Friday, November 01, 2013

What if poetry and science met and fell in love?

Well, I have a secret to share. I’ve been leading a double life. I am still true to my love for poetry, but I have to admit that I’ve been playing around with science on the side. 

After the success of The Poetry Friday Anthology--- first for K-5 and then for middle school-- Janet and I talked about what to do next. After much discussion, we decided a cross-curricular approach was the way to go. When I teach my graduate course in poetry for young people, the "poetry across the curriculum" module is always the most popular. Teachers and librarians love the idea of infusing poetry in science, social studies, math, etc. And there are so many wonderful poetry books to choose from with rich content to spice up lessons. So when we thought about which area to focus on, we chose science pretty quickly. A quick look at the 811 shelves will turn up quite a few wonderful science-themed poetry collections. Plus the field of science has just published a new "framework" for science instruction, including new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), that makes it a timely moment to push the notion of poetry as a way into science once again. 

So... that's what I've been working on with my partner-in-poetry, the fabulous Janet Wong. It's The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science due out next March. Here's the lowdown: It will contain 218 poems for K-5 with a "Take 5" mini-lesson for each poem once again.  We're continuing our approach that begins with reading the poem aloud, inviting kids to read it out loud with you, prompting open discussion, building a skill, and connecting with other poems, books, and genres. We'll be integrating both the science standards (NGSS) and the Common Core standards (CCSS), but with a focus on celebrating the poem, as well as encouraging exploration of our world, too.  There are  poems by Joyce Sidman, J. Patrick Lewis, X.J. Kennedy, Marilyn Nelson, Marilyn Singer, Douglas Florian, Carole Boston Weatherford, Joseph Bruchac, Margarita Engle, and more (total of 72 poets). We're really thrilled with how it's all coming together.

Janet and I just spent 3 days at the NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) conference getting a crash course in science education! It was fascinating to see how tuned into literacy the science teachers were. It was BIG! And there were multiple sessions on using children's literature to promote science learning, so our ideas about sharing science-themed poetry were very well received, too. 

For teachers, librarians, and parents who simply want to promote science literacy, five minutes with a science-y poem is a great way to begin. And if you want to go even further and develop a full-blown science experience or connect with a science lesson, we offer tips there, too. 

In a recent article, “Physics And Poetry: Can You Handle The Truth?” writer Adam Frank admitted, Poems and poetry are, for me, a deep a form of knowing, just like science. Yes, obviously, they are different. But each, in its way, is a way to understand the world.” Although it may seem surprising, poets and scientists both seek to observe, explain, and understand the world around them. Poet Sara Holbrook reminds us, “In fact, in Ancient Greece there was no distinction between a scientist, poet, or philosopher." Linking reading and science offers opportunities to develop both comprehension skill and content knowledge and poetry is the perfect vehicle for capitalizing on those teachable moments of overlap and connection. 

We look forward to sharing more about this project when it's ready to roll...