Friday, October 10, 2014

science series I

In November at the NCTE Convention I'll be participating in a Children's Literature Assembly Master Class called "Poetry Across the Curriculum."  I'll lead a Roundtable discussion about how poetry can support science teaching, while others address math, social studies, art and P.E..  To get myself all geared up and to provide a resource for participants, I'm going to start now on collecting and commenting on some of my favorite science poems.

For this season I love this one, a sensory feast from the queen of close observation, Valerie Worth.

pumpkin | Valerie Worth
After its lid
is cut, the slick
Seeds and stuck
Wet strings
Scooped out,
walls scraped
Dry and white,
Face carved, candle

Fixed and lit,
Light creeps
into the thick
Rind: giving
That dead orange
Vegetable skull
Warm skin, making
A live head
To hold its
Sharp gold grin.

from More Small Poems (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1976)
Besides the festival of hard c and k sounds and the incitement of repeated long and short i's, Valerie gives us wonderful contrasts:  slick and stuck, wet and dry, white and orange, dead and alive.  Also there is the transformation that I hope every child has the hands-on chance to effect, from farm-field vegetable to human artifact (which makes this a social studies poem as well!).  Stop painting and get carving while you talk about change with K-2nd graders.

A nonfiction text to place alongside this poem is the skillfully poetic Pumpkin Circle by George Levenson and Shmuel Thaler (Random House Children's Books, 1999).  It's the best way I know to introduce the concept of plant life cycles to young children.

Join the poetry party this Friday at The Miss Rumphius Effect with Tricia!


  1. A carved pumpkin is so much better than a painted one! What were they thinking? Who came up with that? Where's the guts? Where's the glow?
    Thanks for sharing this today!

  2. Valerie Worth really is the queen of close observation. We can all learn from her.

  3. Another great example of why I love Valerie Worth!

  4. I adore Valery Worth and used to teach her poems a lot when I was doing first grade. This is a great one! so simple, yet so sharp and spicy. I was wishing I was going to NCTE. Have a great time and share with us everything!

  5. Congrats in your role at the NCTE, Heidi. I'm sure your contributions will be invaluable, and I'm so glad we'll be getting sneakpeaks. Valerie Worth is a great place to start!

    We always used to carve pumpkins as well, but now have started painting because the Florida heat, even in late October, causes them to start rotting in less than 24 hours. Such a disappointment for the kids after working so hard.

  6. Love this example by Valerie Worth! I'll be at NCTE Thurs.-Sun. I hope I get to see there! : )

  7. Valerie Worth captures it all from a "dead orange vegetable" to a "live head" with its "sharp gold grin" - fabulous! Congrats on your NCTE roundtable, Heidi. Sounds fun! =)

  8. Will you be carving pumpkins with the minnows? Sure wish I could sit in on your presentation. Have a great experience at NCTE.

  9. Heidi, tell me more about your NCTE presentation. I always attend the Convention and usually present with Debbie Diller but for some reason this year we did not get the bid to present. What day will you have the roundtable? It is important to integrate literacy across the curriculum and what better way to do it than through poetry.

  10. Looking forward to a great session!

  11. What a fabulous poem. The idea that the firelight brings a pumpkin skull back to life caught my attention. I can't wait to choose faces for our pumpkins this year.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!