Posts Tagged ‘Louisiana wetlands’

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

The last two weeks have offered a wealth of writing inspiration as we participated in #write0ut, a National Writing Project and National Park Service collaboration. Teaching gifted kids challenges me to find quality writing activities that will inspire, motivate, and engage my young students. #Writeout 2021 did not disappoint. And the resources will remain available on the website here.

My students have created storyboards with Storyboard That about geological changes over time.

Chloe’s storyboard about Louisiana’s loss of wetlands.

They wrote poetry. Things to do if you’re a puppy by Avalyn:

Pound on a window when you want
to go on a walk, purr when you want pets.
Go outside and dig when you’re bored.
only bark when you’re in danger.

Avalyn, 2nd grade

On Friday, we ventured outside to the playground. At one school, there is a large live oak. My students sat underneath the tree for writing inspiration and gathered natural materials to create an art piece.

Katie gathers leaves for her notebook.
Avalyn observes a live oak tree.
Jaden’s are collage and poem

Golden petaled flowers
spring up from the ground

Leaves slowly drift
from each branch

Clouds painted
on the sky’s canvas

Tall great trees
with green leaves

Spider webs
glisten in the sunlight

Squawking birds
angrily yell

Fellow rodent squirrels
sprint across branches

For nature
For habitats
For life

Jaden, 6th grade (form inspired by Irene Latham)

Another #writeout prompt asked students to make a poster. We used Canva and Adalyn create this one. On Canva it’s animated. You can view the animated version here.

Created by Adalyn, 3rd grade using Canva

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I have never been an activist. For the most part, I am an introvert. Introverts do not usually travel outside of their comfort zone. And, for me, activism, speaking out for or against a cause, has not been within my comfort zone.

Last week a friend invited me to come to her house to write letters to our senators and representatives about the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline. Rose Anne is a soft-spoken, humble woman. Activism was all new to her as it was to me, but we had a common concern for our precious wetland environment.

In the sunroom of her bayou side home, a few friends gathered. Opal brought banana bread. I learned about the texting number Resist Bot. I was amazed at how quickly and efficiently I could send a letter to my U.S. senators and representatives. I also wrote an email to my state representatives.

Our main topic of concern was the absence of an Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Impact Study. Already our Louisiana bayous and waterways have been subject to culling and drilling and endless human invasion. Little consideration has been given to the environment.

The Bayou Bridge Pipeline is a proposed extension of the Dakota Access Pipeline. This section would connect Lake Charles, LA to refineries in St. James Parish through the Atchafalaya Basin. This swamp land is already riddled with abandoned wells. Not only is this area home to many species of birds and wildlife, it also lies above an aquifer that provides water to many people.

Who knows what my little act of opposition will affect, but I felt empowered by the experience. This is a cause that is close to my heart. The proposed action endangers the beauty as well as the safety of my home.

Rose Anne sent us a message on Facebook that Representative Richmond has sent a letter to ask for an Environmental Impact Study. That’s a step in the right direction. I received an emailed reply from the legislative assistant to my state representative that he agrees with me. Another step. Step by step, letter by letter, I can voice my opinion and know that someone is listening.

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I’m one of these people who believes that every day should be Mother’s Day or Teacher Appreciation Day or Earth Day.  But these annual celebrations serve a purpose.  They remind us that we need to stop and think about Mom or your teacher or the Earth.

As a teacher, part of my responsibility is to teach the truth.  I believe in Science.  Scientists are trained, dedicated people who care deeply about the world.  I know them.  They do not make things up.  One sign I saw online from the March for Science said, “Sometimes the truth is inconvenient.”  That does not mean that it is to be denied or disregarded.

In my area of the Earth, wetlands are disappearing at a rate of a football field an hour according to the US Geological Survey. Because of science, data, environmental agencies, and yes, federal funding, this trend is turning toward the positive.  When we pay attention, change can happen for the better.  We need our wetlands.

In Louisiana, wetlands have come into the limelight.  Educational programs help teach our students about their own home.  Education about the environment can begin in your own backyard.

Next week I am taking a student to meet with a water testing chemist just down the street from our school.  A few months ago, my students met with a naturalist about an oak tree in our area.  They learned about the importance of preserving our oaks.

I did not join the local March for Science, but I am being intentional about how and what I teach my students.  They are the future stewards of our Earth.  It is our responsibility to make them care.

I am writing poetry every day for National Poetry Month.  Today I wrote an ode to the Earth.  I used pictures from my files to create an Animoto video.


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Last week I led myself and my students into image poems.  We imagined a scene in nature (or on water) and wrote to this list of line prompts from the River of Words Teacher’s Guide. 

Prompts for the Teacher:

~ Think about this spot. Sketch it if you like.

~ Picture yourself in this location.Write a line or sentence that describes what you are doing and exactly where you are: “Sitting on a sandbar on the banks of the Calcasieu River in IndianVillage, Louisiana.”

~ In your imagination, look up.What do you see? Begin this line with “Above me” or “Over my head.”Try to use a simile in this line.

~ Now look into the distance, as far as you can see.Write what you see.

~ Describe a sound you might hear in this place.

~ What is on your right?

~ Hone in on a single detail in this scene.Try to describe it, using an unusual or vivid verb in the line.

~ Shift your perspective and your position—stand up, flop down, walk away—and notice another detail in the landscape: the quality of light, the time of day, a seasonal plant or animal,for example.

~ Finally, read over your images and see if you can conclude with a reflective line that somehow captures how you feel about being in this place.(You might caution students not to rush this line; it may occur to them later as they compose their poem).

rope swing

Swinging by the bayou on the grandmother oak,
legs curled around knotted rope,

Above me branches drape like outstretched arms
holding strong,

Sky opens up to a flash of egret flickering through the trees.

The echo of a far-off motor drums the quiet.

The holding tree is the oldest oak I know.
Hanging moss twirls in a wind-dance.

Jumping from the rope-grip,
my feet fall on fronds of greening fern.

My swinging is a brief sparkle in this grandmother’s eye.

–Margaret Simon

Here is Vannisa’s poem.  She pointed to a postcard from Marjorie Pierson’s collecting of wetlands photographs as her inspiration. Click here to view the image.

Standing in the shade,
on the edge of a swamp
where there are cypress trees
with snakes and alligators
lurking within the waters

Over my head,
thick branches and leaves
sway over me as a roof,
with moss dropping down
like the strings of balloons
that fly to the ceiling

In the distance
more trees and gators are
still creeping underneath

Insect buzzing
filling my ears,
the tweets of birds
travel from above

On my right,
a tree trunk
with bugs crawling in a line
making their way up and around

Mother duck and her ducklings
swim all over
yawing around places where
mother knows it’s unsafe

Moving away from the shade,
the water reflects
the afternoon sun into my eyes,
glistening in the light

This artistic landscape
won’t be able to stay forever,
you won’t notice it,
but the wetlands are quickly washing away.

–Vannisa, 6th grade

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Photo by Marjorie Pierson, all rights reserved.

Photo by Marjorie Pierson, all rights reserved.

I’d like to introduce you to a my friend and cousin, photographer Marjorie Pierson. Marjie has an amazing eye for light in nature. She lives in North Carolina, teaches a fine art class at Duke, and sponsors a girls’ art club at Durham Academy. Her mother lives here (actually, across the street),so Marjie visits often. She always finds time to explore the bayous and marshes and take photographs. She creates large prints on canvas that look like oil paintings.

Marjie did not visit my class on her latest visit, but her photographs did. She has developed an inspiring website. I told my students about Marjie’s interest in wetlands preservation and talked to them about writing ekphrastic poetry. I used a 6-room organizer from Georgia Heard’s book Awakening the Heart.
Then I played classical music while the students watched a slideshow of wetlands beauty and wrote.

Magic happened as magic often does when writing combines with art. Here are some of the poems my students wrote.

Song of the Wetlands

The beautiful details of the wetlands.
Shadows reflecting off of the water.
I am silent.
I smell sweet and damp.
I feel wet, mossy, grassy and slimy.
I taste bitter, salty water and sweet.
I am pretty places
flowing everywhere,
a wetland full of
I am precious and you can preserve me to save me before I am gone.

Silhouette of the Sea

The fine art of blue dancing waters
embrace the feel of warmth

reflections of green
sounds of nature

a wind in the silhouette

smells like freshly cut grass
small droplets drip
on the smallest blade of grass

I’m Home

A green line of cane,
above the tan dirt,
under the bright blue
Louisiana sky.
Colorful, like a
shining rainbow after
a harsh rain,
like a path full of
roses and daisies.
There is a hushing noise,
made by the stalks slowly
and gently rubbing together,
hush. hush, hush.
With the touch of the angel’s wing
so delicate and free, reassuring
you that anything is possible.
Always giving off the soft, welcoming,
harmless, I’m home feeling.
I’m home,
I’m home,
I’m home.

Join the Poetry Friday blog hop at Merely Day by Day.

Join the Poetry Friday blog hop at Merely Day by Day.

Check out Matt Forrest’s Mortimer Minute over at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme.

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