Agate Teacher's WorkshoP June 2015
"In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks." John Muir
Activities were centered on and modeled after the Nebraska Writing Project's (NeWP) mission to provide opportunities to improve, enhance and celebrate writing for classrooms and communities across Nebraska. Ranger Fred MacVaugh and NeWP board member, Diana Weis immersed participants in place-based writing activities combining the study of science with creative writing.
Activities were developed around Agate's rich geologic, paleontologic, and Native American histories. Pieces ranged from creating personal winter counts, writing from primary sources, and examining the works of placed-based writers Loren Eisely and Ted Kooser. One participant found that
"IT WAS EXTREMELY BENEFICIAL TO ACTUALLY DO THESE ACTIVITIES. I have to see and do to understand and implement."
Ranger Fred MacVaugh spent both days with the workshop teachers highlighting the park's unique history and leading hikes on the Fossil Hill and Daemonelix Trails. Ranger MacVaugh's passion for the park service and story came to life on the trails as he wove information about the trail's plants and rock formations together with the immense history and legends surrounding the areas within the park.
Time on the trails was spent learning about plants, fossils, and geology. Though the richer moments came when the teachers immersed themselves as writers reflecting on the historical and scientific aspects of the park.
One such activity was the workshop's writing marathon, a common placed-based writing experience promoted by the Nebraska Writing Project.
'Writing marathons involve a small group of writers moving together through a landscape, writing and sharing along the way. They help writers draw inspiration from their surroundings and from their fellow writers.'
Deadly Error -Jan Knispel
Yellow Iris Flags
Flow with the Niobrara,
A toxic beauty.
(These iris are contributing to negative impact on the Niobrara environment.)
Writing Marathon June 10, 2015
Hello. My name is Bill Wellner. I am a writer.
I find it terribly difficult to write without appealing to a cliché now and then. Right now, I’m stuck on “Use It or Lose It”. Before me is a most lovely prairie flower whose name totally escapes me. The thing is I used to know the names (common and scientific) of several hundred prairie plants but over the years have had little cause to use that knowledge. And now it is mostly gone.
People are often impressed by those around them that can come up with the name of this or that. At least, it impresses me. However, I am quick to tell myself naming and knowing are not synonymous. It’s any easy trap to fall into. We name something and our minds tend to leave it at that. Our thinking stops, especially that kind of thinking that creates relationships and with that, deeper understanding. I think most folks are mostly unaware of this characteristic of human nature.
School and especially the sciences place a high premium on the ability to name things. So maybe the “Name It-Know It Trap” is less human nature and more the product of our educational culture. As I conduct my science classes I try to put it to my students the danger of being able to name a thing. Nice yes, but what else can you tell me (or more importantly, yourself) about this “thing”. What makes it what it is? To me, the better part of science involves learning the “tools” to help come to know something for what it is instead of just being satisfied that it can be named.
Knowing the names of stuff is a necessary first step but it hardly constitutes the end of knowing. After all, “A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” The pretty prairie flower by the side of the walking path just is and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Place Based Writing – Generating investigative science questions
By Kristine Denton
1. What did the environment in the past need to be like in order for these animals to have survived?
2. What features of the bones give you clues to how the animals survived?
3. Why would mass amounts of fossils be found in one single location?
4. What clues are in the rocks that imply what the environment may have been like?
5. How do the features of the bones of fossils compare with animal bones found today?
6. What is the lowest dosage/concentrate of herbicide that can be used to get rid of an invasive species?