Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Science in a 17-Syllable Setting

Science, poetry, and short stories. You might not ordinarily put those three together in the same sentence, let alone in the same curriculum. Here is a suggestion that could be used in your language arts or science classroom.


On a recent drive at dusk from North Carolina into Tennessee, I saw beautiful gray clouds that resembled feathers. They reminded me of arrows and as night descended, I began playing with the image, wondering how I could use it in a poem. Since I couldn’t get beyond the clouds themselves, I thought it might make a good haiku. Here is the first result:

Gray feathered clouds

shot from hidden bow. Puncture

blood-red dying sun.

In Teaching the Story I discuss how setting should help create a story’s mood. The same can be applied to poetry. Since I used a metaphor and compared the clouds to an arrow, the verb “puncture” followed which led to the creation of a dramatic, violent setting with an ominous mood.

Could I change that mood? Here is the second haiku:

Gray feathered clouds

line rose-kissed skyscape. Blue

hills embrace twilight.

I started with the same prompt but instead of a setting which reflected war and destruction; I created a soft, romantic mood by using the image “rose-kissed skyscape,” and using personification by suggesting that the hills “embrace” the twilight. The haiku format forced me to choose verbs and adjectives which enhanced each specific mood.

Since I didn’t take a picture of the clouds, when I decided to write this blog I googled “gray clouds + feathers” to search for an illustration. Although I didn’t find a picture of the clouds that streamed over the Smokey Mountains, I discovered that these clouds are called cirrus virtebratus—and were an identifiable subspecies of Cirrus clouds.
Photo by Michael Grossman, taken in Germany

Suddenly, my interest in clouds sky-rocketed (forgive the pun!) and I began wondering about other clouds outside the car window. Science exploration had begun.

You can do the same. Use a visual prompt in your classroom, either from pictures your students bring in or from a website like Google images. Exercise muscle words, play with verbs, and brainstorm moods.

Science, poetry, and short stories. Why not?

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3 comments:

elysabeth said...

Awesome - I like the first one better because it really does create a strong image. The softer one doesn't really bring me in that much. I like how you researched the clouds and found something similar but not what you really wanted to show - but it does have that effect of looking like a feather - What a cool way to tie in some unrelated topics and go cross-curriculum - E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad, 50-state, mystery, trivia series

Where will the adventure take you next?

http://jgdsseries.blogspot.com
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Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Love the poetry! And the idea of using images to explore both literature and science.

Carol Baldwin said...

thanks, ladies, for your comments. This was a fun blog to write and it truly unfolded just from seeing the clouds! I like the first haiku better too, Elysabeth. The second I just wrote to see if I could come up with a different mood from the same prompt. To be honest, the clouds I saw didn't exactly look like the one on my blog (they were even more feathery looking!) ...which will teach me to take pictures of EVERYTHING like Joyce does. YOu never know when you're going to need a picture to illustrate a blog!!