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Close-up look at nature moves children to write

A few weeks ago, the Park School's third- and fourth-grade students shared with me some of their field experiences. They read poems they had written about the insects (grade 3) and wildflowers (grade 4) they had studied outside on the school grounds.

I was overwhelmed by the quality of the thinking and particularly the ready use of metaphor and simile in the writing of these youngsters.

See what you think. Here are some excerpts from their poems. To save space and crowd more into this column I adopt a paragraph form with capital letters for new lines.

Adina Marynowski on the bee: It flies like a ballet dancer So elegant on a breeze.

Ben Upshaw: Giants of the insect world Strongest wings Dragonflies are the swamp's swat team Cleanup crew and superheroes Rolled into one insect.

Andrew Grant: Wasps are An awesome garden secret society Stupendous Perfect Spies.

Croix Mikofsky: You're fast But I am faster Beetle you did not stand a chance I am a praying mantis Silent but deadly.

Jack Wilie on lily of the valley: I am like a gift from The heavens I am like snow My perfume is sweet I am Like little bells but when You try to ring them You will not hear a sound.

Isabelle Sanchez on snowdrops: Droopy and silly Light and sweet smelling When the rain hits me Rustle in the wind When spring comes along I jump for joy In the clean crisp air I am small But bold.

Josie Lauricella on glory-in-the-snow: I am small I am snow and periwinkle A lemon center As the morning sunshine floods my petals And the dirt under me Fills with warmth I breathe and grow.

These delightful poems represent a small part of an ongoing project at the Park School: the development of a creative school field guide. The project leaders describe the activities as "Where Mother Nature meets Human Nature." In more prosaic terms as an opportunity for students to associate scientific study with creative writing.

But their teachers are giving the students an equal role in development activities. Here are some of the (prose this time) ideas that fourth-grade students have proposed: "A field is a place to relax, a peaceful place to focus and read. It's a ground for deer to run around and where bugs have parties. It's an open place for scientists to study,sunny with not as many trees as a forest."

It's a point of view.

"A guide is like a light: it leads to exploration. It's like a map that takes you around an unfamiliar place. A guide is a person who helps people on their way, a person who helps your curiosity. A guide is someone you can rely on."

As a counterpoint to these lofty thoughts, Alec Rakas recited his poem as a rap epic, bouncing to his own cadence.

The lovely Park School campus, with its open grasslands, woodlot, marsh and pond, provides a perfect setting for this project and the leaders take full advantage of it.

Overall project director is second-grade teacher Lisa Wood. Sanford Geffner and Scott Lembitz of Earth Spirit Educational Services provide inspirational science programming with Karen Lee Lewis serving as Literary Teaching Artist. Lewis is affiliated with the Western New York Writing Project directed at Canisius College by Suzanne Borowicz. Park School teachers Jeanette Jafari, Chris Downey and Kyle Polaske play central roles, with headmaster Christopher Lauricella and development officer Carolyn Hoyt Stevens contributing additional support.

The activities have made these Park School students enthusiastic learners at a time when this quality is too often absent from our schools.

I cannot resist recording a question one of these remarkable students asked me: "What is your favorite flower?" My wife will be deeply irritated when she learns my response: "The dandelion."