A write in the park
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.