Poetry Project Bridges Generation Gap

Who Would Have Thought?

By Sarah Byrn Rickman, author /journalist, Pen Woman

Fourth-graders and senior citizens working together to create poetry! That was the inspiring story that two dynamic members of the Des Moines Branch of NLAPW brought to life.

Des Moines Branch President Laura Walth grasped the incentive from a curriculum titled “Poetry in the Schools.” Shelly Thieman, branch treasurer, believed in the project because of a memory from her childhood.

“Poetry in the Schools” was developed right here in Colorado Springs by our own Pikes Peak Branch of NLAPW. Virginia Franklin Campbell — former branch president and now our immediate past NLAPW National President — was the chair of that project that began back in 2012.

“Poetry in the Schools began with my dream,” said Virginia. “Could we develop an Outreach project that would increase our visibility, as a branch, in the community?”

She queried a College Archivist and published poet that she knew and asked her: “Can we teach poetry to 2nd graders?” The answer was “yes.”

Virginia gathered Pikes Peak branch’s poets and asked them: “Would you be willing to teach a Poetry Block for a 2nd grade class?” The unanimous answer was “yes!” And the rest, as they say, is history.

The program has been ongoing ever since. When Virginia left to take the reins of the national organization, branch Vice President, Linda Bridges, stepped up and took it on.

The project, at Will Rogers Elementary School, has thrived under her. The downside is, the changing membership and commitments of the branch members has brought us to the point that we need to replenish our supply of volunteers for the program. To read more go to :http://www.pikespeakpenwomen.com/outreach/

Linda will be addressing that when our branch meetings reconvene in September after the summer break. In the meantime, Pikes Peak branch can point with pride to what another branch — Des Moines — has done on their own using our Poetry in the Schools curriculum.

Thieman and Walth volunteered to teach Haiku — an exquisite, very readable form of poetry created by the Japanese — to both seniors and young school children.

“Haiku made a lifelong impression on this fifth-grader many decades ago,” says Thieman. “When the opportunity arose to share my love of this ancient Japanese poetic form with young students and seniors in my own community, I leapt.”

They worked with fourth-graders at a Des Moines elementary school and with seniors at a nearby community center to explore their creative juices through Haiku. For seniors who thought they “couldn’t” write poetry, Thieman led a free, monthly class to help them discover their creative side through Haiku.

The outcome? The young students paid an end-of-the-year visit to the community center. There, seniors and students alike read their poetry — aloud — for all to enjoy. And, said Walth, “Enjoy they did! Some are considering entering poetry contests, hoping maybe someday to have their poetry published.” Thieman continues to offer a Haiku workshop at the center for a very small but dedicated group.

Senior Millie and 9-year-old Daniel in an inter-generational discussion



Sarah Byrn Rickman, Author/Journalist & Pen Woman

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