POETRY IN THE SCHOOLS
In 2014 the Pikes Peak Pen Women published a workbook to detail their pilot “Poetry in the Schools” program, and presented the work to the National League of American Pen Women at its bi-ennual conference. Below is the historical preface of that book, which outlines the project, by Branch President Virginia Campbell.
CREATING STUDENTS WHO SOAR HIGHER
THROUGH THE POETRY IN THE SCHOOLS PROJECT
This Poetry in the Schools project began with my dream; could we develop an Outreach project that would increase our visibility, as a Branch, in the community and involve the mission statement of Pen Women by developing people’s creative talents?
Additionally, could we create a project that could motivate, excite and even involve our entire Branch. I analyzed the strengths of the Branch at that time, and I realized we had several outstanding poets and it hit me: “A Poetry In The Schools Project.”
Not being a poet, or thinking I wasn’t, I approached a College Archivist and published poet and asked the question, “Can we teach poetry to 2nd graders?” I knew I had a teacher, who taught 2nd graders, and that she would buy into the project. The poet’s answer, was again, a strong affirmative, she herself had done it.
This association with the 2nd grade teacher began because a friend of mine, Stephanie Cardwell, who spends her life looking to support charitable causes, spotted a listing on Craigslist of a second grade teacher that wanted coats, hats, pencils, writing paper, and even toilet articles. She and I responded, and there the relationship was formed. The school’s populace is made up of children from less than advantaged homes, in fact many live in motels.
So, I called the several poets in our Branch at the time, including Diana. Nancy was not a member as yet. I met with them for lunch, and I asked them the question, “Would you be willing to teach a Poetry Block for a 2nd grade class?” Again, all were affirmative and excited about it.
We discussed for several hours what it would include and several things surfaced almost immediately. We would not limit ourselves to Classic Poetry, but we would include many classic poets. We had A. A. Milne, Dr. Seuss, Edgar Allen Poe, Langston Hughes, Robert Frost, Jack Prelutsky, and Kristina Rosseta, just to name a few. We showed pictures of some of them, so students could see there were varying races involved. We, legally, copied a stamp with James Whitcome Riley on it, so students would see that poets are someone and something.
We came up with four sessions, each 40 minutes long. We focused on April our first year, because it is traditionally Poetry month.
- What is poetry? At that session each of us read one of our favorite poems.
- Sounds of Poetry. We read poetry that used repeated letters, repeated sounds, rhyme, alliteration, and also introduced the word, “Onomatopoeia.” They loved that word.
- Our senses and imagery and how it affects our lives and our poetry.
We began as a team; each person would plan one session, but each of us would participate in every lesson. I, personally, think that is one of our strong points; the students get lots of different “voices,” different sounds, and that expands our presentation. As Pen Women, you need to be aware this idea came from a musician, not the poets or other writers in our Branch. You don’t have to be a poet to participate.
Our first year went well, thanks to an incredibly caring and talented teacher. With that behind us, we decided to start a second class in another school, 80 miles south of Colorado Springs. That teacher, too, was very gracious, and it far surpassed our every dream.
– Virginia Franklin Campbell
Chair, Poetry in the Schools Project Pikes Peak Branch
Books for Schools
Each year the Pikes Peak Branch of the National League of American Pen Women, Inc. (PPB-NLAPW / Pikes Peak Pen Women) and the Zebulon Pike Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) collaborate in bringing an educational gift to each child of the Will Rogers Elementary School prior to the school’s year-end break for the holidays. Gifts are in the form of a book for every child to encourage their reading and to inspire a love for books.
Donations – of any amount – are welcome and appreciated for this purpose!