In the fall of 2019, students in Jane Baker’s AP and Advanced Studio Art Classes and Lauren Kenny’s AP English class embarked on a new creative experiment, funded by the FEF. These two teachers have worked together for the past few years bringing their students to Cape Cod conservation lands – asking their students to take note of their surroundings in journals using words and sketches. When they return to the classroom, they spend the following weeks making artworks and poetry from their experiences, and combine these efforts in a published book of broadsides.
For this year’s project, students were asked to add the practice of mindful meditation to their naturalist studies. They read select works by noted transcendentalists (Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau), as well as the poetry of Joy Harjo and Walt Whitman. Each student was asked to respond to each reading assignment with a page in their sketch journal. They then took these ideas and their books to Beebe Woods, where they were given instruction in meditation by Tami McGeough and local naturalist notes by Becky Lash. Students walked through the woods to Peterson Farm, where they spent two hours drawing and taking notes – keeping their phones stashed away until the end of their time in that place, when they took a photo to remember the moment. This practice was repeated a couple of weeks later off-Cape, when this same group of students traveled to the Peabody Essex Museum to see the Wes Sam Bruce show “Where the Questions Live” – which asks the viewer to experience the art and poetry of meditation in nature. From there we traveled to the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard Mass, the home of the original Transcendental experiment. Students repeated the practice of meditating before their sketches and journals – tuning in to their observations by asking questions and noting the time of day, the weather, and any other bits of information that might help them remember their experiences. After these two trips, we were visited by poet Liz Bradfield of the Broadsided Press, who helped the art and literature students to craft their poems from their artwork and field notes.
The artworks that resulted from these two days of naturalist studies are currently on display in the FHS student art gallery, and they will travel to the Woods Hole Library and the Falmouth Art Center later this spring. The broadsides on this display will be published in a book later this month and will be available for purchase at the shows.
This project was duplicated by the second graders at Teaticket Elementary School on a local scale using Teaticket Park as their inspiration. The second graders also worked with Tami McGeough, Becky Lash and Liz Bradfield. Their artwork and poems will also be published in a book, and they will hold a poetry reading in the park this spring.
Thanks so much to the Falmouth Education Foundation for funding our efforts to document conservation lands through naturalist studies.