The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 6, 2007


Carlisle seniors and preschoolers share poetry

When preschoolers and seniors share moments together, a special connection seems to happen. April is National Poetry month, and it is fitting that each Monday morning nine seniors and preschoolers are exploring poetry at the Carlisle School.

At 10:30 a.m. the seniors gather in the Robbins Building teacher's room and spend 15 minutes reviewing the day's poetry books and projects. Fifteen minutes later there is a rush of small feet as nine preschoolers dash to their assigned "grandmas," moving in close to hear each other over the chatter, and happily getting to work. Each student remains with the same senior for all six sessions.

The program is called "Mind the Gap: Using Poetry to Bring Generations Together." It is led by Poetry Therapist Patty Russo, who received a grant from the National Association for Poetry Therapy Foundation (NAPTF). Russo also has a M.S. in Psychology.

Creating poems

Each session has a theme, Russo explained. The theme on March 26 is spring, and the teams begin by reading poems that focus on spring. The seniors read in soft voices, and most children lean in, listening intently, surprisingly focused, and commenting freely on what they hear. Russo provides drawings and crayons to help the children keep their hands busy while listening. After reading poems, the teams create a poem together, again based on the theme. Russo walks around with a basket of "helper" words on colorful paper — words like "warm," "bright," and "green" — which the kids choose to help them write their poems.

Marje Stickler reads a poem to Jules Wathieu. (Photo by Lois d'Annunzio)

Hands-on poetry

Each team also creates an illustration based on the poem. They cut out daffodil petals and glued them on construction paper. What was most fun was making the cup for the center of the flower. They used soft clay, molding the cup to match the real daffodils on the table. They then wrote their poem on the illustration.

Benefits of poetry

Preschool teacher Cynthia Samuels explained that the first time the teams met, the children needed to "understand how to interact. They have really learned how to focus," she added, saying the one-on-one format has helped greatly. "The kids have learned to modulate their voices," Samuels said, "to speak up or quiet down."

Russo said that after the program is done she would like to "do more intergenerational work either in the school setting or at an intergenerational shared-site facility. These are my two favorite populations, and working with them at the same time, using poetry to bridge the gap in lifespans is wonderful."

Samuels would like the program to continue. She said listening and writing poetry supports phonetic awareness, helping the students get ready for kindergarten.

Spring Is

(a combination of all poems by the Intergenerational Teams at Carlisle School)

Spring is Dirt! (Nadine Bishop/Conrad Krapf)
It is a warm day. (Florence Newman/Blake Jafari)
It looks like a bright sky. (Kay Woodward/Katie Faber)
It is pretty green leaves on the trees. (Ann Wright/Lindsey Golis)
It sounds like explosions of birds. (Marje Stickler/Jules Wathieu)
It tastes like dandelions. (Marcella Shepherd/Tess Wolossow and Maggie Bevier)
It smells like my wet dog. (Liz Leclair/Griffin Therrien)
It feels like a rattling pansy. (Eva Herndon/Taylor Gushue)

What to do for poetry month
Russo listed a variety of ways to celebrate poetry month.

· New poetry readers might try American poets Billy Collins, Mary Oliver or Emily Dickinson.
· Enjoy a "Poem-a-day" at
· Listen to Garrison Keillor read a poem at 8:55 a.m. weekdays on WGBH (89.7 fm).
· Join Concord Poetry Center,
· Read an anthology such as Poems for the Millennium.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito