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!

Braille Trail in Watertown Riverfront Park

It’s summer vacation! Which for me means hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail with my brother. While I’m off on trail, I wanted to share a cool hiking path I came across when I was staying with my friend in Boston for the Berklee ABLE Assembly.

Charles River in the background around mid-morning. A gray brick walk way is visible leading up from the river. The bricks are in field of grass with some leafless bushes planted in between. In the foreground are large rocks forming a little barricade between the grass and a gray, cement, sidewalk.

Charles River in the background around mid-morning. A gray brick walk way is visible leading up from the river. The bricks are in field of grass with some leafless bushes planted in between. In the foreground are large rocks forming a little barricade between the grass and a gray, cement, sidewalk.

Along the Charles River Path, a walkway and bike path that stretches from Watertown, MA all the way into downtown Boston, there’s a section dedicated to help individuals who are blind and visually impaired get out into nature. The aptly named Braille Trail is a lovely stretch of trail right beside the Charles.  A press release from Wicked Local Watertown describes the park quite accurately:

“a crescent-shaped trail of a quarter mile, for blind as well as for seeing visitors. The trail is marked by a guide wire that runs along the edge and which users can hold as they visit the trail. The interior of the trail is a sensory park, which includes a marimba bench and large wooden boats on the ground for visitors to climb on and sit in. There are also walls and logs for visitors to interact with.” [1]

Three wooden objects suspended on a metal string, two rectangles on the left and right and in the middle a cube. A large, cement pole with indistinguishable writing is in the middle of the string behind the cube. Further in the background is a small park with trees and lawn.

Three wooden objects suspended on a metal string, two rectangles on the left and right and in the middle a cube. A large, cement pole with indistinguishable writing is in the middle of the string behind the cube. Further in the background is a small park with trees and lawn.

The Perkins School for the Blind is right across the street from the trail and they were a partner in it’s development with the Massachusetts DCR[2].

Blue sky and few clouds frame an old, brick tower. The bricks are sandstone in color and the tower is gothic in design. A green banner reads “Perkins School for the Blind.” In the foreground are trees in a park sloping uphill to the road, as denoted by a steel barrier.

Blue sky and few clouds frame an old, brick tower. The bricks are sandstone in color and the tower is gothic in design. A green banner reads “Perkins School for the Blind.” In the foreground are trees in a park sloping uphill to the road, as denoted by a steel barrier.

As an educator and hiker, it feels like a real triumph, the coordination of diverse education and public interest to create a singular nature path. Walking along the trail was a real treat and if you find yourself in the Boston area, I suggest you make your way out to Watertown and check it out for yourself!

Four images in row:

Left most is a wooden block with English and Braille reading “Sphere” clearly with other writing difficult to read from the photo.

Next is another wooden block with English and Braille reading “Cylinder” clearly with other writing difficult to read from the photo.

Then a steel concrete pole behind a metal rope with a wooden sphere and cylinder. No writing is visible on these wooden figures

Fourth, all the way on the right, a dirt walking path with a modern design bench. The bench is cement and wood with the wooden panels placed both directions, one facing the Charles River, the other looking out to a park that’s out of frame of the photo.

Sources:

[1] http://watertown.wickedlocal.com/news/20160721/braille-trail-officially-open-at-watertown-riverfront-park

[2] http://www.perkins.org/stories/new-riverfront-park-makes-nature-accessible

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