By: Mr. Robert Scheiderman
In recognition of National Poetry Month this spring, and as part of Ocean Academy’s continuing focus on art as a pathway to education, students were given three exciting English based assignments that over lapped into several other areas and help them explore the possibilities of poetry and rhyme within literary history, visual media and performance art.
OA English classes first were asked to consider the meaning of various Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes and the role they played in literary history. Many Mother Goose rhymes were written as critical social satire, making fun of popular figures of the day and turning attention toward sensitive subject matter. After an introduction to Mother Goose and some selected readings, students were asked to choose nursery rhyme of their own and explore its real history, then after presenting their findings to the class create a picture showing the literal happening of the nursery rhyme. Students were allowed to choose their own medium to work in, most chose to draw while others wanted to paint.
Students were then asked to engage in a process of found art to create abstract poetry. Students were introduced to the idea of by taking pages from a discarded text, blacking out selected lines of text and creating a hidden, poetic personal expression out of the original text. Students were encouraged to include colors and themed artwork into their project as well. A local book-dealer, Books & Salvage in Toms River, NJ, donated a stack of discarded text material and books to the school. Students were then set to begin sorting through the pages, experimenting with the printed word and free expression. Many students attempted numerous pages before settling on their final project piece. By negating aspects of the original material through blackening out, adding colors or pictures, students were able to creatively expose a previously unrecognized poem or thoughtful expression which uniquely represented their views and experiences.
Finally, just in time for the warmer and drier weather to make a healthy appearance, OA students were introduced to the urban sport of double-Dutch jump-roping. Originating in urban neighborhoods of New York and New Jersey through the 1950’s, playing double-Dutch involves at least three people, one or more jumping, and two turning the ropes. A jumper may perform tricks involving elements of gymnastics, break dance and a variety of foot movements. Over years of practice, rope turners began to engage in a rhythmic cadence, or rap, intended to help the jumper maintain rhythm.
Students were then separated into groups and asked to create a positive, upbeat Ocean Academy based rap to use while their classmates performed double-Dutch. After our first lesson on jumping rope, it became apparent that some practice sessions were needed. Over the next few days, when class and weather allowed, OA students took time to practice their jump-roping skills. During recess several students chose to jump-rope instead of shooting baskets and a few groups of students formed to play double-dutch during Physical Education classes.
Only days later, students were asked to present the final product of their hard work. Classes assembled and warm up jumping was allowed. Some students made certain to grab a favorite jump rope, while others went through the rap once more, quickly exchanging words of encouragement. Finally, the groups were brought together and each performed. Students were encouraged to fully participate and cheer on their OA classmates and the students didn’t disappoint as clapping and cheering filled the black top.
Clearly practice had made perfect! Many students who previously had difficulty were now jumping with comfort and ease. Those who were already proficient had improved their skills notably. Elijah, from the tenth grade improved his skills and jumped 110 consecutive times, twice his previous number. While Sebastian, a ninth grader, declared “I could never jump rope before, but now I can!” after he completed 22 consecutive jumps when he was not able to jump more than 5 just days earlier. Tremendous results for everyone!
Ocean Academy English classes encountered National Poetry Month with an exploration into literary history with the Nursery Rhyme project, played with abstract poetic forms in their Black out poetry and topped it off with a fun, hands on cultural exploration and a challenging physical activity to wrap it up. It was a great ending to Ocean Academy’s recognition of National Poetry Month.