A write in the park

Rappahannock News - - SCHOOLS & SPORTS - — Holly Jenkins

RCHS English teacher Dar­lene Mathieson re­cently in­spired some of her stu­dents to find cre­ativ­ity in na­ture by mov­ing the class­room out­doors for a day. [There’s a photo of the group on page A1.]

Note­books and pen­cils in hand, the stu­dents trav­eled to Shenan­doah Na­tional Park to record sen­sory de­tails. From those ob­ser­va­tions, the stu­dents were asked to write po­etry or short es­says about their ex­pe­ri­ence. “Shenan­doah Na­tional Park (SNP) is the per­fect place for writ­ers,” Mathieson writes of the ex­pe­ri­ence. “Many of my stu­dents have said that they can­not write, or are not in­spired to write. Once on the moun­tain, a trans­for­ma­tion takes place.

“One as­pect of this change is be­ing out­side in the fresh air, in na­ture at its best, and be­ing able to share the ex­pe­ri­ence with friends. The stu­dents feel the free­dom of the place, while watch­ing deer, bear, and screech owls. They fo­cus on hawks soar­ing above. Many stu­dents get quiet and rest on rocks while lis­ten­ing to the birds and the wind in the trees. They tap into a place within, the writer’s heart. Be­fore the field trip is over, they are al­ready try­ing to com­pose their thoughts on their notepads and with one an­other. Many of these teens have never vis­ited SNP, which al­ways amazes me, be­cause it is a vast trea­sure in our back­yard. I en­cour­age ev­ery teacher — el­e­men­tary and sec­ondary — to plan a trip to SNP. You will see im­me­di­ate growth in your writ­ers. I am work­ing on a writ­ing pro­gram which cen­ters on SNP. It will en­com­pass all as­pects of the park, in­clud­ing the Civil­ian Con­ser­va­tion Corps and the his­tory of the dis­placed cit­i­zens.”

Says RCPS Su­per­in­ten­dent Shan­non Grim­s­ley, who ac­com­pa­nied the stu­dents as one of the chap­er­ones: “Ex­pe­ri­ences like this should be the rule, not the ex­cep­tion.” Mathieson’s other English and cre­ative writ­ing stu­dents will visit the park in the spring.

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