Brewster 5th Graders Paint Pictures with Words

Spring 2017

perla perezLast winter, Brewster 5th graders participated in a 5-week poetry residency, working with Methow Arts teaching poet Kelleigh McMillan. Students became familiar with “painting pictures with words” and with relating their emotions to the natural world. Each week they experimented with a different poetic concept: simile, metaphor, free verse, stanza, etc. Students wrote poems about their bedrooms, about particular months, about the seasons, and about favorite colors.

“Pink feels like bubble gum in my mouth,” writes one student.

“Red tastes like the dark red cherry so sweet,” writes another.

As students explored expressing emotions through poetry, they crafted lines like “I know there is a rainbow somewhere in my head” and “I am half of 20 butterflies, fluttering in my stomach as I grow older.”

Some used poetry as a means of expressing sadness, anger, or frustration. Others wrote poems of love and hope. The final project involved writing a poem collaboratively, based on US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s poet laureate project, La Casa de Colores.

Says Herrera, “this is a house for all voices, [where we] will feed the hearth and heart of our communities with creativity and imagination.” By writing collaboratively, students become a part of each other’s creative families, sharing the challenge and joy of creative expression.

After the poetry was complete, students worked with artist Bruce Morrison to draw pictures of their poems using oil pastels, then covered their pictures with a watercolor wash–a “resist” technique, where the oil pastels are impervious to the watercolors and thus “resist” absorbing the watercolors, creating interesting texture and color. The poems were collected and put into small books, and a copy of each book was given to each classroom, with the artwork used as covers.

The project was thought to be complete. But when WA State Poet Laureate Tod Marshall heard of the project while doing a follow-up poetry residency with those same students–now 6th graders–he decided that each student should have a copy of the poetry book. Marshall personally funded the printing of 100 copies of the books, which will be distributed to students and to the school library.


Technical difficulties are preventing us from uploading student poems–stay tuned!

Read the poems of Mr. Todd’s class here.

Read the poems of Mrs. Johnson’s class here.

Read the poems of Mrs. Tollefeldt’s class here.


rianna lamar     kara pulsifer   john chavez

gustavo perezThis residency was created by Methow Arts Alliance and is sponsored by the Community Foundation of North Central WAWebster Furniture, Confluence Health, the Brewster School District, the National Endowment for the Arts, and ArtsWA.

CONTACT: Methow Arts Alliance, 509.997.4004,