Earth Day + Poetry Month = Poetic Recycled Art

The month of April is my favorite month, because it is National Poetry Month. What better way to welcome spring than with poetry?  And better yet - Earth Day is in April on the 22nd. April, spring, poetry, our beautiful Earth - make all of it come together in the spirit and action of recycling as art.

Making art with materials on hand is a fun way to be resourceful. Parents and young children working together can share a creative experience that is also a teaching time. Children will learn about poetry in a fun way as well as Earth Day and the importance of recycling.

Minnie and Mattie by Christina Rossetti found its way to me with brown paper bags, scissors, glue, crayons and a ball point pen. First came the chain of paper dolls, then coloring Minnie, Mattie and May. The poem is "inked" on side panels from a brown paper grocery bag and decorated with "primroses" cut out of another bag.

Minnie and Mattie
     by Christina Rossetti

Minnie and Mattie
   And fat little May,
Out in the country,
  Spending a day.

Such a bright day,
  With the sun glowing,
And the trees half in leaf,
  And the grass growing.

Pinky white pigling
  Squeals through his snout,
Woolly white lambkin
  Frisks all about.

Cluck! cluck! the nursing hen
  Summons her folk, --

Ducklings all downy soft
  Yellow as yolk.

Cluck! cluck! the mother hen
  Summons her chickens
To peck the dainty bits
  Found in her pickings.

Minnie and Mattie
  And May carry posies,
Half of sweet violets,
  Half of primroses.

Give the sun time enough,
  Glowing and glowing,
He'll rouse the roses
  And bring them blowing.

Don't wait for roses
  Losing to-day,
O Minnie, Mattie,
  And wise little May.

Violets and primroses
  Blossom to-day
For Minnie and Mattie
  And fat little May.

When choosing a poem to illustrate, it's important to choose one that "calls" to you - one that you and your child both enjoy together. Some poets to try are Jack Prelutsky or Shel Silverstein.

For older students, choosing a poem can be about processing life's challenges.  Emily Dickinson's, I'm Nobody! Who are You? can be chosen for its seeming light-heartedness, but it also winds its way deeper. Dancing with the question of personal identity and belonging, for me, this poem evolved through the first weeks of "shelter in place" and the pandemic that has found its way here. The poem expressed itself from pre-shelter-in-place with this one of a women in a field of dandelions:

I'm Nobody! Who are You? by Emily Dickinson

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's the pair of us--don't tell!
They will banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Then the poem spoke more seriously with these expressions - one from a medical worker and the other of a family in shelter:

The materials used for "I'm Nobody! Who Are You?" were what was on hand - brown paper bags, sharpie pens, scissors, glue, a shoe box, and magazines (in this case the most recent paper issues of the New Yorker).

Try it - you may find it refreshing and therapeutic for the whole family, especially as you all shelter together and are looking for ways to be together and away from the screen.

And - for a chance to win a gift certificate to a local bookstore - children can enter their recycled art in SCCLD's  Recycled Art Challenge. [Update: This event has ended.]

Resources for Poetry

For help in finding poetry during this time at home - here are a few sources to try:

Web-based - a database of 11,408 poems and you can sign up for poem-a-day to be sent to you by email.

The Poetry Foundation and its  Poetry for Children.

And, of course - resources available through membership in SCCLD:

E-Reference Sources

The Columbia Granger's World of Poetry

Gale EBooks Poetry for Students

Ebooks to Checkout

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein 

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood-The Poetry of Mister Rogers

Follow the Recipe - Poems about Imagination, Celebration and Cake by Marilyn Singer