OK, this part of the book project is also so much fun, and should be equally pleasurable for parents and kids. (At least it was when I did it with my girls and the Kimball girls last year for our Redwood poetry book--oh, to be out in Creation, breathing deeply all the fragrances of the outdoors, purposefully slowing down and really looking, listening, noticing, enjoying. I can't wait to do it again with the girls in a new setting for this project!)
--Pick your spot
So, talk with your kids and get their ideas on where it would be fun to use all their senses to explore one moment in one spot in the world.
In theory, this can be ANYWHERE. There are lots of different spaces easily available to us here on the Bay that would be fantastic for sensory immersion: at the beach, in the redwoods, at a park, in a garden, in a field, at a farm. But don't think you have to drive somewhere specific to participate in the project--just go to your own backyard! The beauty of this project is that it only needs to be as much of an adventure as you want it to be--and even if every single kid writes about his or her backyard, the book will still end up with a big variety of poems, since the look and feel of every yard will be different, and will be interpreted differently by the young poets.
That said, of course it will be fun if you do some exploring too, so if you feel like being even a little adventuresome, go for it!
Some people could even opt for an urban setting! So if a child wants to go downtown Santa Cruz and soak in the colors and textures and sounds and smells (ew) of our own local cityscape, that can make a fantastic experience and resulting poem. (Although personally, from an art perspective, I don't think watercolor would be the right medium for the urban experience--a collage of newspaper and wrappers and something more along the lines of Ezra Jack Keats seems better suited for capturing the feel of the urban setting. That's just my opinion though--get creative and if you want to try this experience in the cityscape, go for it! I'm perfectly fine with a watercolor and newspaper collage, or any combinations that use other materials in conjunction with watercolor paper.)
--Document your moment
It is VERY important that you remember to take paper and pencil with you when your kids head out to immerse their senses in their chosen spot(s) in nature. You may also take the poem template and just do the poem while you are there! But at the very least, be sure to record the following while you are there:
1. The date, the time, the place
2. The sounds, smells, colors, textures, emotional and literal "feel" of the place, and tastes, if there are any (get those kids to use their imaginations!)
3. How your child verbalizes he or she feels about that moment, in that place.
If you write down just these things, you will have enough to work with writing the poems when you get home. BUT I strongly urge you to sit down and write the poems as soon as you can after the sensory immersion, while the feelings and observances and ideas are all still fresh. This one thing can make a huge difference in the quality of the final poem, and the ease of the whole project.
Here is your poem template:
Five Senses Poem
___(your subject/place)___ is ___(descriptive)___ ___(color)___,
The color of ___ (descriptive)___ ___(thing)___.
It (they, whatever fits) feels _________.
It sounds like _________.
It smells like __________.
___ (your subject/place)___ tastes like __(descriptive)__ __(thing)___.
___(reword subject)___ makes me feel __________.
Hmm, looks like MadLibs poetry, doesn't it?! So, just in case that looks confusing, let me give examples--you will immediately understand not only the specific parameters of each line, but also how much you can deviate to meet your child's own writing and topic without losing the construction of the poem:
Five Senses Poems
These woods are cloudy green,
The color of bumpy lichens.
They feel cool.
They sound like Spring.
They smell like rich soil.
These woods taste like cloves.
They are beautiful and make me feel so warm.
#2: Sunlight in the Woods
Sunlight in the woods is pale green,
The color of morning.
It feels cool and dancing.
It sounds like twittering birds.
It smells fresh and damp.
Sunlight in the woods tastes like moist herbs.
This spot of bright light makes me feel joyful.
#3: Clearing in the Woods
The clearing in the woods is new green,
The color of Spring.
It feels cool.
It sounds like birds singing tweet, tweet, tweet.
It smells like fresh air.
The clearing tastes like watery cucumber.
This calm clearing in the woods makes me feel
Happy deep inside.
#4: Afternoon in the Redwoods
This afternoon is green,
The color of Spring,
Fresh and majestic garden green.
It feels still, slightly stff, and prickly.
It sounds like twittering birds and trickling water.
It smells like life, like rich dark soil,
The afternoon tastes like sour grass, garden herbs,
Cloves and fresh water.
This quiet afternoon makes me feel so small,
Those poems were all written at the same moment, in the same place--but look at how each girl interpreted it differently!
Some more helps:
Title ---This is your poem's subject. Can be the name of the place where you are (i.e. "Seacliff Beach"), or a description of the place (i.e. "A Clearing in the Woods"), and can include mention of when you are there ("The Beach at Low Tide," or "A Moment in My Backyard," or "Afternoon in the Redwoods"). Or, since our overall focus is Spring, the title can even be something like "This Moment in Spring." **Make sure your child has the title/subject very firmly in mind as he does the sensory immersion, so he knows how to focus his senses for each line of the poem.**
Even if your child is old enough to record her own ideas, you might consider taking notes for her, so she can close her eyes and really immerse her senses in that moment, in that place, and really pin-point everything she is experiencing.
And no matter the age or ability of your child, it works well to guide the poetry by asking the child line by line what it feels like, sounds like, etc.
If you are not planning on doing the actual poem while in your spot, be sure to take good notes. You could even consider taking a few photos to help your child remember what it was like later while writing.
When you are done with these two steps, you should have something that already sounds like a great poem!!! It needs only a little more crafting to be finished, and with your kids involved, it is a great way to practice all kinds of good school things, like punctuation, spelling, proofreading, etc. But more on that in the next installment of this series. : )