Monthly Archives: November 2015

Topics in Multiculturalism Class Explores the Voices From The Land

ChristineZeidersA few years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in an amazing training weekend for teachers from the EIRC’s Monarch Teacher Network. It was called “Voices from the Land. ” The project blended lessons in the principles and elements of design, the elements of poetry, writing and environmental science as well as multiculturalism and multimedia.  We were informed by the beautiful and inspiring work of environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy, and wrote and published poetry based on our own environmental creations. I was thrilled for the opportunity to introduce this project to Central Penn College students in the Topics in Multiculturalism class on Earth Day, 2015.

The Voices From the Land project allows students to go outside and become one with nature, then allow nature to speak to them and through them. After several weeks of discussing how different cultural groups used art to promote social protest movements, students were open to imbuing their own thoughts and beliefs into this project using natural elements around them. After creating and photographing their artwork, they wrote poetry about them. Christine Zeiders sculpted natural elements to create the photograph you see on the left. Below are a few more photos and poems from my Spring 2015 class.  These students weren’t art or creative writing majors but they put a lot of effort into these projects and did a fabulous job.

JenaiaOnly She Knows

by Jenaia Everett

Only she knows what lies behind the center of her joy.

Fear, uncertainty, change and

hope encompasses her soul like the circle of life,

like the eye of a storm, who’s power swallows her emotions deep within.

Only she knows what lies behind the center of her joy.

The sky cries like the tears streaming down her face,

shedding darkness and dismay.

From the death of past hurt and pain, rises color,

happiness and light.

But only she knows what lies behind the center of her joy.

A new beginning, a new circle, a new life.

The calm and quiet well after the storm.

But only she knows what lies behind the center of her joy.


Sun Moon Star

by Matthew C. McCottryMatthew

Sun meets tree

high on the hill

Tree s t r e t c h e s

and leaves dance in

fading shadows


beneath the trees

Smooth, fluffy cotton surrounds the

opaque moon

Moon reveals its scars to a world

of dreamers

Night owls sing to the starlight above

stories of galaxies

framed in black

Sun, Moon, Star,  together eternal.


SarahYoung HollyRamsey:

Left: Sarah Young ;  Right: Holly Ramsey

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Filed under Photography Submissions, Poetry

Facing the Changing Father Figure in Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman

During the glorious summer weeks leading up to the July 14th release date of Go Set A Watchman, Harper Lee’s second novel and sequel to every 11th grader’s favorite, To Kill A Mockingbird, I’d heard everything. From admonitions from those who descried a sequel, to controversies about Ms. Lee’s mental state, there was no shortage of opinions or speculation about the relative merit and eventual  legacy of Ms. Lee’s follow-up to the coming-of-agWatchmane story of Scout, Jem, Dill (remembering these names yet?), and Boo Radley.

Thanks to my student membership in Amazon Prime (highly recommended), my crisp copy of the book arrived on release day.

I was all set to write a simple review, with a tongue-in-cheek, under-qualified “thumbs up/thumbs down” at its conclusion, but then I felt I would be doing the book a disservice in comparison to the deep cultural reactions from my friends as well as those folks covered in the press.

I wondered, perhaps even aloud, “What could I do to make my reading of the book meaningful to others?” I decided that I would take up as my audience an imagined version of my students, themselves bound to wonder if their instructors actually practice what they (t)each when it comes to doing critical reading.

They do . . .Watchman 2

The story itself features but a handful of characters, few of whom can be found in Mockingbird. I was unprepared to learn quite early on that Jem, Scout’s older brother, had dropped dead. Yes, he just dropped dead (this knowledge becomes more significant later on, but as I read it the first time I found myself writing a NSFW response in the margin of the text), so I wouldn’t be reading about a successful cannery that he and Dill incorporated, or about his exploits playing football for the Methodists.

No, this read what going to be much different from what I expected. Jem had been killed off so that we might focus more closely on Miss Jean Louise Finch, still referred to as “Scout” by family members and the other inhabitants of Maycomb, Alabama.

As I read, I made copious notes in my journal…Watchman 3

The events in Watchman take place twenty years after those of Mockingbird, although at points in the book we get brief snapshots of other time-bound events (without reference to the actual times to which the events are bound, of course). I later realized that this bit of foreshadowing allows us to better apprehend the import of Scout’s fragmented memory. It, much like the self-consciousness and conscience about which she was so proud, is not consistent. This is not really a surprise, though, since twenty years have passed.

However, what is surprising is that Scout has received a college education. The fact itself is not surprising, but as the story reaches its climax we are presented with reactions and thoughts from Scout that belie this education. This might be seized upon as a way to read the text against itself, but that paper would really belong in a different forum with an amazingly smaller readership.

The climax of which I speak is Scout’s clandestine attendance at a town meeting called to debate and discuss potential NAACP actions in Maycomb. At the same time as Scout does, we learn that Atticus Finch is not as perfect as our memories would like. One of the admonitions that stuck with me as I began the book concerned Atticus. In essence, many readers of Mockingbird did not want what their idealized father, Atticus, to be shown as anything “less than,” and they swore off reading Watchman to keep that ideal father alive. Continue reading

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Filed under Reading, Reviews