St. Marys Elementary School (SMES) will soon have a blooming garden, planted and designed by art students of the school, along with original works of poetry and artwork inspired by their garden, with the help of students from the College of Coastal Georgia.
Coastal Georgia English lecturer Emily Boyles' English 1102 class is doing a service-learning project with art teacher Susan Grayson of St. Marys Elementary School to create a community garden. Service-learning engages students in a meaningful way where they apply skills learned in the classroom in real world situations that address community issues. Coastal Georgia students are helping SMES students think and learn how to write poetry about their garden.
St. Marys Elementary School art students created thank you cards for Coastal Georgia students to express their gratitude for the art and garden supplies.
Boyle's 1102 class started a partnership with Grayson this spring as part of the class' goal to consider how art affects the community. Grayson teaches all levels of art, from kindergarten to fifth grade, and works with various organizations to make students' work relevant to their lives and the lives of their families. Boyle submitted a service-learning grant proposal to the College's Center for Service-Learning and requested funds to buy art and gardening supplies for the SMES students—which was granted. Her fall semester class wanted to pick up where the previous class left off, but with the added bonus of teaching students how to write poems. A service-learning grant for the fall semester was approved to purchase the book "All the Small Poems and Fourteen More" by Valerie Worth for St. Marys students and Coastal Georgia students. The book not only features poems about a variety of things but includes a template on how to write poems. The gardening project is still in the early stages of planning, and everyone is excited to see what will grow from the garden.
Coastal Georgia students will be collaborating with Dr. Ed Madden's Creative Writing and Community class at the University of South Carolina to create video lessons about writing poetry, so SMES students can write and illustrate their own work for the garden.
"Dr. Madden, who was my professor at USC for two classes, and I realized last summer through social media that we were both doing similar service-learning projects," Boyle said. "He suggested that we collaborate and use this text [All the Small Poems and Fourteen More] because he had used it when he was a writer-in-residence at the Riverbanks Garden and Zoo in Columbia. Worth's poems about plants can serve as a template for student poetry. Each student in my class received a copy through the grant, and the remainder will go to students at St. Marys Elementary so that they can follow the lessons we create."
Boyle believes the collaboration will benefit everyone involved. The project will not only reinforce what college students are learning, but also support SMES teachers in reaching their goals of teaching state standards—all while fostering creativity.
"As Dr. Madden has always said, poetry is not some scary puzzle that the author created to trick an audience. Poems offer perspective that prose cannot," Boyle said. "We study a wide variety of poetry in English 1102, and I hope that my students, through this collaboration, will see how writing their own poems and teaching others how to write poems about a subject they value can create community. I am also excited to see what the virtual community we have among our students and the University of South Carolina students will produce!"
To express their gratitude, SMES students created their own thank you cards with illustrations of plants and visions of the garden.