Nature writing


Keene Middle School 7th-graders Delilah Hathaway, left, and Jaden Murray take part in the school’s nature writing program.

Local students are taking a page out of Thoreau’s notebook.

A class of 7th-graders from Keene Middle School is learning about nature writing as part of the school’s Extension program, which coordinates extended learning opportunities for students. The goal, says their teacher Betsy Stacey, is to teach them how to use “vibrant” vocabulary and to expose them to notable nature poets like Robert Frost and Mary Oliver.

Now, they’re putting their knowledge to use in a collaboration with the Horatio Colony Nature Preserve.

The project was started by the Place-Based Education Committee, a group of local teachers, nature educators, naturalists, organization representatives and community members that promotes locally focused education in the region. The committee organized the collaboration, which brought the students to the Keene preserve for a field trip.

Though the students often spend time on the Tenant Swamp boardwalk behind the middle school during the class, Stacey said the trip gave them an opportunity to really get into nature.

“It’s something that takes them out of their everyday world. Most of them had not been to that preserve before, so it was taking them into a new place and getting further into the woods,” she said. “When we go onto the boardwalk behind our school, it’s hard for them to kind of let go of their connection, of their busy day and the distractions of their busy day.”

During the field trip, their guide, Meggie Donovan, encouraged the students to take their own “moment of zen” surrounded by nature. After a few minutes, each student returned to the group with a line he or she had written, which were all combined to create a group poem.

Then, they discussed William Carlos Williams’ poem “This is Just to Say,” in which the narrator gives a halfhearted apology for eating someone else’s plums. To finish the trip, they spent about 20 minutes writing their own “false apology” poems.

As part of the collaboration, their work will be in a special exhibition at the Horatio Colony Museum in Keene on Thursday, Nov. 9, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Stacey said that knowing their writing will be displayed makes the project feel more real to the students.

“I think what’s most exciting about this project is how authentic the experience is that their writing will be shown publicly. It really makes sort of the editing process and the rewriting process more real, and the audience is real,” Stacey said.

Members of the Keene State College baseball team visited Jaffrey Grade School on Oct. 23 to meet the students. During their visit, they spoke about their lives as college athletes, signed autographs and spent time playing with the students on the school’s playground.

The athletes also read stories to the students, including “Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates” by John Winter, “Satchel Paige: Don’t Look Back” by David Alder and “F is for Fenway: American’s Oldest Major League Ballpark” by Jerry Pollota.

“The visit was beneficial to everyone,” said Nancy Springfield, who teaches 4th and 5th grade at the school. “The older boys were able to share their stories and hopefully make an impact on the younger students and the younger students were able to meet these wonderful role models in person and even get a few autographs!”

Middle and high school students from Jaffrey and Rindge are invited to submit their work to the Jaffrey Civic Center‘s student contests for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Students in middle school can submit physical or digital posters by Dec. 1, while high school students can submit original essays by Dec. 15.

2018 is the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination, and the center has chosen the theme “What is the Dream Today?” for the contests. In the poster contest, the winning student will receive a $75 cash prize and have his or her work featured in the publicity and program cover for the center’s annual commemoration event, “Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.”

In the essay contest, a first place winner will receive a $100 cash prize, and a second place winner will receive a $50 cash prize. All of the student work will be displayed in a special exhibition at the Civic Center during the month of January. For more information, visit

Lisa Witte, the superintendent of the Monadnock Regional School District, has started a “Celebrate What’s Right in Monadnock” campaign. The campaign encourages people to nominate students, staff members and members of the Monadnock community for being part of “what’s right” in the region. The district covers the towns of Fitzwilliam, Gilsum, Richmond, Roxbury, Swanzey and Troy.

The campaign was inspired by photographer Dewitt Jones, who created a short film called “Celebrate What’s Right in the World” that encouraged viewers to look at the world through a “lens of positivity.” In the Monadnock campaign, nominees are posted on the district’s Facebook page each week to recognize those doing positive things in the community.

To nominate someone for recognition, visit

What’s going on in your school? You can reach Education reporter Meg McIntyre at 352-1234, extension 1404, or