A Poetry Club for Science
by Celia Berrell
It’s National Science Week – 12th to 20th of August. Schools and communities are celebrating with a myriad of science events. But they don’t all need to be sensationally explosive or super-techy … in fact poetry can be perfect!
Sharing snippets of science in poems is a great way to befriend physics, chemistry and biology. And encouraging students to write their own poems helps focus their science understanding in a memorable way.
Since 2011 I’ve run lunchtime Poetry Clubs at Whitfield SS – mostly with Year 5 and 6 students. Our topic this year is The Science, Nature and Poetry of WATER – to complement National Science Week’s theme FUTURE EARTH.
A PowerPoint presentation of weird science facts with specific Science Rhymes was the foundation. We then recited classic and contemporary poems that touched on our chosen topic. During this phase, we identified poetic tools and techniques enjoyed in those poems. Not all students want to write their own poems. Half the group are happy reciting and appreciating the message and music in poems written by others.
For those creating their own poems, most learn it’s possible to rearrange lines of poetry to make improvements. Poems can be changed before reaching their final form. Students mostly work on their poems away from our informal lunchtime meetings. This allows (via email communication with a parent) busy students to still participate.
As the poems roll in, our recital for National Science Week is born. Poems are practised in the Poetry Club setting, published on the Science Rhymes website, and then delivered to an audience of Year 4 students during National Science Week.
Parents appreciate reciting poems in front of an audience can lead to a newfound confidence for their child. Some students become published poets and a few have the exciting experience of promoting National Science Week on a live radio broadcast! I enjoy the whole process, particularly receiving their descriptive poems and knowing we have all learnt a little more science.
I hope you enjoy reading Evie’s poem about capillary action, which causes liquid water to escape from plant stems and wood, which can freeze in cold air to create ICE FLOWERS.
Such complexity and beauty
In a simple form
But only cold conditions:
Winter or Autumn.
The sap in the stem escapes
Thin cracks will form
Then water is drawn
It touches the air
Ice petals will form.
That is how an ice flower is born.
Ravishing and rare
Not found everywhere
Of course green plants can create
Yet also on wood, a fence or a gate
Where water comes through the gate’s pores
The forces push this delicate cause.
So tempting to touch
But wait, don’t rush
Ice flowers will break
Don’t make the mistake
Instead snap your lens
For the longest keepsake.
Isn’t that a lovely way to celebrate National Science Week?
Some links to images and information about ice flowers:
http://my.ilstu.edu/~jrcarter/ice/flowers/ & http://my.ilstu.edu/~jrcarter/ice/
My World of Ice
Dr James R Carter, Professor Emeritus
Illinois State University
Photos: Dr James R Carter http://my.ilstu.edu/~jrcarter/