Poetry is the bridge that brought grade-schoolers from Ponte Vedra Beach together with middle school students from Jacksonville recently.
In spite of differences in life experience, age and ability, they came together to publish a book of poetry.
The result is that Danielle Reed and 45 of her fourthgrade classmates at Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Elementary School in Ponte Vedra Beach published Brainstorms: A Look at Life Our Way. Their mentors were Matthew Gilbert Middle School students in Jacksonville.
The two sets of students met in person for the first time Feb. 11 to celebrate the publication of the collection of 75 poems written by the fourth grade Program for Academic and Creative Endeavors students at Rawlings.
The children's work touches a variety of topics from Alaska to Hawaii, Fourth of July to Christmas and sunrise to sunset. For example:
The night is pencil lead dark Still, so peaceful A giant black sheet covers the sky like a blanket over a bed Covering, Protecting, Shielding
From The Night Silence by Matt Mercel.
"I was sitting outside one night and I just thought about writing a poem of the darkness," Matt said.
Last fall, a mix of students, some with learning disabilities, at Matthew Gilbert published original poetry as part of an incentive program offered by a New York-based company, Chapbooks for Learning.
Christine Reed, Danielle's mother and an exceptional education teacher at Matthew Gilbert, learned about Chapbooks at a conference in Texas, so she teamed with regular education teacher Malisa Kilpatrick. Their combined classes formed a poetry workshop. A bond grew between the exceptional and regular students as they worked together. The finished product, Young Minds are Infinite, became the first book to be published by Chapbooks using an Internet/Web-based system.
Then Danielle, an unlikely link between the disparate schools, wanted her Ponte Vedra Beach classmates to publish a book as her mother's eighth-grade students had done. She urged her mother to tell Rawlings gifted-class teacher Dee Esser about the Chapbooks program. Esser collaborated with teachers Ingrid Stoneberger and Arlene Dittmer, and their students wrote to the Matthew Gilbert students saying how much they liked their book. The Matthew Gilbert students replied: "You guys ought to try it," Esser said.
A mentorship developed between "the affluent group of fourth-grade Ponte Vedra kids who are gifted" and the "inner-city kids who have a lot of challenges," as letters carried by Danielle went back and forth between the two schools, Esser said.
Poems were sent to the Gilbert kids, such as:
The sea is a deep wonderland With animals of all kinds The wind is an oo-ing band The waves capture things for us to find. The fish come in all sizes Big, little, short and tall With so many shapes and colors That no one can name them all.
From A Majestic Mystery by Kamryn Nordsiek
"It was wonderful. The Gilbert kids were able to lend their point of view on some of the things that my kids wrote, and they would write notes and say `Well, your description of the ocean, that's really beautiful. You're going to find this hard to believe, but I've never been to the ocean.'"
Finally, the schools came together at Rawlings Feb. 11, and a beaming Danielle moderated the young authors' poetry reading/book-signing celebration and greeted the guests from Matthew Gilbert.
"Our classes have been working on this book since early November, and I'm very proud that you have come today to share in our excitement of becoming authors," Danielle said. …