Exploring Nature Through Poetry

Sixth grade students connected with nature and tapped into their creativity with a recent poetry assignment in English class. Faculty member Tom Herman introduced students to “The Tyger” by William Blake and shared several photos of animals at the St. Louis Zoo that he took this summer. He first asked students to consider which animals they would like to write about and why. As their assignment unfolded, Mr. Herman aimed to both help students harness inspiration and produce original writing.

Then, for their assignment, students were asked to bring in a photo of something alive, outside in nature. The photos were shared in class serving as inspiration for original poems. The students’ pictures ranged from horses, to hedgehogs, to kangaroos. Each class also spent time this fall out on the lawn in front of the Barnes & Cole Alumni House taking in their natural surroundings. Students presented their poems in class and wrote a reflective paragraph on their creative process.

“This assignment is a cool way to connect students with the concept of Blake’s poem and tap into their imagination and creativity,” said Mr. Herman. “Generally, I wanted the students to emulate a little bit of the style of “The Tyger,” which is to have a ‘conversation’ with the creature. I am borrowing from the inspiration of Kenneth Koch, who wrote a series of books on introducing students to poetry through imitation. Students were asked to write at least four lines and ask questions that have to do with the nature of the thing they were writing about. They really took off with this assignment and I was impressed with what they came up with.”

Two student poems with photos
Student poems with photos of animals