Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On the Kitchen Table

I was staging a photo shoot of some recent, mindless knitting projects (still waiting to be finished and severed from their balls), and I realized that the items on the kitchen table were a perfect representation of our lives right now: work, homework, meals, and a little knitting, playing, or reading. I haven't been blogging much lately because May is so busy with end of school activities both for work and for my own children. My portable knitting has followed me here and there for in between times, before times, and after times. The photos below reveal what I cropped out of the frame above.

This seed-stitch washcloth was started back at the end of April for my trip to Chicago. Notice that subsequent washcloths took on a basket weave stitch and bright colors to remind me of the coming summer. The seed-stitch felt a little slow, but the basket weave keeps me going-- just one more section. The gray cat appears on the kitchen table any time and every time it looks like people are about to be around-- homework, breakfast, blogging, photo shoot, dinner, etc.

"Am I in the way?" the furry beast asks. "Why don't you rub that spot behind my ears while you do your work. I'll try very hard not to chew that pencil, but remember I'm just a cat."

Science homework: "Ready to Eat: Omnivores, Carnivores, and Herbivores."

Cat, computer, knitting, homework, book (Gregor and Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins), and Maxis Dragonoid: now it's time to clear it all off and set the table for supper. What are we having? Better figure that out. . .

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Young Photographers and Authors

During the last four weeks of literature connection class, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students at St. Therese Catholic School started their own Fibonacci accordion book project. Mrs. Tartleton and I took classes outside on the school grounds on Wednesday with five digital cameras. In April, Sarah Campbell, Lynn Tarleton, and I field tested the project involving book-making, photography, and poetry with third graders at the school (photo below). Sarah and I developed the arts integrated project as an extension of her new book, Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature, to meet a variety of objectives in math, science, language arts, and visual arts.
Only 5 weeks after the third graders took their photos, the school yard looked very different. Wednesday was unseasonably warm at 90 degrees and sunny. The leaves on the trees were large and thick unlike the just budding leaves of April. More varieties of wildflowers dotted the landscape while many of the blooming shrubs had already lost their spring colors.

The grass around the ditch which separates the playground from a meadow area was lush and varied with pink bindweed, wild garlic, and elephant ear-like plants. One boy spotted tadpoles in the ditch! Sycamore balls decorated the ground near the back of the church. The third grade class had exchanged their pansies for marigolds in their garden box, and they had hung pine-cone bird feeders from the tree outside their classroom. Several classes had flower pots of seed-growing projects lined-up outside their classroom doors.

The young photographers captured it all! They were enthusiastic, eager, and engaged-- dispositions which are sometimes hard to encourage during the last weeks of school. This is the perfect project with which to end the school year, and I hope that it will provide some good background experience and knowledge for both students and teachers to create a seasonal field guide, using this model, to our school yard during 2010-2011. It is so rewarding to share my growing interests in photography and environmental concerns with students who are excited to try out something new along with me.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

For the Birds

About a week ago, I pulled into the parking lot of St. Therese Catholic School and saw these two, large birds of prey sitting at the top of a bare tree. It was only 7:30 am, and the carpool line was in full swing. I wanted to get a closer look, so I grabbed my camera, the only magnification available to me at the time, and waded out into the wet grass. Parents and students trying to beat the tardy bell probably said to each other, "What in the world is Mrs. Owen doing out there?"

I wished for a pair of binoculars, and I made a mental note to myself: keep a bag with binoculars and other field gear in the car for moments like this. The birds were spectacular. What were they? Some kind of hawks, I think. A student told me they were "chicken hawks." My enlarged photos are still not good enough for me to identify them. One flew off to a tree line as I approached, but I was able to watch them for at least 15 minutes. I could hear one calling to the other. The grassy fields around the school must provide numerous prey for the birds. I wonder where their nest might be?

At the IRA conference in Chicago, my favorite session and one of the most meaningful experiences of the week was a symposium of authors, photographers, and illustrators who have been recognized by the Green Earth Book Award. Lynne Cherry, Melissa Stewart, Higgins Bond, Nic Bishop, Sy Montgomery, and Henry Cole spoke eloquently about their childhoods, their work, and their passion for our natural world and environmental concerns.

During her portion of the symposium, Sy Montgomery shared a Buddhist proverb that applied to her own life: When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. For Ms. Montgomery, the main teachers in her life have been the animals she has known through research for her books. She and Nic Bishop shared about their forthcoming book about the kakapo parrot in a series by Houghton Mifflin called Scientists in the Field. I am anxiously awaiting the release of this book about a remarkable bird living on a razor's edge and the amazing people working to save it.

Other birds need saving closer to home. Upon my return from Chicago, I am learning about how devastating the recent BP oil gush in the Gulf of Mexico has become. It seems to be a "worst case scenario" in a part of the country that has already suffered so much-- only three hours from where I live. The images on the news and online of people, birds, and other wildlife that are already being affected by the suffocating oil are "teachers" for me, and I hope for others, about the fragile circumstances in which we live our lives.