by Ashley Lodato, Arts Education Director
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April 30 is National Poem in Your Pocket Day and students at Methow Valley Elementary School gave the day the honor it is due. Some students arrived at school with their pockets already stocked with original or personally meaningful poems, but those who didn’t were treated to a trip to the Gumball Poetry machine.
Like the name suggests, the Gumball Poetry machine is a device designed to dispense gum or toys in little plastic bubbles but which, with a little creative energy, now spits out poems in little plastic bubbles.
Students lined up in the school commons areas to get a turn at the machine. Some pocketed their poems immediately, others read theirs aloud to students in line. And emerging readers headed back to the classroom to get a little help figuring out what the poems actually said.
Teachers with recess duty reported that students were engaging with each other and with the poems out on the playground, reading poems to each other, swapping poems, and trying to figure out what the poems mean.
The poems for National Poem in Your Pocket Day came from various sources: the poetry of 2013 Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt (who will be visiting schools in Okanogan and the Methow in June), Methow Valley fifth graders, who participated in a poetry residency with teaching artist Kelleigh McMillan, and Methow Valley sixth graders, who took some narrative writing initiated with teaching artist Shannon Huffman Polson and turned it into poetry through classroom sessions with teacher Kelly Van Bueren.
The Empty Tree
Path winding through the lush forest
Rocks protecting the precarious forest path, guiding it through the dark, dense space of spiky pines
At the end of the well-worn trail
Stands a lone tree, guarded by dilapidated small fence
A young boy lies underneath its skimpy shade playing a wooden flute
Tracks of music swirl around the bony, crooked limbs
Flourishing and a warm companion for the scraggly tree
Brimming it with life and song
But the boy leaves
He always leaves
As does everything else
In summer, footprints in the squishy mud circle around the fence playfully
In winter, ski tracks brush past the tree
At night, an old owl swoops down and settles in the tree’s unwelcoming arms
They all leave
And the only thing that ever stays is
~ 6th grader Lindsay Worrell
This residency was brought to students by Methow Arts Alliance through its Okanogan Region Arts Education Partnership. The partnership serves more than 5,200 students and 370 teachers across Okanogan County with arts programs in classrooms in the Omak, Okanogan, Brewster, Bridgeport, Pateros, and Methow School Districts, and in the Paschal Sherman Indian School. Residency sponsors in the Methow Valley include the the Public School Funding Alliance, ArtsWA, the Methow Valley School District, and the Methow Valley Fund of the Community Foundation of North Central Washington.
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