Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rowing Down a River of Words

...of Children and Words

This was for the June issue of Parabola Magazine. I wrote about a wonderful Berkeley organization called River of Words that solicits poetry and artwork from children around the world on the theme of "Watersheds'. ROW publishes an annual compendium of the winning entries. Here's the listing and below this excerpt is the entire piece.

Winning Photo by Mira Darham age 10

Two things that were essential to our ancestors' well-being - awareness of the natural world and connection to one’s community - are woefully absent in the lives of many children today. Communities are now defined as friends on a Facebook page and a sense of place is variably determined by the location of the best cell phone reception.

Berkeley writer and long-time National Public Radio contributor Pamela Michael sought to remedy this situation by developing a program that encourages children to explore their natural environment and then provides the creative tools to help them express how that experience transformed them. In 1995 Michael teamed up with former US Poet Laureate Robert Hass to co-found River of Words, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote literacy, creative expression and community awareness of our local watersheds. “Watersheds are a meaningful way of looking at the whole of the natural world,” Michael explains. “We chose [water] as the basis for the curriculum because it is the absolute bottom line determining whether life exists or not. We wanted the children to understand the systems that sustain us by combining science and art -- two disciplines based on observation and experimentation."