Blog of the Week: Stephanie's Stormy School Lesson Plan

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Amidst the swirling storm clouds and driving rain, this one got right to the heart of our creative spirits. Then again, that's very much Stephanie's specialty. Add in the brilliant poem by local 8th grader Nina Howard, and receiving this post was simply an honor... Nina, please keep Grit posted on your writing adventures. We can't wait to hear where they take you.

 


 

Is it irony or divine comedy that “back to school” always coincides with hurricanes brewing? Just as the kids get squished back into blessed routine, the tropics churn up their unruly unpredictability.

Actually, I long for more of a parallel. For school to be more hurricane-like, for the atmospheric conditions of public education to be ripe for the tossing and turning of minds, for downpours of creativity, for lightening strikes and high winds of rampant curiosity, for shaking things up. I’d prefer never to hear the term “curriculum standards” again. But despite the stifling pressures of our modern educational bureaucracy—that perfect storm of smaller budget, bigger classes, high-stakes standardized tests and the woefully inadequate benchmarks of “Adequate Yearly Progress”—there IS good stuff happening in our kids’ classrooms, and out of classrooms too, especially when it comes to inspiring young literary imaginations in Charleston.


Olive Gardner at Write of Summer camp, a few summers ago

Though he’d be quick to share the credit with multitudes of other teachers, one curly-headed nice guy stands out, in my book, as the literary arts champion for Charleston’s young writers and readers. That would be Jonathan Sanchez, owner of Blue Bicycle Books, founder and director of the Write of Summer writing camp, and brilliant instigator of YALLFest (the country’s premier Young Adult literary festival, coming up on November 10—more on that in upcoming posts).

This year marked the 10th anniversary of Write of Summer, an event in which kids in grades 3-12 forgo fun trips to the swimming pool and beach to sit around and… write. And have a blast doing it. My girls loved it back in the good ol’ days when they were young enough to go, and every parent I know whose kid has been a camper raves as well. Jonathan is the Huck Finn of pen and paper—he turns writing into a wild adventure. Turns the daunting prospect of creating a poem into fun and games. He gives kids permission, and pointers, to play with words, and the result is verse and prose that is fresh, loose, bold and heartening. Childlike, in the purest, best sense of the word.

Want proof? Here’s an example of what Moultrie Middle School 8th grader Nina Howard (a 3-summer alumna of Sanchez’s camp) turned out at Write of Summer camp this year, using one of Sanchez’s prompts.

 

Write a Poem Poem

Write a poem that clicks in your brain

Like a train’s wheels on a track

Let it be braided into bracelets

That you buy

At touristy shops

And let it be braided

Into hair

 

Write a poem that paints itself

On walls

That people will sign their names on

Write a poem that likes to drink

Mott’s apple juice

On Thursdays

Let it drink all its drinks

With curly straws

And write a poem that likes to eat trail mix

With purple cranberries

And

Walnuts

 

Write a poem that holds the door for strangers

And waves at people passing by

Especially at grandmas, and nuns

And your old catholic school teacher Sister Adelheid

And if it sees Maria Von Trapp, let it wave at her too

Let it grow peonies in its garden

And let it weed it

Every

Other

Day

 

Write a poem that steals ideas

From copyrighted things

If it wants to

And let it steal words said by

Winston Churchill

And lima beans

Let your poem

Boycott

Styrofoam lunch trays

It doesn’t have to start a revolution

But at least let it take a stand

 

Write a poem that smells like

Cinnamon raisin bread

Fresh out of the oven

When all

The other poems

Smell like plastic

 

Write a poem that buys

Spatulas

From the second floor of department stores

So that it can flip pancakes

For its daughter

Grace

And if your poems a girl

Have it marry someone with the last name Kelly

So its daughter’s name

Can be Grace Kelly

That might make her

Popular in school

 

Write a poem that doesn’t care

If the other poems laugh when it quotes Fat Albert

“He who throws mud only looses

Ground”

Write a poem

That chops onions to hide its crying

Write a poem

That just likes to

Write

Whatever it wants

Or just

Sits

And

Listens

~~ by Nina Howard