Celebrating National Poetry Month: Using Poetry to Connect Children and Nature

by Melissa Harding

Summer Reruns: Just like your favorite television shows go on hiatus for the summer, so does the blog. We will be running eighteen summer camps in eight weeks, so we will be a little busy! In place of original posts, Tuesdays will now feature some of the blog’s most popular posts from the last year. Fridays will feature that week’s camps, with pictures, crafts and lesson ideas for parents and educators.

cherry blossoms 2

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood. – T.S. Eliot

April is National Poetry Month, a celebration of the richness that poetry gives to our lives. Though some may think that poetry is becoming irrelevant in our modern world, there are many more who can tell you the impact that writing or reading poetry has on their lives. In fact, poetry is an important touchstone to reality in the digital era in which we live. A poem is a powerful thing – some poems can target your soul and never let go; the same poem can give one person a feeling of peace and yet stir the passions of another. To quote Plato, “Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” It truly does deserve its own month of celebration.

As part of a special series focusing on modern poetry, National Public Radio offered its listeners a chance to write and submit their own poems celebrating Washington, D.C’s famous cherry blossoms in bloom. After receiving hundred of submissions, twenty of the best were selected for reprint; the three best poems were used as the inspiration for several short films.

Here are several winning entries, in no particular order:

cherry blossom 2park bench take-away
the sky and cherry blossoms
in a cup of tea
— Paul Conneally

the petals fall from
an evening cherry blossom
she kisses him first
— Jenni L. Backs

Settled on a bench
In the lilting fragrance
of cherry blossoms
— Ric Cochran

Wet April morning–
Windshield wiper blades
heavy with cherry blossoms.
— Joel Dias-Porter

streetlamps in the haze …
this morning the stone lions
catch cherry blossoms
— Judy Totts


Just as anyone who observes the world around them is a naturalist, so too is anyone who writes a poem a poet. Writing poetry is a wonderful way to connect to nature. While it may be difficult to go outside and draw a bird that you observe, it is very easy to write a short poem about it. If you or your child are feeling intimidated by the idea of nature journaling, try writing short poems about your time outside. Don’t worry about sounding like Walt Whitman, a poem doesn’t have to be an ode to a tree. It can anything, even humorous! Poems don’t have to rhyme and can be short or long; they can be about a bird or the gum on your shoe. Children in particular may enjoy writing poems about things that are gross, weird or funny. A poem describing the wonders of rabbit poop in the yard may seem silly, but writing it requires important time spent observing.

Poetry can help to express how nature makes you feel, what you experience with your senses and what you think about your time outside; it can clarify your experience in a unique way. In fact, writing poetry about nature can be a gateway to expressing other ideas as well; poetry can be a great way for children to express things that are difficult or scary. It can be a tool to help you understand your child’s feelings as well as a way for him or her to share openly with you. Additionally, poetry is a great introduction to reading for young children and may be useful in converting reluctant readers into avid ones. The poems of Shel Silverstein are silly and fun – perfect for a child who thinks reading is boring. Finally, poems make lovely gifts; tuck one in a library book before you return it or mail one in a card. This is a great way for your child to practice random acts of kindness towards others; it is really enjoyable to sneak poems into odd places with the hope of making someone else’s day.

In short, poetry is a great tool to keep in your nature journaling toolbox as well as in your life. Be open to the idea that a poem can be anything and anywhere; the sky is the limit when writing a poem. Remember, “You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some of it with you.” (Joseph Joubert)

If you want to get started, try some of these easy tips for writing poems with your child:
1. Exaggeration Poem: Write a crazy poem that exaggerates the attributes of an object to great lengths.
2. List Poem: Make your poem a list of all the neat things that you see, attributes of a subject, or thing you feel.
3. Stretchy Metaphor: Find five verbs and five nouns from one subject area, like nature, and use them to write about another subject, like school.
4. Point of View Poem: Write a poem from the point of view of another object, like a plant or a bird.
5. Haiku: A haiku is a three line poem with 5 syllables on the first line, 7 on the second, and 5 on the last.
6. Weather Poem: Start each line of your poem with the same phrase, like “When it rains” or “When it’s cold outside”.

To read more cherry blossom haikus and watch the accompanying videos, check out NPR’s article.

If you are looking for other ways to celebrate National Poetry Month or incorporate more poetry into your life, check out these ideas from The Academy of American Poets. Try writing a poem on the pavement or giving a poem to someone you love!

The above photos of cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.  are courtesy of NPR.

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