Ceramic Stories E-Book Launch

Excited to announce that I have a new e-book for sale! Ceramic Stories: Storytelling & Gardening Workshops

On a white background an image of terra cotta pots in bright paints on top of a table. Brushes, open cans, and scrap paper can also be seen around the project. Above and below the image the title and subtitle are situated in a handwriting like font.

On a white background an image of terra cotta pots in bright paints on top of a table. Brushes, open cans, and scrap paper can also be seen around the project. Above and below the image the title and subtitle are situated in a handwriting like font.

This text is a step-by-step guide to the Ceramic Stories I program I run over the summer. It’s a program that combines sensory play, nature play, and storytelling! Below is the introduction from the e-book.

Introduction

In the winter of 2017 I was at an open mic at Word Up Books in Washington Heights. The host encouraged us to chat with our neighbors during the set-up and their gregarious energy coupled with the free wine convinced me that perhaps I should, in fact, chat with my neighbor.

I was sitting next to the Community Engagement Manager for the New York Restoration Project (NYRP). I hadn’t heard of the organization before so we chatted about their work creating and maintaining community gardens around the city. Conversation eventually turned to what I did for work, so I talked about the poetry workshops I was running at Rebecca School.

At the end of the open mic we talked more and they mentioned that NYRP was looking for new programs. Would I be interested in bringing my workshops into one of their gardens? 

Of course I was! 

Community garden tucked between tall New York City buildings. In the foreground can be seen pavers marking a path, benches, compost bin, rain bucket, and array of trees and bushes. The side fencing of the garden is painted teal with red, poppy flowers painted eye level. Above are hung red and white cloud-human figures from a recent public-art exhibit.

Community garden tucked between tall New York City buildings. In the foreground can be seen pavers marking a path, benches, compost bin, rain bucket, and array of trees and bushes. The side fencing of the garden is painted teal with red, poppy flowers painted eye level. Above are hung red and white cloud-human figures from a recent public-art exhibit.

At this time I was still a teaching assistant and part time Creative Writing Teacher at the Rebecca School.  This was an opportunity to bring my workshops into a new location and how cool that they could be in a community garden?

After a few follow up emails and some site visits, I found myself workshopping in the beautiful Lucille McClarey Wicked Friendship Garden on West 150th Street.

In this first year I ran my Sensorimotor Poetry Workshops in the garden, combining movement and literacy learning, treating it much the same as I would a classroom session. I was too nervous to differentiate or deviate from my design.

The sessions went well enough, but when I was invited back to do it the following summer I knew I wanted to do something special, something unique to the space. This was a garden after all, not a classroom. I wanted to take my sensory ideas and infuse them with Nature Play.

Nature Play is a concept I first encountered at SXSWedu 2017. In a nutshell, it’s using nature as a means of experiential learning, especially in early childhood education. As an avid hiker and backpacker this thought engaged me and stayed with me well after the conference, but I had yet to find a way to incorporate it into my teaching.

Then inspiration struck. 

I was looking at some flower pots that my partner had painted in our apartment and thought: why not paint flower pots in the gardens…but paint stories. I thought of Keats’ “Ode to a Grecian Urn” and the way ancient civilizations throughout the world told stories on their pottery. 

I decided to play on that concept by letting participants tell their stories on flower pots. Then, once the paint dried, we planted in them. When planting we had a sensory exploration of soil, pebbles, rocks, all that messy, garden stuff, and then at the end the children and families would had a potted flower to take home.

With the success of that summer’s program Ceramic Stories was born.

Terra Cotta flower pot with a painted green alligator. The alligator has a rainbow coming out of its mouth and flowers around it. The pot is sitting on a wooden bench and in the background is the greenery from a bush and ferns.

Terra Cotta flower pot with a painted green alligator. The alligator has a rainbow coming out of its mouth and flowers around it. The pot is sitting on a wooden bench and in the background is the greenery from a bush and ferns.

This text is a guide to run your own Ceramic Stories project. It includes an outline for each of the sessions (storyboarding, painting, planting) with example pictures, materials lists, storyboard, and a suggested resources list at the end. Throughout the text, participants will be referred to as gardeners.

As with all my work, please adapt Ceramic Stories to meet the needs of your gardeners. Even though it’s broken into three parts, it doesn’t need to be completed in three sessions. Take your time and have fun!

Get your copy of Ceramic Stories today!

Summer Fun

Summer school just finished for me at Rebecca School, so now I'm on a three week break. When I return it'll only be twice a week to run workshops which is exciting and a little duanting. It's going to be a big change both professionally and personally for me.  I've taken some time to pause and reflect over the break and in that reflection, I've realized what a special time summer can be for teachers.

Summer is an amazing opportunity for experimentation and change.

Long white table full of supplies. In the foreground are paper plates with rainbow colors, a bag of yellow cuts and a black expo marker. Next there’s a green poster board cut to look like a crocodile with an eye drawn, on the green poster paper are scissors and white paper cut to look like teeth. The table extends with more rainbow plates in the background.

Long white table full of supplies. In the foreground are paper plates with rainbow colors, a bag of yellow cuts and a black expo marker. Next there’s a green poster board cut to look like a crocodile with an eye drawn, on the green poster paper are scissors and white paper cut to look like teeth. The table extends with more rainbow plates in the background.

 It was over a summer session that I first ran workshops at Rebecca School and it was summer time when I first really tested the Sensorimotor Poetry Workshop model. The lack of academic pressures makes it a season for discovery and even rediscovery.

Outside of school walls, summer is also the time of year when I work with the New York Restoration Project, or NYRP, running programming in their gardens! This is always a lot of fun, it's nice to be outdoors and to have an opportunity to do some nature play. This summer the workshops are "Ceramic Stories" involving students painting a story onto a pot like Greek pottery[1]. Once the pots are painted they'll plant something hardy in them and take the plants home to have something to grow!

Orange/Brown ceramic pots on a white table cloth with various shades of paint in purple and white pots. Some paintings are visible on the pots, others appear blank. In the background is a vibrant teal slatted fence with red poppies painted on.

Orange/Brown ceramic pots on a white table cloth with various shades of paint in purple and white pots. Some paintings are visible on the pots, others appear blank. In the background is a vibrant teal slatted fence with red poppies painted on.

As a hiker and outdoor enthusiast myself, it's a wonderful opportunity to blend that passion with my poetry and education work. This year I'm running two sessions: one was at the Lucille McClary Wicked Friendship Garden in June and the next one will be in September at the Rodale Pleasant Community Garden.

Flyer for a program called “Ceramic Stories” Cartoonish vines grow from the top, followed by the title in bold yellow letters and the details in smaller white lettering. In the bottom right are logos and finally a border of vines appear to grow up from the bottom. All on a dark green background.

Flyer for a program called “Ceramic Stories” Cartoonish vines grow from the top, followed by the title in bold yellow letters and the details in smaller white lettering. In the bottom right are logos and finally a border of vines appear to grow up from the bottom. All on a dark green background.

Meanwhile, in school, I started a "Shadow Puppet Poetry" unit with a couple of the groups . We've gone and visited the roof playground to catch the sun and trace our full shadows onto poster paper, along with some silly hand-animals made along the way as well.  We also stayed indoors on a rainy day and played with flashlights.

Where exactly this project will lead I'm not sure yet, but it's a ton of fun and is a great body awareness and sensory practice for the students.

With so many amazing things going on over the summer, I'm sure I'll be back in school before I know it! When I am, it'll be the start of a whole new adventure!

Sources & References

[1] #MetKids Blog https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/metkids/2017/greeks-vs-amazons

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