Summertime Fun 2019

This summer, along with the Ceramic Stories gardening and storytelling sessions (more on those soon), I’ve done a pop-up park event with the New York Restoration Project and ran a planting-sensory table at Art in The Park’s autism family fun day.

I love having the opportunity to work outside in the summer, it’s a nice change of pace from classrooms and opens up whole new forms of engagement.

At the Sherman Creek pop-up park event, I set up a community mural for people to fill out.

I used a long roll of white butcher paper, glued on a green construction paper stem, yellow center, and asked “What makes Inwood Bloom?” Admittedly, I got some help from NYRP's education with the lettering since I don't have the neatest handwriting.

The activity being to fill out the flower with people's favorite things about the uptown community. I pre-cut petals of teal, red, and pink for people to write their answers and then glue on, creating a mural of flower petals that extended across the paper. Some of the most common answers were “the people” and “the parks” and I’m inclined to agree.

Photo of art mural on fold out table. The mural is on a long white sheet of paper and covered with “flower petals” in red, teal, and pink all with writing on it that is indiscernible at this distance. “What makes Inwood Bloom” is written in multi-colored large letter up top. On the mural can also be seen some writing and doodles. The table has some rocks on it, holding the paper, supplies, and other objects down in the wind.

Photo of art mural on fold out table. The mural is on a long white sheet of paper and covered with “flower petals” in red, teal, and pink all with writing on it that is indiscernible at this distance. “What makes Inwood Bloom” is written in multi-colored large letter up top. On the mural can also be seen some writing and doodles. The table has some rocks on it, holding the paper, supplies, and other objects down in the wind.

For Art in the Park’s Autism Family Fun Day I ran a table with flower pot painting and planting. It was a condensed version of the three-week Ceramic Stories programs I run with NYRP. Since this was a one day event I had families come and paint the pots, not necessarily creating a story, just having fun.

Once the painting was done I left them to dry and told the families to come back in a few minutes to do the planting. There was a lot to do at the fun day, so it was an easy enough request. There was grilling going on (including black bean burgers for the veggies like me!), non-profits tabling, sensory spaces, and a table full of free books that was run by a speech therapist.

Autism Family Fun day grill set up, families and children are in the foreground of a shot of a food line. Tables in the background have the food on them and in the top right of the photo the grill master cooks while smoke can be seen coming off the grill.

Autism Family Fun day grill set up, families and children are in the foreground of a shot of a food line. Tables in the background have the food on them and in the top right of the photo the grill master cooks while smoke can be seen coming off the grill.

Inflatable, plastic swimming pool with an inflatable palm tree in the middle of it situated on a piece of asphalt. The pool is filled with water-bead sensory materials.

Inflatable, plastic swimming pool with an inflatable palm tree in the middle of it situated on a piece of asphalt. The pool is filled with water-bead sensory materials.

When they were dry and the families came back, I had the kids add the soil, seeds (marigolds or poppies), a little bit of water, and then sent them on their way with some care instructions. The soil and seeds for the planting were donated by Urban Garden Center, an amazing garden store in East Harlem. If you’re in NYC check them out next time you have any gardening needs!

Entrance to the store “Urban Garden Center” The store's name is in large green block letters on a wooden frame with the word “Urban” being the largest. In the background can be seen plants and garden supplies such as fencing as well as signs denoting the stores hours and sales.

Entrance to the store “Urban Garden Center” The store's name is in large green block letters on a wooden frame with the word “Urban” being the largest. In the background can be seen plants and garden supplies such as fencing as well as signs denoting the stores hours and sales.

The event was a huge success! Shawnique, the Art in the Park director, had one-hundred people signed up on the eventbrite and I imagine most, if not all, showed up along with families who came off the street when they heard the fun! We went through all the pots and paint over the course of the day and a lot of families left with new plants to care for!

Events like these makes the summers so fun, but it also makes them fly by! The second session of Ceramic Stories will be starting next week in Sherman Creek and it’s hard to believe that’s already here!

Painted flower pots arranged on plates dry beside a tree. There are names on the plates that denote whose pot is whose, but the writing is difficult to discern at this distance. In the middle of the pots are two large bags of soil. In the background can be seen a sidewalk chalk welcome to Autism Family Fun Day.

Painted flower pots arranged on plates dry beside a tree. There are names on the plates that denote whose pot is whose, but the writing is difficult to discern at this distance. In the middle of the pots are two large bags of soil. In the background can be seen a sidewalk chalk welcome to Autism Family Fun Day.


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Bronx Museum Spring Partnership

May marked a whirlwind Spring partnership with the Bronx Museum of the Arts which ended last week with a final performance and celebration!

I saw three classes from PS 73: a 1st & 2nd grade class, and two 3rd & 4th grade classes. I work specifically with the classes of students who have IEPs, each of these classes was a 12:1:1.

The partnerships starts with a museum visit, wherein I guide the classes (one at a time) through the recent exhibit and prepare activities for them in response to the art.

This season's exhibit is "Useless: Machines for Dreaming, Thinking, and Seeing" It's an amazing study of machines and devices built for aesthetics rather than practicality. 

As the Bronx Museum website describes:

As a reaction to our current times focused on utilitarianism and profit, Useless: Machines for Dreaming, Thinking and Seeing presents a selection of curious machines created by artists with the goal of stirring dreams, feelings, critical thinking, and ironies; for seeing what microscopes, telescopes and cartographies cannot show; for flying without taking-off; in short, for doing the impossible. Such are some of the uses of art.

Contemporary art installation on a hardwood floor. The art work looks like a 1970’s space capsule, but covered in sheet metal, plants, and bricks. Extension cables can be seen running out of the piece as well. In the background are other photos and statues.

Contemporary art installation on a hardwood floor. The art work looks like a 1970’s space capsule, but covered in sheet metal, plants, and bricks. Extension cables can be seen running out of the piece as well. In the background are other photos and statues.

While the intention and theme is quite intellectually stimulating, my students were all immediately taken by the visual spectacle of the art itself and it was an incredibly fun curation to teach.

My program was an co activity that built on itself every session around the idea of story-making.  I was inspired especially by Stefana McClure’s film and visual poem in the exhibit that she made in response to the George Perec’s Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books. Perec famously had a “story-making-machine” with which he wrote the novel, or “novels” as the book opens, Life a User Manual. I wanted the PS 73 students to be their own Story-Making-Machines, creating and then sharing/typing their stories.

On a flatscreen TV gloved hands can be seen with metallic tips on the ends of each fingers. The hands seem to be typing with small, black residue visible underneath the fingers.

On a flatscreen TV gloved hands can be seen with metallic tips on the ends of each fingers. The hands seem to be typing with small, black residue visible underneath the fingers.

edupreneur-blog-BXSPring19-McClure-Art.jpg

To start, I had the students come up with robots for the closing museum trip activity. They could think back to some of the machines from the exhibit or also use the book Clink by Kelly DiPucchio, which we had read before going down to the galleries, as a kind of mentor text. 

Once the robot was drawn I asked them to come up with a name, then write what their robot was made out of, and finally what their robot could do. By making each description an individual step, I was scaffolding the idea of character development, helping them make robust and well rounded robots (say that 10x fast) for their stories. 

In the first school trip we did a quick warm up, read Izzy Gizmo by Pip Jones, then got to work on our stories. First students hand wrote a story involving the robot characters they made at the museum. Once the stories were finished, they "typed" them up to create a visual poem similar to the Stefana McClure piece on display.

On an art room table, covered in old paint marks, print outs of computer keyboards are taped down.

On an art room table, covered in old paint marks, print outs of computer keyboards are taped down.

Close up of the art room table, the keyboard print outs are now covered by a piece of tracing paper so that the keys themselves are still visible.

Close up of the art room table, the keyboard print outs are now covered by a piece of tracing paper so that the keys themselves are still visible.

To achieve this typing effect, I taped print outs of keyboards to the table and placed tracing paper over them. Giving each student a pair of gloves, I then gave out a dollups of black paint to rub between their gloved hands, telling the students to focus especially on their finger tips. Once everyone was painted up the students typed the stories they just hand wrote as if they were typing them into a computer. It was a pretty exciting activity, so took the groups a couple sheets of tracing paper to get right!

On the art room tables students hands can be seen covered in gloves and black paint “typing” on the tracing paper.

On the art room tables students hands can be seen covered in gloves and black paint “typing” on the tracing paper.

When the story was finished, we peeled off the tracing paper and there was their visual story. Some of them came out so much like the McClure piece it’s uncanny!

Pieces of tracing paper with individual black dots made with paint.

Pieces of tracing paper with individual black dots made with paint.

For my final school visit I brought an old typewriter. I wanted the final draft of these robot stories to be typed up and in keeping with the “Useless” exhibit themes, thought it would be fun to have students explore the now outdated typewriter as a mode of typing.

I have an old, portable Royal typewriter. It was given to me by my uncle during the clean out of my grandmother’s house. I actually thought it was broken at first, but it turned out the keys that were getting stuck were meant to get stuck! (Just had to actually read the manual…which thankfully was still with it)

In prepping for this session, it was a fun exploration to work and tinker on the old machine. I had to buy new ink and learn how to put that in, do a little light cleaning and maintenance on it, and learn how to set and reset all the margins.

Since I only had the one typewriter, for the third and final session I had students use large alphabet stamps to stamp out their story letter by letter onto mural paper while they waited their turn. I did this because I wanted them using their fine motor systems to mimic the typewriter’s mechanics and keep on that idea of them being “story-making-machines.”

The students had a blast with the typewriter! Some of them asking, “ is this what old people use?” or calling out to their friends, “Hey, look! I’m old now!” as they typed. They were also curious about all the little knobs and levers and often, after their turn, they’d linger to watch the mechanisms of the machine as their classmate wrote. The teachers also had funny, nostalgic memories of the typewriter  which they shared with me and the classes.

Black and White photo of a 1970s typewriter. A paper with some typing is loaded into the scroll.

Black and White photo of a 1970s typewriter. A paper with some typing is loaded into the scroll.

At the projects close there was a lot of art to be shared and sorted": the original robots, the handwritten stories, the McClure like visual stories, and the class’ typewriter made story. For the final, assembly for I bound the stories, the typewritten text and visual poems, together with a bit of colorful twine, embracing the DIY aesthetic in the exhibit.

Two books handmade books side-by-side on a table. Both are tied together by a bit of twine, the front of them have typewritten words that are indistinguishable at the photo’s distance. Behind these front pages are pieces of tracing paper with blotches and dots of black paint.

Two books handmade books side-by-side on a table. Both are tied together by a bit of twine, the front of them have typewritten words that are indistinguishable at the photo’s distance. Behind these front pages are pieces of tracing paper with blotches and dots of black paint.

To close, the classes did a little Be-Bop Beat, as described to me, while I sang the story out loud. It was a lot of fun, and cool to see how proud the poets were of their work!

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Patreon

If you’ve noticed and clicked the new button at the bottom of the site, then you’ll see I’ve gotten a Patreon account!

 This is my first time trying out any kind of crowd funding or donation model and I’m a bit self-conscious about it. While Donnie Welch Poetry is a consulting and programming service and therefore a business, there’s a lot of content I’d like to keep free.

For example, this blog!

I want this blog to be a resource for both entrepreneurs and educators to find tips and learn from my experiences. I’m also working on video content on YouTube, these short readings and conference clips will be free for people to enjoy and learn from as well.

Another goal is to keep my curriculum affordable. The market for classroom texts is wild, but both of the texts I have available are purposefully under $20 and I intend on keeping them that way!

Beyond my online content, I run some after school and community workshops free of charge for both the organizations and participants who can’t meet my rates because a part of my mission in starting Donnie Welch Poetry is to make poetry more inclusive and equitable.

However, all of these things come with a big time commitment. And who ever came up with the saying “Time is money,” wasn’t wrong.

I’m hoping Patreon can be a resource that helps me keep this digital content free, my products affordable for parents and educators, and my workshops available to anyone who needs some poetry in their life!

Give the page a look and see if you can help, I’ve purposefully kept my donation tiers pretty low and even the $1/MONTH “Haiku Hero” offering goes a long way!

Patreon home page. In the top is an avatar image of Donne Welch, a young white male with glasses, followed by a description of a $1 donation tier.

Patreon home page. In the top is an avatar image of Donne Welch, a young white male with glasses, followed by a description of a $1 donation tier.

Holiday Cookie Poems

Since my first year running poetry workshops at Rebecca School, I've partnered with Cafe Rebecca “a gluten-free café located within the Rebecca School. Through the Café Rebecca program, our Transitions students (ages 15-21) bake, deliver, advertise and run all aspects of a café.  Our student bakers create everything from the logo to the cupcakes.  Everything made in Café Rebecca is gluten-free and nut-free, with vegan options as well.  Café Rebecca’s goal for serving food to the school community is to create a shared experience surrounding homemade food that all students and staff members can enjoy together, taking into consideration all food allergies.” [1]

Our partnership happens around the holidays and involves the workshops creating a poem to go on the Café’s holiday cookie tags as part of the marketing for the  holiday cookie sale. Every year the café packages and sells hundreds of cookies to families, students, and staff.  These packages come with signature tags, one side branding the café and the other with a signature poem.

Pile of three flavored cookies, chocolate, sugar, and oatmeal on a plastic wrapped plate. On top of the plate are two festive tags. One tag shows the front with the Cafe Rebecca logo, the other tag shows the back with the Rebecca School Poetry Workshop’s poem.

Pile of three flavored cookies, chocolate, sugar, and oatmeal on a plastic wrapped plate. On top of the plate are two festive tags. One tag shows the front with the Cafe Rebecca logo, the other tag shows the back with the Rebecca School Poetry Workshop’s poem.

Not every workshop takes on this project. It involves some pretty intense effort: writing on theme, working with space restrictions, and meeting a deadline. Of the eleven workshops I run at the Rebecca School, this year only two workshops took on the project.

So how do we get going on all this work?

I like to start the process right after thanksgiving to ensure that the workshops have a couple of weeks to progress toward the deadline. The deadline is usually the Friday before the winter break, so for example, this year’s 2018 deadline fell on Dec. 14th.

Since the tags are small, we get about sixteen words worth of space. To help the poets visualize this I’ll bring in a sample of the tags, either the blank slate the café is using, an example from the previous year, or both. I’ll also draw sixteen blank spaces up on the white board to give them a further visual for our word count. I often set this up in a standard 4x4 grid, but leave it free for the poets to move around as the piece demands.

School white board set up with sixteen blank, black lines in a four by four grid.

School white board set up with sixteen blank, black lines in a four by four grid.

For the actual writing portion, I give every poet note cards to write one word. Sometimes each poet will get two or three cards (depends on the workshop size), with the expectation that each card will only have one word each on it. I like doing this because it further reinforces the idea that we, as a workshop, don’t have a ton of space to play with. It also ensures that everyone is putting their own ideas down. Part of the fun of this project is seeing what words or phrases each poet associates with “The Holidays” then working together to fit these disparate ideas into a cohesive poem. After every poet is finished writing their word(s) we tape them up in the blank spots on the board.

School white board set up with sixteen blank, black lines in a four by four grid. On these blank lines now are notecards with individual words and some hand written words

School white board set up with sixteen blank, black lines in a four by four grid. On these blank lines now are notecards with individual words and some hand written words

After taping them up we can really get down to editing and creating working drafts. Sometimes the word count makes it so that we have extra space to write in new words, other times we’re exactly at sixteen and have to take some poetic license. The taped note cards allow the editing process to be visceral. Poets can go to the board, take words off, move them around and do what they need to show their vision for the poem. They can, quite literally, break the lines!

School white board with note cards and handwritten words still in that four by four structure but now without the guiding blank lines. The board is broken up with a column to denote which part of the draft the workshop is going to be working on.

School white board with note cards and handwritten words still in that four by four structure but now without the guiding blank lines. The board is broken up with a column to denote which part of the draft the workshop is going to be working on.

 Reflecting a bit more about this partnership, I realize that it informed the growth of my workshops and especially the Sensorimotor Poetry Workshops. This writing and editing technique, based around the social-emotional skills and the necessity of structure to a poem, forms the literacy back bone of that Sensorimotor modality.

This partnership was also the first opportunity I had to showcase the writing that the workshops were doing in the school. Being offered that opportunity when I was still running and managing these groups on top of my Teaching Assistant responsibilities was incredibly confidence boosting. It’s really touching and difficult to word how special it feels to have someone recognize and want to promote the work you’re doing. And, beyond my facilitator ego, to have the school community recognize the work of these poets is equally touching.

Big piece of butcher paper taped to a window. The four by four grid of lines is back with words handwritten in each. Along with these words there are now editing marks such as Xs, arrows, and circles, to denote where parts of the poem are being moved around to or potential placement ideas for words in the poem.

Big piece of butcher paper taped to a window. The four by four grid of lines is back with words handwritten in each. Along with these words there are now editing marks such as Xs, arrows, and circles, to denote where parts of the poem are being moved around to or potential placement ideas for words in the poem.

This long standing partnership is one of my favorite holiday traditions... and eating cookies at the end of it certainly adds to the spirit!

Sources

  1. https://www.rebeccaschool.org/cafe-rebecca/

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Mendive Closing at Bronx Museum

The Bronx Museum invited myself and the students from PS 73 read their praise poem as part of the closing ceremony of the Manuel Mendive exhibit. 

During and after the ceremony the poem was displayed on the museum floor in the midst of Mendive’s work. It was touching watching people pass by, read the poem, and interact with the content. Some laughing at the sillier answers, others nodding in consent as a word resonated.

Large, mural poem is load out on a concrete gray exhibit floor. The mural poem itself is colorful, with white letters popping out through greens, purples, reds, blues, and yellows, to form words. The angle of the photo makes it difficult to see the start of the poem, though the lower words “ And running / playing/ minecraft / call of duty/ PS4/ and fun” are visible. In the background is the Manuel Mendive exhibit full of natural imagery with trees, leaves, roots, birds, jungle like plants, and human figures all visible in blues, greens, red, yellows, and browns. To the right is one of Mendive’s ladders also featuring the nature themes in smaller detail along the side and on the steps.

Large, mural poem is load out on a concrete gray exhibit floor. The mural poem itself is colorful, with white letters popping out through greens, purples, reds, blues, and yellows, to form words. The angle of the photo makes it difficult to see the start of the poem, though the lower words “ And running / playing/ minecraft / call of duty/ PS4/ and fun” are visible. In the background is the Manuel Mendive exhibit full of natural imagery with trees, leaves, roots, birds, jungle like plants, and human figures all visible in blues, greens, red, yellows, and browns. To the right is one of Mendive’s ladders also featuring the nature themes in smaller detail along the side and on the steps.

The ceremony itself didn’t last too long, but it was quite a powerful showcase. Poet Orlando Ferrand read his praise poem he wrote to Manuel Mendive over the beat of Roman Diaz and his supporting drummers. This had been the basis for both the rhythmic and thematic work I had been doing with PS 73 throughout the Fall partnership, so being there in person to hear a live rendition was a wonderful experience.

Afro-Cuban Poet Orlando Ferrand reads into a microphone from a red folder. He is wearing all white beret, glasses, a red shirt, white pants and black sneakers. In the foreground are audience members holding phones up to film and take pictures. The background is the Mendvie exhibit. No single piece of art is all in frame, but the nature elements of Mendive are clear with trees, leaves, roots, birds, jungle like plants, and human figures all visible in blues, greens, red, yellows, and browns.

Afro-Cuban Poet Orlando Ferrand reads into a microphone from a red folder. He is wearing all white beret, glasses, a red shirt, white pants and black sneakers. In the foreground are audience members holding phones up to film and take pictures. The background is the Mendvie exhibit. No single piece of art is all in frame, but the nature elements of Mendive are clear with trees, leaves, roots, birds, jungle like plants, and human figures all visible in blues, greens, red, yellows, and browns.

Two afro-cuban men play drums. The one on the left is younger and bit cut off by the frame. On the right is Roman Diaz, he is an older man, wearing a black berret, sunglasses, a red shirt and a black blazer. His large drum is horizontal across his lap and covered in a decorative blue, white and gold cloth. In the foreground are audience members, one holding up a phone to film. In the background is artwork by Manuel Mendive on a white museum wall. The art has a jungle like scene where humanoid figures are sitting on, around, and underneath a tree.

Two afro-cuban men play drums. The one on the left is younger and bit cut off by the frame. On the right is Roman Diaz, he is an older man, wearing a black berret, sunglasses, a red shirt and a black blazer. His large drum is horizontal across his lap and covered in a decorative blue, white and gold cloth. In the foreground are audience members, one holding up a phone to film. In the background is artwork by Manuel Mendive on a white museum wall. The art has a jungle like scene where humanoid figures are sitting on, around, and underneath a tree.

Check out these studio recordings of the praise poem on the Bronx Museum’s Soundcloud to get a sense for the reading. In the large exhibit space though Ferrand’s voice and Diaz’s rhythm carried, making it an almost mystic experience, as if the audience was wrapped up in an incantation. A final spell from Maestro Manuel Mendive.

Also, the students and I made the flyer! We had our names in the interior copy and this great photo of our poem on the back. Big time stuff!

Small paper flyer on a white table. The flyer has a photograph of the large, mural, praise poem in situ at the school against a brick wall with other art projects surrounding it. Below the photo is a description of the Bronx Museum, it’s social media content, and the funders/donors.

Small paper flyer on a white table. The flyer has a photograph of the large, mural, praise poem in situ at the school against a brick wall with other art projects surrounding it. Below the photo is a description of the Bronx Museum, it’s social media content, and the funders/donors.

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Brooklyn Public Library Oct 20th

Last weekend I ran a workshop at the Brookyln Public Library’s central branch! It was an exciting space to be in, especially since they were having a book sale at the time! My session in the Information Commons was smack, dab in the middle of all the excitement.

The workshop was an inclusive Found Poetry session for teens 13+. I had the room broken up into four tables, each with a unique book and set of supplies on them.

Two wooden tables with books and supplies on them. The front table has colored felt pens, blue construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, pens, and a yellow children’s book. The back table has lined paper, crayons, scissors, glue, and a full length book. Both tables have gray chairs around them.

Two wooden tables with books and supplies on them. The front table has colored felt pens, blue construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, pens, and a yellow children’s book. The back table has lined paper, crayons, scissors, glue, and a full length book. Both tables have gray chairs around them.

Two tables with books and supplies on them. The front table has both adaptive and regular scissors, glue, glue sticks pens, sharpies, red paper, and thick book. The back table has a children’s book, yellow paper, glue, glue sticks, and scissors. Both tables have gray chairs around them.

Two tables with books and supplies on them. The front table has both adaptive and regular scissors, glue, glue sticks pens, sharpies, red paper, and thick book. The back table has a children’s book, yellow paper, glue, glue sticks, and scissors. Both tables have gray chairs around them.

I set the room up like this not only to help with crowd control a bit, but to encourage conversation and movement. I wanted the poets to move around the room and actually talk to one another in order to exchange supplies and source books for the making of their found poems.

Four source books arranged in a square. The top two books (left to right)  The Pelican History of Art  and  Deciding to Go Public . The Bottom two (left to right)  Old MacDonald Had an Apartment  and  Time too…  The books are all on a wooden table.

Four source books arranged in a square. The top two books (left to right) The Pelican History of Art and Deciding to Go Public. The Bottom two (left to right) Old MacDonald Had an Apartment and Time too… The books are all on a wooden table.

It was a fun hour and I found myself so busy floating from table to table and talking with the poets about their work that I didn’t have much time to put one together myself!

All in all, it was a great time and will hopefully happen again soon! I've posted some of the poems from the session on instagram, so be sure to follow @DonnieWelchPoetry to see them!

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Block Party!

With the school year looming ahead, I wanted to take some time to reflect on one of my favorite NYC summertime events: block parties!

I’ve had a blast volunteering at block parties in Harlem and Washington Heights. I’ve run activities tables for kids ranging from storytelling to magic wand making.

Donnie Welch, young caucasian male stands behind a table in a white T-shirt. On the table are a bubble machine, story book, and supplies for children’s crafts. In the background can be seen apartment buildings and people in costume for  Wizard of Oz  party theme.

Donnie Welch, young caucasian male stands behind a table in a white T-shirt. On the table are a bubble machine, story book, and supplies for children’s crafts. In the background can be seen apartment buildings and people in costume for Wizard of Oz party theme.

 There’s an amazing, hectic energy in this work. It can go from me standing around to six kids all asking for help with a craft in a matter of seconds!

Unlike working in a classroom or through program where there’s a set time and attendance list, block party work really keeps me on my toes!

I also like to come a little early and volunteer with the set up when I can. As a program provider in the community, I think it’s important to be involved in events I don't plan.

If all I did was show up to the garden or roll into the library for my half-hour sessions that would technically be enough (since that’s all I’m asked), but putting in the extra effort shows the families I’m working with that I’m here to stay, not just parachute in for my programs.

Plus, it can be fun! When I worked the West 150th block party I showed up early and they put me on letter board duty!

Big white letter board sign with black and red lettering. Sign has a red star at the top and reads “ 10 years / of heart / brains / & courage”. The sign is on a rocky surface with some plants and mulch from the garden visible behind it.

Big white letter board sign with black and red lettering. Sign has a red star at the top and reads “ 10 years / of heart / brains / & courage”. The sign is on a rocky surface with some plants and mulch from the garden visible behind it.

Block parties are a great space for working with whole families. In programs, parents sometimes feel like they should sit out unless asked to be directly involved. But at the parties, everything happens so fast and the energy so high! I've had parents who are just as interested in the activity as their child and who sit down to really engage in wonderful ways with their kid around completing the craft. That's where it's at!

If you're out and about in the city next summer and  see me working a booth come by and say hello!

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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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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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