Friday, May 15, 2015

The Symbiosis of Science and Poetry

Janet and I were so thrilled to get an article published in the latest issue of ALSC's Children and Libraries. The focus is on science and poetry and begins like this:

Sometimes unlikely partners can benefit each other in surprising ways. For example, dogs offer protection and companionship to humans, who in turn provide food and shelter for dogs. This “give-and-take” relationship is called symbiosis, referring to relationships that have mutual benefit. 

That’s true for the disciplines of science and poetry, too. Science is rich in content and poetry offers powerful language; together they can both inform and inspire. 

For some of us, however, science is a little intimidating because of the unfamiliar vocabulary, abstract concepts, and the text-heavy format of many science books. But people who feel uncomfortable with science often feel very comfortable with language arts, so a poem might be the perfect way to introduce a science topic.

Then we go on to highlight some recent works of science-themed poetry, including The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science:

Finding Science Poetry
There are many wonderful science-themed works of poetry to choose about animals, weather, seasons, and space. In addition to short, visually-appealing poetry collections such as Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems by Kate Coombs, Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors by Joyce Sidman, and A Strange Place to Call Home: The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats and the Animals That Call Them Home by Marilyn Singer, you can also find comprehensive anthologies such as The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination compiled by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Wilson, The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry compiled by J. Patrick Lewis, and our own The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science, a recent “NSTA Recommends” title endorsed by the National Science Teachers Association. It features 218 poems about solar power and hybrid cars, gears and robots, hurricanes and the human body, video games and glaciers, famous scientists and everyday inventions, and more (along with learning activities for every poem). Using these science poetry resources and many others, it’s possible to find a short “poem match” for almost any elementary science topic to provide a moment of learning that is also a fun break in the routine. 

One helpful selection resource is the annual list of Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12, co-sponsored by the Children’s Book Council and the National Science Teachers Association. This annotated bibliography typically includes a few new books of science-themed poetry every year, sometimes in the form of rhyming picturebooks and verse novels. 

In addition, many children’s science-themed magazines and serials, such as Ranger Rick, Owl, Chirp, Chickadee, National Geographic Kids, and Kids Discover, regularly feature poems, In fact, magazines are often the first medium in which many new poets get their work published.

We address the science curriculum standards and how to address them through poetry.  And we also talk about how to address research skills, as well as different approaches to publishing science-themed poetry-- including pairing prose and poetry. Finally, we offer a few examples of how to maximize science-poem moments:

 *A “Galactic Glossary” in Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian defines everything from “the minor planets” to “the great beyond,” with a sprinkling of especially kid-friendly facts.

*Face Bug by J. Patrick Lewis not only provides exceptional close-up photos of insect faces, but also ends with a section in which each of the insects featured in a poem has a first-person statement about “Where I Live,” “How I Grow,” “What I Eat,” and “What Eats Me.” (The Pearl Crescent Butterfly says, “I count robber flies . . . and, of course . . . BIRDS on my Most Scary List” while the venomous Saddleback Caterpillar says, “Go away, if you know what’s good for you!”)

*Nature Notes in the back of Avis Harley’s poetry collection African Acrostics feature informative paragraphs alongside thumbnail photos of each of the animals highlighted in the book; Susan Blackaby provides similar information about each of the animal habitats she showcases in the poems of Nest, Nook & Cranny. In addition, both Harley and Blackaby provide a section about the poetic forms they employ in the poems, too.

You can find more info about this excellent journal HERE

Now head on over to Random Noodling where Diane has the Poetry Friday party going strong! 


Diane Mayr said...

Face Bugs has a lot of kid-appeal (at least for the kid in me)! I've made a note to order it for the library.

Jeannine Atkins said...

Wonderful about your article. I hope it inspires many teachers!