Blending Science and Poetry - Eva Varga

April 4, 2015

It’s National Poetry Month!!

Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month, held every April, is the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.

Poetry is the perfect vehicle for capitalizing on moments whereby science overlaps with language arts. Poets, like naturalists, find their subject matter and inspiration in the natural world. Poetry is a means to study nature, as is science.

Science and poetry use language in a fundamentally different manner. Though each attempts to find a language for the unknown, to represent accurately some carefully observed aspect of the world. While the two disciplines employ language in different ways, they are kindred spirits in their creative process.

It is thereby the perfect time to share with you a few resources the blend poetry into your science units throughout the year.

Blending Science and Poetry @EvaVarga.netScience & Poetry Activities

There are many ways to integrate poetry into your science curriculum. Most simply, science themed poetry can be added into activities that are already a part of your schedule. Set aside time to read poems that tie into the curriculum, for example, to accompany a study of insects or the night sky.

Create a Found Poem ~ Use a descriptive paragraph from an non-fiction text, news article, or an encyclopedia. Ask students to underline or highlight words that they think are important. List these underlined words on a separate piece of paper and a poem will begin to emerge. Can you make it more poetic by rearranging them? Are there some words that aren’t necessary?

Copy the Masters ~ Find inspiration from master poets and use one of their poems as a framework for your own as my son did in his poem, I’ve Known Rivers.

Celebrate the Spoken Word ~ Poems can be read and reread in very little time. Try reading one together or memorizing a favorite to perform as spoken word. Invite students to read aloud poems written for two voices like Joyful Noise.

Try Blackout Poetry ~ Photocopy a page from an old textbook or use a newspaper article about a current event to create blackout poetry.

Nature Journaling ~ Copy poems – either those written by you or by others – into your nature journals to complement your sketches.

Poetry Tea Time ~ Set aside time each day for a break from the fast-paced demands of homeschooling, parenting, and household running. Slowing down to sip tea (or hot chocolate or cider or coffee or lemonade or juice) creates the perfect space to contemplate rhymes and riddles, limericks and sonnets.

Blending Science and Poetry @EvaVarga.netScience & Poetry Selected Works

There a many wonderful books of poetry that incorporate ones love of nature and the outdoors. I’ve selected a few of my favorites to share with you.

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleishman is written to be read aloud by two voices ~ sometimes alternating, sometimes simultaneous. This collection of charming poems celebrates the insect world, from the short life of the mayfly to the love song of the book louse. I found an audio version to which we listened first – and then we had a blast reading them together.

Another book by the same author is I Am Phoenix: Poems for Two Voices celebrates the sound, the sense, the essence of birds.

Gecko on the Wall

Her jaws dart out
To crunch up flies.

Her tongue flicks up
To wipe her eyes.

She climbs up walls
With eerie cries.

Her tail comes off:
A wriggling prize!

She sprints and leaps
and slinks and spies . . .

Don’t you wish you were a gecko?

The Haiku pomes in The Year Comes Round are accompanied by beautiful images illustrating the time of the year presented in the poem. At the end of the book the reader is given an explanation of Haiku form, the cycle of life, and each of the seasons through which this delightful little book has just taken the reader.

In A Strange Place to Call Home, fourteen poems by Marilyn Singer celebrate the unusual animals that have adapted to equally unusual habitats where competition is light and safety from predators is great. A variety of poem styles are utilized, including free verse, rhyming, haiku, triolet, villanelle, and terza rima.

You’ll love Joyce Sidman’s collection of nocturnal musings of plants and animals who inhabit the night world in Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night. Each poem describes the habits and behaviors of a special nocturnal plant or animal in imaginative poetry.

Another book by the same author is Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow takes us on a tour through an open meadow, beginning with the rising sun and ending with twilight, encouraging us to watch for a nest of rabbits, a foamy spittlebug, a leaping grasshopper, bright milkweed, a quick fox, and a cruising hawk.

The Tree that Time Built organizes poems from various poets into an exploration of the trees and branches of Darwin’s tree. The main trunk is life, and the book is organized into sections covering birds to dinosaurs and everything in between. Classic works by Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, and the like, and selections from contemporary poets are included, as well as translated works.

“… high above
there is the Earth,
rushing oceans, racing clouds,
swaying fields and forests.
Family, friends, and strangers,
everyone you’ve ever known,
everyone you might–
the good and lonely Earth,
glowing in the sky.”

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