Blanco Students Learn from Poet-In-Residence
THE DAILY TIMES (Farmington, NEW MEXICO)
Date: May 12, 2010
BLANCO — A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but in Desiraye Benavidez's fifth-grade class this week, words are worth 1,000 pictures.Scraps of Styrofoam floated through the air Tuesday in Benavidez's classroom at Blanco Elementary School as students bent their heads over their desks in concentration. Their task was to create a topographical map of an imaginary landscape, said Christine Hemp, an artist, poet and musician from Port Townsend, Wash.
"You are creating the land of poetry right now," Hemp said as students cut and glued Styrofoam to boards. "You have excellent imaginations."
The curriculum began Monday when Hemp, an artist in residence hired for the week through San Juan College's Bisti Writing Project, played her wooden flute and asked students to picture a landscape.
"They listened, they opened their imagination boxes and they wrote words," said Hemp, her eyes shining with excitement. "Then we made poems out of the words, and now we're making maps out of the poems. We're weaving it all together and when we're done, the poem will somehow be incorporated into the artistic landscape."
The haunting sound of the flute inspired a different landscape for each student. For example, 11-year-old Brenda Viramontes pictured leaves twirling in the wind.
"When Miss Christine played her big flute made out of wood, I started picturing a quiet place in Ireland," Viramontes said. "When I wrote my poem, it was about leaves falling in that place."
Viramontes used pieces of Styrofoam to sculpt on her board three mountains rising from a valley where a river flowed.
"It's beautiful there," she said. "It's peaceful and quiet."
Luis Rodriguez, 11, pictured something more close to home.
"The music was slow and I thought about an ocean and rocks," he said. "The music reminded me of my uncle who died. That's what my poem is about."
The weeklong project also fits with Benavidez's curriculum. Students are focusing on the theme "Reading draws you in," Benavidez said.
"This is tying in writing and art," she said of the project. "The students can see another form of art and tie it into words."
The Bisti Writing Project, funded through federal grants, is designed to provide professional development for teachers, project director Vicki Holmsten said. Bloomfield School District supplements the project with a state fine arts grant that allows the district to invite artists into classrooms twice per year.
The visiting artist goes into four classes per school, assistant coordinator Anna Marie Dusenbery said. Teachers who host artists often incorporate the lessons into their curriculum the following school year.
"The key is to give the teachers a breath of fresh air," Dusenbery said. "We expect students to enjoy writing and enjoy art, to get an appreciation and love of writing, a love of art."