What do you know about the mysterious Blumber Bug or the fierce predator known as the Scubri? Have you ever heard of the dragon-like Bloober that can only survive in a habitat filled with Bloober trees? Neither had I, until several weeks ago, when one of my students carefully explained that all these creatures belonged in the imaginary land that he had created in our afterschool ACES program.
This year, all elementary and middle schools in the Roaring Fork School District have instated early release Wednesdays so that teachers can participate in professional development. As a result, schools have installed weekly afterschool enrichment programs and enlisted community members and organizations as teachers. These Enrichment Wednesdays have created another opportunity for ACES educators to teach fun and creative programs up and down the Roaring Fork Valley. This fall we taught a “Science Explorers” class at Basalt Middle School, which we followed with “Wild Words with ACES: Where Art and Science Meet” at Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale.
The focus of Wild Words was to blend environmental science and creativity through writing and art. The course culminated with a project in which students crafted a poem modeled after “The Magic Box” by Kit Wright. These poems describe all the things, real and imaginary, that each author would bring along on a journey to an imaginary land far, far away. The poem was organized such that students wrote about their favorite sensory experiences and also designed the biota, habitat, and climate of the fictional land their box would land in. While crafting their poems, students poured over field guides of local animals, plants, and insects, gaining ideas and inspiration. Their writing featured both the real and the imaginary:
“My box will land in a place that looks like snow and feels so warm that you might want to stay there forever.”
“My box will land in a place that looks like a haven for dragons, and I am their king!”
“I will put in the box a water breathing owl.”
With poems finished, students illustrated their poems and completed the project by crafting a diorama of the box itself. The boxes contained thunderstorms and peach trees, “bugbane” plants and sunflowers, red foxes and “harmless bees.” On our last class, students read their poems and presented their boxes to the class with pride.
For me, this program is a beautiful example of what can happen when students are directors of their own learning, seamlessly blending their knowledge of the environment, ecology, and adaptations with wildly expressive imaginations and a keen sense of curiosity.
~Laura Armstrong, ACES Educator