Slice of Life: Summer STEAM

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“Wisdom Begins in Wonder”
Socrates

These words are as true today as they were 2500 years ago. I may have heard or read them before, but I was happy to see them painted on the wall of the “Cabinet of Art and Curiosity” installation at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford yesterday. I was there to participate in the museum’s “Summer STEAM” workshop, designed to show teachers “the many ways art can enhance science, technology, engineering, and math” in their classrooms.

Lisa Delissio, a STEM Faculty Fellow at Salem State University, began the day with a talk about the intersection of art and science. She explained that the “perspective and knowledge of artists is essential to scientific approaches to problems.” Specifically, she listed the observational skills artists bring to their work that have been found to have an impact on the skills of her biology students. These include:

  • visual qualities
  • other sensory qualities
  • perspectives
  • materials
  • connecting to meaning: memories and metaphor
  • context, function, and purpose

Dr. Delissio then showed us this image:

By Prosthetic Head (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Prosthetic Head (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

She asked us to use the observational skills of an artist and the perspective of a biologist to respond to the image with word and/or  pictures. My sketch was very rudimentary, but my jottings were very much dominated by my poetry brain. I was immediately drawn to the stamens of the large flower in the foreground, which reminded me of sunspots exploding on the sun and the flower in the bottom center waiting to bloom. To me, its folded petals looked like hands folded in prayer.

We were given ten minutes to work on this, which sounds like a long time. But it really wasn’t. I could have easily  spent another half hour working on my observations and the poem I was beginning to formulate. Keeping the STEAM theme of the day in mind, I started a Fib poem, a poem which uses the Fibonacci sequence to determine the number of syllables in each line.

Fat
skink
rests on
bright purple
aster petals, their
stamens exploding like the sun.

The auditorium full of dozens of teachers was absolutely still as people worked. But it didn’t feel like work at all. We were completely engaged in our creativity, our intellectual curiosity sparked by the blending of diverse disciplines. As Dr. Delissio explained, students who pursue double majors in science and the arts are more creative, and exhibit more intellectual curiosity and divergent thinking than students with a single major.

Attending this workshop was a joy for me, not because I needed convincing that the arts should be included in STEM, but because it bolstered my belief in the importance of including the arts in our classrooms. As schools across the country embrace STEM and devote time and resources to integrate STEM into the curriculum, we have to ensure that the arts are always included. As Anne Jolly points out in a recent Education Week article, “The purpose of STEAM should not be so much to teach art but to apply art in real situations. Applied knowledge leads to deeper learning.”

Thank you to StaceyDanaBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lisa for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

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Poetry Friday: “Stanzas for a Sierra Morning”

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Sometimes when we read a poem there’s an instant connection between us and the poet. Someone we’ve never met, maybe even never heard of, has managed a magical transformation of words into phrases into stanzas that reach into our heart, like the first rays of sunlight bathing the tips of tree branches in its yellow glow. In that moment we know we’ve found a treasure worth keeping.

In her poem “Wish”, Linda Sue Park captures this process perfectly:

Wish
by Linda Sue Park

For someone to read a poem
again, and again, and then,

having lifted it from page
to brain– the easy part—

cradle it on the longer trek
from brain all the way to heart.

From Tap Dancing on the Roof; Sijo Poems (Clarion, 2007) 

Not every poem we read, and certainly not every poem we write, makes that journey. And yet, we soldier on. We keep reading, we keep writing, because, as Katherine Bomer reminds us, “the journey is everything.”

When I first read this poem by Robert Haas, I knew I’d found a treasure that made that journey.

“Stanzas for a Sierra Morning”
by Robert Haas

Looking for wildflowers, the white yarrow
With its deep roots for this dry place
And fireweed which likes disturbed ground.

There were lots of them, bright white yarrow
And the fireweed was the brilliant magenta
Some women put on their lips for summer evenings.

The water of the creek ran clear over creekstones
And a pair of dove-white plovers fished the rills
A sandbar made in one of the turnings of the creek.

You couldn’t have bought the sky’s blue.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Photo by Sam Schooler via unsplash.com
Photo by Sam Schooler via unsplash.com

Please be sure to visit Diane Mayr at Random Noodling for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: A Bale of Turtles

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“A Bale of Turtles”

After months of hibernation
buried in the mud and muck,
a bale of turtles emerge
into a world of glimmering green.

Heads raised high in jubilation,
they bask in the glittering sunshine,
silent and still,
chasing away winter’s chill.

© Catherine Flynn, 2016

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I took this picture at the end of April at a pond near my house. Since then, I’ve been working on this poem, trying to find just the right form, words, and phrases. During that time, I’ve felt like I’ve been buried in the mud and muck of school busyness, which has drained my writing energy. Now that school is over, I decided to revisit these happy turtles, and emerge into the sunshine with them.

Please be sure to visit Carol at Carol’s Corner for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Slice of Life: Finding Compassion

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“Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.”
~ Dalai Lama XIV ~

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I noticed this sign on the edge of the road as I was driving to work. And it did make me slow down. I noticed its counterpart on the other side of the road on my way home that afternoon. Even though there was no sign of the fawn or its mother, I was thankful for this reminder.

I thought of this sign over the weekend when I was at dinner with my family. It was a beautiful summer evening, and we were eating on the sidewalk terrace of a busy restaurant. Suddenly, a woman was sprawled on the sidewalk.

Her toddler had wriggled away from her (they are slippery little things!) and she tripped while running after him. Her hands were scraped and she split her lip, which was bleeding profusely. I ran into the restaurant to get napkins, and someone else got her a glass of water. She was more startled than injured, and after a few minutes those of us who had helped her returned to our dinners.

Helping this woman wasn’t something I thought about. I just did it. Over the past year, my family, like far too many families, has been coping with a sudden loss. We have been overwhelmed by the many kindnesses, large and small, often from total strangers, shared with us during this time. How could I not extend my hand to this woman?

Since Sunday’s horrific news from Orlando, I’ve felt dismay and revulsion at some of the rhetoric being bandied about so carelessly. But I’ve also been heartened by the countless selfless acts of kindness, from women passing out carnations to the families of the victims to the hundreds of people lined up to give blood. This outpouring of sympathy and solidarity from all corners of the world gives me hope. Hope that we can rise above fear and hate. Hope that we can all find the compassion within ourselves to slow down, extend a hand, and treat others with care. Hope that love will prevail.

Thank you to StaceyDanaBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lisa for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Poetry Friday: “The Arrow and the Song”

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Some weeks I have my Poetry Friday poems picked out early in the week, especially if I’m sharing an original poem. Other weeks, when work and life in general threaten to get the best of me, as this one has, I’m scrambling to find a poem that speaks to me. But when I saw this on a friend’s Facebook page today, I knew instantly this was the right poem for this week.

“The Arrow and the Song”
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

Be sure to visit Jone MacCulloch at Check It Out for the Poetry Friday Roundup!