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Woodland Pattern Nurtures And Grows Young Poets

by Mary Vuk

Julie Strand, Educational Coordinator of Woodland Pattern, said that students take pride in writing a poem. “Poetry isn’t always viewed as the most exciting or cool art form, but in our programs students get to write and say exactly what they want and know that their thoughts and experiences are worth something. In poems, they are allowed more freedom. Here at Woodland Pattern they get to have fun, be creative, and at the same time, work on their writing skills. During their open mics, I am so proud of the students and the confidence they have in their work,” Strand said.

Woodland Pattern has developed a reputation for nurturing young poets and growing fresh poetry. For the past 11 years, Woodland Pattern has offered an after school poetry program and has also worked with Talent Search from UWM to offer Woodland Creatures Poetry Camp.

This year three more poetry camps are being offered, including one geared toward Riverwest elementary school children who participated in the Woodland Pattern after school program during the school year. In addition, two more Woodland Creatures Poetry Camps will be offered at the Milwaukee Public Library (Central) the weeks of August 6 and August 13.

Kelly Hughbanks, Coordinator of Children’s Services at the Milwaukee Public Library (MPL), said that they want to sponsor more literacy-based programs for children. She said that MPL turned to Woodland Pattern as a partner because of their experience running literacy-based poetry camps. MPL received funding for the summer camps from a number of foundations that support the library’s summer reading programs. The camps will be open to City of Milwaukee students going into grades 5 through 7.

The camps are free. Registration for City of Milwaukee students will begin May 1 and after July 2, registration for non-City of Milwaukee students will be accepted if there are openings. If you are interested in registering your child for the Woodland Creatures Poetry Camp at MPL, please call (414) 286-3091 to register. The camp is held from 8:30am-3:00pm, Monday through Friday.

Woodland Creatures Poetry Camp is a weeklong experience in which children spend time writing, interacting with working artists from the community and exploring the cultural richness of the city.

In the morning, the students write for a couple of hours. Before lunch, guest artists from different disciplines come to talk about their craft and demonstrate what they do. In the past, representatives from the Milwaukee Public Theater, Riverwest Film and Video, local bookmakers, and musicians from One Drum have participated.

Afternoons are for field trips. This year they will be going to the Urban Ecology Center, The Milwaukee Art Museum, Strive Media and the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. A visit to the studios of WYMS, the Milwaukee Public School station where the new Radio Milwaukee is broadcast, is also in the works.

The afternoon field trips connect students to the community and also provide new experiences which they then can write about the next day in the morning writing session. Strand, who also runs the Woodland Pattern after-school writing programs for Pierce Elementary School during the academic year, said that poetry programs help students in language arts and also help to raise their self-esteem. This year, for instance, six Woodland Creatures Poetry Camp students kicked off the annual Woodland Pattern Poetry Marathon. The first hour of the Marathon was devoted to poetry by youngsters. Strand said that at the beginning of the weeklong summer camp, each student is given a blank notebook to use for writing. Two of the poetry camp students came to the January Marathon with their summer camp notebooks filled. “I was so impressed by them,” Strand said.

Strand said she would like to offer young students classes in journaling and has also had a long-standing interest in beginning a literary journal for Milwaukee youth. “There really isn’t one,” she said. She would also like to develop a teen poetry program. About 25 students from Pierce Elementary participate in the after school poetry program each month.

On Saturday, May 12, 10 am-noon, Marty McConnell will be offering a free workshop for teens at Woodland Pattern: To Whom It May Concern (or: “You Talking to ME?”).

McConnell was raised in Chicago but moved to New York City in 1999. She has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and has competed in numerous poetry slams. She has appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and appears nationwide with the Piper Jane Project. McConnell writes of her workshop: “Poems are not notes to the void. They are letters, missives, prayers, curses, pleas, songs to someone or something.”

Pre-register by calling (414) 263-5001.

Riverwest Currents online edition – May, 2007