Using Haiku to Cultivate a Love of Nature and Enhance Environmental Education

I learned about your wonderful organization through a Facebook friend, and I thought you might like to know about my efforts to help children become more attuned to and appreciative of their natural surroundings. Please permit to elaborate:

 

My late mother, Sydell Rosenberg, was a NYC teacher and a charter member of the Haiku Society of America, founded in 1968 in NYC. She wrote other poetry as well as short stories and puzzles, and translated Spanish literature as well, but I think haiku (and senryu, which focus more on people's situations and relationships) were her favorite creative writing formats. According to her bio-sketch in a haiku anthology published years ago (I believe it was The Haiku Handbook), mom published her first haiku in 1967. She must have written hundreds of haiku and senryu over an approximately 30 year span (mom died in October, 1996).

 

I wish for some of her work to live for today’s audiences – especially children. I know that my mom wanted to publish a haiku picture book – an A-B-C reader. She never fulfilled this dream, although she was well-anthologized and appreciated in her circle. One of her poems even appeared in a novel public art experience in 1994 entitled, “Haiku On 42nd Street” -- http://pgwtoolkit.com/microsites/?id=128  in which haiku and senryu were showcased on empty theater marquees.

 

Haiku, with their compact and concise format, yet so richly evocative – and of course, poetry in general – can expand the scope of kids’ imaginations and help them make creative connections, as well as facilitate literacy through elegant, spare wordplay and metaphor. While haiku has structure and discipline, the process of reading and writing haiku can unleash kids’ imaginative abilities. And since haiku poems capture nature in “nuggets,” as I like to say, I think they are ideal for “en plein air” reading and writing, arts and crafts – or just observing and exploring. 

 

In my idiosyncratic way, I have made some strides in sharing her work with young audiences: I recently concluded the second Sydell Rosenberg-Arts For All haiku/art workshop series for second-graders at P.S.163 in the Bronx, in which several of mom’s animal haiku were paired with drawing and painting. The first program took place in the fall of 2013.

 

Another program recently wrapped at P.S. 163: a haiku/music workshop series for English as a Second Language learners – also second-graders. I attended three of the six sessions. They were delightful! The two music teachers from the nonprofit Arts For All, my partner, developed inventive lesson plans to connect my mom’s haiku to melody and rhythm, with the words serving as the verses. The children helped to construct the melody and even their own haiku “lyrics” which served as a unifying chorus. The lead music teacher selected four haiku, each one representing a season.

 

Also, in 2013 I worked with the Children’s Museum of the Arts on a splendid project called the PoeTree – please see out this blog below. Using my mom’s haiku, and her definition of haiku, as a guide, kids were encouraged to write their own haiku on paper leaves and suspend them from the tree. Over several months, this golden structure became populated with many colorful, decorated leaves.

My mom’s bird haiku were featured in a “birding” column, published in my hometown newspaper, The Record, in 2013. The link is also below.

I am now contacting organizations that teach kids about their natural surroundings: nature preserves/conservancies, botanical gardens, etc. -- I would love to work with them too.

 

In addition to the Children’s Museum of the Arts PoeTree blog, please also see this recent article about the importance of teaching poetry in schools. My work with Arts For All is included and I am quoted. Thank you for the opportunity to tell you about my efforts!

 

http://blog.cmany.org/featured-artists/poetree/

 

http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/04/16/why-its-important-teach-poetry-schools

 

http://www.northjersey.com/community-news/recreation/poetry-inspired-by-birds-1.371307

 

 

 

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