by Laura Gamache, TOPS K-8
This is fifth grade, but it could as easily be ninth when I ask for verbs. Under breath, behind hand murmur. “What’s a verb?”
“Something you do,” I say. “If you can add an –ing to the end, you’ve probably got a verb.”
“Quickly?” somebody suggests.
“Close,” I say. As a teaching writer, you’ve been here, and it isn’t fun.
It’s the first week back from winter break, as I pass each fifth grader a page torn from a garage sale recipe book. There are murmurs, but the content is brought on by recipes for popcorn balls, gumbo, curried broccoli, snickerdoodles, or lamb stew. I give them a couple of minutes to enjoy, before laying out the plan for the hour. We’re going to write poems for a healthy planet using the recipe form, but first we’ll mine these pages for recipe action words.
Kids circle verbs, then copy several to the lists on their pages. I used to begin with a group brainstorm after the circling, but have decided to go with the more individual activity in this extremely chatty class. Heading to school, I heard an NPR commentator state that the brainstorming model we thought was so productive, may not be so. I felt better about my choice. After a few minutes, I call for verbs to put on the example list I’ve put under the smart camera. “Grind, drizzle, preheat, combine, add, whisk, blend, cover, knead…” run down the left margin.
Lists complete, we segue to possible ingredients to bring together for a healthy planet. Not, as on the food recipes before them, baking soda or cube steak, but inner qualities of mind together with the physical make-up of the earth. I emphasize the abstract qualities, since I realize it’s difficult for most ten and eleven year-olds to juggle both sets of requirements. A sample ingredient list includes “compassion, trust, empathy, green trees, leadership, helium, pizzazz, teamwork, freedom and destiny.”
Do these lists quicken your heartbeat? They do mine, and the kids seemed awakened by these words we’d pulled together, too. Afterwards, reading the poems was even better soul food in this night-heavy month of January. Here is a sampling:Recipe for a Healthy Planet Combine love and affection and put them in the furnace of joy. Slice up caring and sprinkle it on the platter of leadership. Mix imagination with teamwork in the bowl of trust And mix until there is no despair. Reheat the mix of love and affection and Squeeze out the hate so it does not poison your soul When eating our concoction. Take out and deliver to all the nations! -R. Recipe for a Healthy Planet Preheat your oven with lots of love. Blend lots of land and plant it firmly on a bowl. Grow some healthy green trees And spread them around the land. Put the bowl in the oven and set it for 65 thousand joyful millenniums. While the land is cooking, make some people for it. To make people, combine compassion, self-esteem, Empathy and leadership. After the land is done cooking, let it cool For two thousand years. After it has cooled, pour water into it to make rivers and lakes. Carefully place the people on the land. Serve when the people have built civilization. -P. Recipe for an Extra-Terrestrial Planet Place a core in space. Add a four mile layer of mantle on top. Spread crust too. Make dents and stretch the crust. Spread grass on the flat parts. Spread trees on top of the grass. Place rivers too. Combine gases and ozone layer to make the atmosphere. Combine one billion boxes of eras of peace. To make interstellar species, combine Self-esteem and brains of knowledge. Bake at 80 degrees F for one year. (During the baking, combine rays and helium to make A blue star. Bake at 450 degrees F for six months. Let it cool for another six months.) Take the warm planet and place it 1,000,000 miles from the cooling star. Serve in 65 eras. Serves one trillion humans. -A. Recipe for a Healthy Planet Preheat an oven of tranquility Combine joy, love and sweetened imagination In a bowl of pure freedom. Sprinkle some ground trust and empathy. Crack open an egg of peace And beat for two minutes. Bake until a crust of compassion forms. Coat in happiness, but don’t let it crack And turn to anger. Place a jellied square of generosity on top. Lastly, drain away the juices of evil, jealousy, Hate, distrust, and greed. Serve it to the people of the world. -J. Recipe for a Healthy Planet Juggle your happiness into the pot of hatred. Let it bubble up and turn that hatred into self-esteem. Whip a teaspoon of love into the boiling cauldron of compassion. Cut up a little bit of empathy and roast till nice and crispy. Spread teamwork until everyone can see, Then serve it to the hungry people of the world. -L.B. The Healthy Planet Recipe Peel away the hate Mix the support and the community Then drizzle it on the air And brush on the confidence. Wash away the sadness And fill it full of kindness. Rip the joy and sprinkle it all around Then bake it into peace. Prick it with a toothpick to fertilize the ground. Then place it in the dishes of hope And serve it to the world. -E. The Taste of Earth Blend the red and black seas together. Sprinkle self-esteem on top, then serve hot or cold. Zest the trees’ bark on the sides for Extra salty taste. Toss and mince the happiness. Spoon water and air into bowl, then stir constantly. Dice then juice the respect and Never store it airtight Or the dish will smell of trash. Bake till surface starts to simmer, Then take out to cool. Serve with community, kindness, and hope. Whisk the light with a cup of peace. Drizzle on the stars and moon.
Best served to your finest guests. -C.