from video writing prompts by National Park Service rangers, to STEAM-themed data and writing journals, and more.

Peace (in the midst of seasonal change),

Write Out Kicks Off — We Hike Into History

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.

Learn more: 

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).

Peace (in wooded history),

Poetry: Focus On Nature

Winter SleepHere 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.

Snake in Water

Butterfly Loop

Peace (and noticing),

Write Out: Listening Spots

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.

Peace (and listening),

Book Review: Rewilding (Bringing Wildlife Back To Where It Belongs)

 Rewilding: Bringing Wildlife Back Where It Belongs

This is a beautiful book. Rewilding (Bringing Wildife Back To Where It Belongs) by David A. Steen and Chiara Fedele is a work of art, but a work of art with a message about ways to save animals.

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: 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.

Peace (saving it),