Formerly the CT River Watershed Council|
children in garden

Emily Dickinson, Writing Nature Poems

Overview/Rationale for Lesson: High school students and elementary school students meet in a garden to read an Emily Dickinson poem about nature and write their own poems inspired by her model and informed by direct sensory observations. PRINT VERSION Grade Level:  3 to 5, 9 to 12 Developed by Suzanne Strauss & Susan Ebitz, Northampton High School & Jackson Street School, Northampton, MA, and used in Grade 4 and High School Community Partners: Emily Dickinson Museum & Northampton Education Foundation Learning Objective(s): Students will read and discuss nature imagery in a poem by Emily Dickinson. Students will write a poem based on direct observation and inspired by the format, imagery and graphic conventions of Dickinson’s poem. Students will make oral presentations of their poems to the group. Lesson Plan Procedure: Preparatory Activity: Time: 10 minutes (plus travel time to outdoor setting) Note:  Students meet in an outdoor setting (this lesson took place at the Rose Garden at Child’s Park in Northampton). Step 1. Introduce the nature poetry session.  5 minutes. Gather students in a circle, explain that they will be reading and writing nature poems outdoors in the garden and set guidelines and expectations. Distribute and read aloud a poem on the theme of nature written by Emily Dickinson: “This is my letter to the World”  (downloadable from Materials Checklist). 5 minutes. Main Activity: Time:  40 minutes Step 2.  Read aloud, “Nature is what We see” (downloadable from Materials Checklist), and give directions for poetry writing activity.  10 minutes. Hand out poem, writing directions (downloadable from Materials Checklist), clipboard, lined paper and pencil to each small group. Read aloud poem several times, inviting students and/or other adults to read aloud individual stanzas.

If Landfill Machines Could Talk…

Overview/Rationale for Lesson: Children draw landfill machines and imagine trash from their perspective, as a way of understanding where garbage goes and why it is important to recycle. PRINT LESSON Grade Level:  3 to 5 Developed by Nancy Meagher, Sheffield Elementary School, Turners Falls, MA, used in Grades 2-5 Learning Objective(s): Children will complete a detailed drawing of a landfill machine and write what they imagine the machine might tell people about recycling. Children will use observation skills to gather detailed information about their machine from photographs and drawings. Children will discuss landfills and consider implications and alternatives. Lesson Plan Procedure Preparatory Activity: Time:  10-15 minutes Step 1.  Introduce the project with visual images and verbal descriptions of landfill machines at work.  5 minutes. Teacher’s narrative: “When I was ten years old my mother took me to visit a landfill and I loved the big machines.  They moved just like dancers.  Their bodies are like what humans would like to be:  strong and big to move things.  If we didn’t have these machines we could never move so much trash.” Step 2.  Use a photograph or diagram to point out the parts of a backhoe and demonstrate with children how machine parts move like human body parts.  (Note: a photo is available for download in Resources.) 5-10 minutes. Demonstrate the similarity between body parts and machine parts, using a backhoe arm as an example.  Teacher points to each part of the excavator arm and moves the corresponding part of her own arm, inviting children to move their bodies along with her as she guides them. Teacher’s narrative: Just like you have a shoulder, the machine has a shoulder (points


Adopt-a-Tree, Watercolor Painting

Overview/Rationale for Lesson: Children spend time observing and painting their trees, with a focus on looking closely at colors and structures and learning to work attentively in nature. PRINT LESSON Grade Level:  3 to 5 Developed by Susan Riley and Erica Morse, Marlboro Elementary School, Marlboro, VT, and used in Grades 3 & 4 Community Partner:  Susan Bull Riley, Fine Arts Painter, Marlboro, VT Learning Objective(s): Students will draw and paint their tree based on direct observation. Students will mix watercolors to create colors they see in nature. Students will spend time in close proximity to their tree, getting to know the tree and its surroundings. Lesson Plan Procedure Preparatory Activity: Time:  5 minutes See Adopt a Tree: First Visit for introductory activities that precede watercolor painting, including choosing a tree, sketching and journal writing. Step 1.   Outdoors at Adopt-a-Tree Site.  Gather class in a circle at the site and explain the schedule and expectations for the day’s visit.  5 minutes. Teacher narrative:  "Today the mountain [or schoolyard, forest, meadow] is your classroom and I expect you to make good choices." Main Activity: Time:  60 minutes Step 2.  Demonstrate how to make a watercolor painting of a tree, showing and discussing each step, using a tree close by that everyone can see as a model.  20 minutes. Teacher tells children to work on painting what they SEE, not what they THINK trees look like.  Example:  “People think tree trunks are brown and paint them with brown paint.  Look around and tell me what colors you see in trunks?”  Children respond:  “Gray, black, greenish, white striped.” Teacher then models sequence of 1) pencil, 2) pen and 3) watercolor, demonstrating each

Poetry Writing ROW Lesson

Adopt-a-Tree, Poetry Writing

Overview/Rationale for Lesson: Children revisit their adopted trees and write poems informed by close observation and inspired by listening to poems that explore trees from different perspectives.  Focusing questions include: “What’s special about your tree?  How does your tree talk to you? What gifts do trees give? Grade Level: 3 to 5 PRINT LESSON Developed by Ann Gengarelly, Poet in Residence, Marlboro Elementary School, Marlboro, VT and used in Grades 3 and 4 Community Partner:  The Poetry Studio, Marlboro, VT Learning Objectives: Children will listen to tree poems and respond to sensory images, figurative language and poetic voices. Children will write a poem informed by observation of their tree and inspired by poetic elements from the poetry reading. Children will share and respond to each other’s tree poems. Children will develop an intimate relationship with a tree and thereby care more about its natural environment. Lesson Plan Procedure: Preparatory Activity Time: 5-10 minutes Step 1. Gather children in a circle outdoors near their adopted trees and start a discussion about trees.  Share the plan for today’s poetry session.  Note: Ann Gengarelly's notes on this lesson will help you prepare for discussion.  5 minutes. Teacher narrative:  “I understand that you have each chosen a tree you have become friends with.  How did you choose which tree you wanted?” Preview what children will be doing during poetry session:  Listen to tree poems; write a poem at your tree; and share tree poems. Main Activity Time:  60 minutes Step 2.  Introduce poetry reading and give children questions to think about while they listen to poems.  5 minutes. Teacher narrative includes questions:  “What’s special about trees? What’s special about your tree? What gifts do trees give?” 

tree study

Adopt-a-Tree, First Visit

Overview/Rationale for Lesson: Children revisit the same tree several times over the course of the year in order to observe seasonal changes, deepen their understanding of the tree and its habitat and build a relationship with the tree.  This is the first lesson in a year-long sequence. PRINT LESSON Grade Level:  3 to 5 Developed by Erica Morse and Emma Hallowell, Marlboro Elementary School, Marlboro, VT, and used in Grades 3 and 4 Community Partner:  Hogback Mountain Conservation Association Learning Objective(s): Students will use skills of map making, observing, illustrating and journal writing to locate and describe their tree for future reference. Students will spend time getting to know the tree and its context. Students will develop follow-up questions about their tree to pursue through research and subsequent visits. Lesson Plan Procedure Preparatory Activity: Time:  15 minutes Step 1. Pre-trip discussion.  5 minutes.  Before visiting the site, explain to the class that they will be going to the same place several times over the course of the year and each child will “adopt” one tree to learn about in depth. Step 2. Group meeting at the site.  10 minutes. Gather children in a circle and give directions for choosing a tree and recording work in a journal. Teacher’s directions for choosing a tree: Tree has to be clearly visible from top to bottom (not too blocked by other trees, rocks, etc.). Tree has to be bigger around than the circle of your hands. Spread out along the path so you have some room between children. Main Activity: Time:  1 to 1 1/2 hours Step 3. Individual work at the site with trees.  50-75 minutes.  Students follow directions

museum mosaic

Water and Works of Art

Overview/Rationale for Lesson As an essential element to our existence on earth, water has served as a source of artistic inspiration for centuries.  This lesson offers students the opportunity to step outside the classroom and see water creatively through the lens of the artist. Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8 PRINT LESSON GR 3-5,   PRINT LESSONS GR 6-8 Developed by Hannah Griggs, Student Assistant for Museum Education, and Julie Zappia, Associate Educator for School and Family Programs, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts, and used in Grades 3 to 8. Community Partner: Smith College Museum of Art Learning Objectives Students will reflect quietly and use their senses in a guided observation of water in an outdoor setting.  (This class visited Paradise Pond in Northampton.) Students will use Visual Thinking Strategies to observe carefully original works of art featuring water from different centuries and in varied media. Students will discuss similarities and differences in art works and present critical and personal responses. Students will respond creatively to their observations of water in the environment and in art by designing original collage images. Lesson Plan Procedure Preparatory Activity: Time:  20 minutes plus time to walk to and from the outdoor site Step 1.  Real Water Observations (20 minutes).  At Smith College’s Paradise Pond, sitting on the dock of the Boat House overlooking the water: Ask students to reflect quietly, and notice the environment by looking at the landscape, hearing the sounds of the environment, and smelling the air. Ask this series of questions aloud, threading together responses and generating a discussion: What do you notice about this environment? What do you see, up close and far away? What do you

CT River Holyoke

River Sounds, Dinosaur Footprints

Overview/Rationale Students prepare to write poems about a field trip to the river by practicing outdoor listening and performing choral readings of river poems from River of Words: Young Poets and Artists on the Nature of Things. PRINT LESSON Grade Level:  3-5 Developed by Carol Berner & Lori Thayer, E.N. White School, Holyoke, MA,  and used in Grade 4 Community Partner:  Dinosaur Footprints Reservation, The Trustees of Reservations Learning Objectives Children will listen closely to sounds outdoors and record their findings on a Sound Map. Children will read and respond to poems about rivers, paying attention to poetic elements of  rhythm, repetition and sensory images. Children will plan and present dramatic readings of river poems. Lesson Plan Procedure: Preparatory Activity Time:  30 minutes Step 1. Introduce the activity of listening outside and model how to use aSound Map (downloadable from Materials Checklist).  15 minutes. Teacher’s narrative:  “You will be going to the river to catch a poem and you will need some tools to help you fish for poems:  tools for paying attention and tools for recording what you notice.  The tools you will use include looking, listening and imagining.” Model how to use theSound Mapping Handout. Prepare a large Sound Map on chart paper and demonstrate how to use it by telling a story about listening to outdoor sounds. Write a symbol (word or sketch) for each sound on the Sound Map as you tell the story.  For example: “Yesterday I was sitting in my back yard and I heard…” Indicate whether sounds are close by or far away, loud or soft, moving or stationary, etc. Optional:  Share an example of a poem you wrote from your Sound Map: “Lawnmower

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