Friday, April 06, 2018

My Favorite Subject is Science

The miracle is not to fly in the air or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth.  
~ Chinese Proverb

My Favorite Subject is Science

Photosynthesis is the
inside plants. Our planet changing from season to season is
any less miraculous. And to
learn that planes fly
not because of the engine but in
response to the
lift of the air
under the wings -- amazing! Food chain or
food web – both work elegantly to
balance life in the wild. Walk,
run, stand, sleep: your heart beats on.
cycle, symbiosis, sound waves – more miracles asking nothing but
that we pay attention to
this walk
we have been given on

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Some process notes about this (crazy) project...

In about mid-March, each of the thirty 5th graders in my class chose a quote from the classroom quote books or the stack of GapingVoid ( cartoon-quotes I printed and laminated a few years ago.

Before the end of March, I typed each quote (vertically and right-justified) in its own document.

On the drive from Ohio to Colorado and back during spring break the last week of March, I fiddled around with most of the quotes and wound up with about 10 poems that felt mostly ready. I panicked a bit because I realized that I wouldn't be able to write a poem about each child using the quotes they'd chosen. So I made a sheet with all the names and a brainstorm list of all the topics we've studied so far this year. Whew! There are at least as many topics as students! Some of the poems will wind up being more about the child who chose the quote than others, but all of them taken together will be a record of our year together this year.

In answer to Diane's question from yesterday's comments about how I actually go about drafting the Golden Shovels: As I mentioned, I have the quote written vertically and right-justified. I write into those end words, going for as much enjambment as possible. I am trying to write a poem that's not necessarily on the topic of the quote so that the quote and poem together are a little bit surprising. I think I'll be doing a better job with this in upcoming poems where I won't try to write about the child who gave me the quote. I'll be choosing a quote and writing a poem on a topic from our classroom. Stay tuned. We'll see how that goes! Beyond that, there's lots of staring into space, starting and stopping, retyping the quote again below the first draft and trying another draft (and another), and a nice dose of mystery and magic and surprise!

Keep Your Promises -- this quote came from the child who gave me the 30 days 30 students 30 poems challenge. Seemed only right for him to go first!

Astronomical Passions -- the child who chose this quote aspires to be an astronomer.

Legos -- this original quote was written by a Lego-maniac.

Walt Didn't Say This, But He Would Approve -- my Everything Disney girl wrote this original quote. It was fun to work the Disney-ness in!

100% Authentically ME! -- if you knew this girl, you would understand how perfectly this poem captures her spirit. She beamed when I showed it to her!

My Favorite Subject is Science -- I'm not sure if the guy who chose this quote would agree that science is his favorite subject, but it's definitely a favorite for most students in my class. It's such a perfect age for beginning to learn about the way things work on this beautiful planet (and in this amazing solar system) of ours.

Amy has this week's Poetry Friday Roundup at The Poem Farm.


  1. Mary Lee, this poem is breathtakingly beautiful, almost to the point of making me cry. It reminds me, a little, of one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, "A Summer Day." Stop, breathe, pay attention, marvel. Absolutely gorgeous. I'm printing it out today, several copies, and hanging it on my bathroom mirror, and on my file cabinet at work.

    And of course, as someone who is totally nose, I loved the process notes. I have imagined these kids as I've read, and it's fun to know a little more about them and about your process. I still can't imagine writing 30 golden shovel poems!

  2. more miracles asking nothing but
    that we pay attention

    Yes, indeed. So much is revealed when one pays attention.

  3. Three cheers for poetry AND science!

  4. I am loving this challenge. What a fabulous record of your year with these students!

  5. Wow, 30 golden shovels. That is quite a challenge. I bow in awe.

  6. Honest,. I wish I could write like you. I leaned your way in the past but not these days. Maybe I have lost my voice because I am not in a 5th grade classroom.....but seriously this is another brilliant poem. Thank you for sharing your process. I am definitely going to try these because I can see how this is truly a gift for your students. I am hoping some of your success will rub off on me. And I think these should be publishable.....Thanks again. Janet F.

  7. I've really enjoyed following your golden shovel poems (and what a gift for your class!) This one is my favorite to date, because 1. Science! and 2. how different yet similar the source quote and the poem turn out to be.

  8. If one really does study the concepts we are surrounded by, we find they really are amazing, miraculous, as will your students also find these poems for them, Mary Lee. It is a wonder of a project. One year I began a search for poems others had written about my students' names. with some 'adjusting' I found them. I loved doing that as I'm sure you are loving this, too.

  9. Wonderful tribute to "this walk we have been given on the earth," Mary Lee. This poems fantastic, I love it. I like all the back story too. Here's to our future continuing to "walk on the earth," thanks!

  10. I love the line, our only duty is to pay attention. What a beautiful gift to your students. I'm sure it will last the lifetimes of many of them and become a legacy too. Thank you for sharing your process. What a neat-o-keen thing that you used the word enjambment! Such a great word. I'm totally stealing that one for my journal.

  11. Mary Lee,
    I appreciated hearing about your process. I'm still waiting on a shovel poem to find me, but I feel it is getting closer. Reading about your process helped. I'm going to ponder the way you "write into" the end words. I was really struck by your intentional decision to make the quote and poem different so that they surprise the reader. I think my inclination would have been to make them similar, but there does seem to be a lot of power in the dissimilarity. I'm enjoying your plan for the month and look forward to the surprise that awaits each day.

  12. This is a great idea! I will be sharing it with my colleagues who teach science. It's such a great strategy for writers of any subject to try. Thanks for sharing, Mary Lee!

  13. Mary Lee, Thank you for sharing your process. I love what you are doing--I look forward to what you create each day!

    I plan to gift one of your poems to a graduate later this spring. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your creations here. I will be first in line to buy your book of poetry. You have many collections ready to be bound in a book!

  14. Love your golden shovel creation.

  15. This is such a cool project. I bet your students are excited to see what you write each day--and to have the record of your year together. I love the sense of wonder today's poem evokes. The world around us is full of miracles if we just pay attention.

  16. This ending. Yes. You are such a wise teacher to all of us. I am blown away by this gift - on so many levels - you are giving your students. xx

  17. I still wish to visit you teaching. To see your artistry in the classroom. and I wish for more time for Golden shovel writing.


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