Some Poems to Read in Honor of Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!  What a great time to share some nature poetry with students, seeing as it is National Poetry Month, too. Below are a few of my favorite nature poems to share with students.

 

Three Foxes by the Edge of the Field at Twilight by Jane Hirshfield

This is a new favorite of mine because I’ve spent the last few months researching coyotes and red foxes.  Most recently, I’ve been observing a litter of fox kits near my home and it’s my favorite part of every day.  This poem captures a lot of my feelings as I watch the kits run and play with each other, ever vigilant and alert. Students could read this poem and then talk about the species they’ve noticed in their own neighborhoods.

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Photo of my local foxes

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is my favorite poet.  I can sit down and read her poems any time and they make me sigh with happiness.  I love her nature poems most of all and “The Summer Day” includes my favorite lines written by Mary Oliver.  The last two lines are great for starting discussions with students and often initiate some great reflective thinking.  But the entire poem is beautiful.  Students can mimic Oliver’s writing style by writing their own poems about summer in their neighborhood.

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A local Monmouth County Park

“Nature” Is What We See by Emily Dickinson

What is nature?  What does is look like in a city? In the suburbs?  In a rural area?  What does it sound like?  Who lives there?  These are questions we rarely stop to think about in our busy modern lives but they are questions that students can ponder and write about.  This is a deceptively simple poem (and short, which is perfect for those extra few minutes at the end of class).

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Red-tailed Hawk at a Monmouth County Park

Waterfall at Lu Shan by Li Po

If you want to share gorgeous imagery and figurative language, Li Po is your poet.  His nature poems are short, simple, and magical.  Have students practice creating their own metaphors based on what they see in the schoolyard.  What can they compare grass to?  Flowers?  That tall tree?  The birds in the sky?

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Wickecheoke Preserve, NJ

Monarch Butterflies by Judith Beveridge

In 2009 I was able to travel to the monarch butterfly overwintering grounds in Mexico.  It was one of the most amazing and spiritual experiences of my life.  That fellowship brought me back to science after thinking that English teachers can’t or shouldn’t “do” science.  Taking the Monarch Teacher Network workshop was an enlightening experience because this science workshop was really all about interdisciplinary work and cross-disciplinary projects.  Today I teach at a school where my colleagues are excited to cross those lines and work together.  Science and English naturally go together….look at how many scientists have also been poets!

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A photo I took in Michoacan, Mexico, while visiting the overwintering grounds.

Nature poetry is a great way to bring nature to your students in English class. It’s also a great excuse to get those kids outside during English class, too!  For more great poems, be sure to check out National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry: More than 200 Poems With Photographs That Float, Zoom, and Bloom! (great for K-12) and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (Teacher’s Edition): Poems for the School Year Integrating Science, Reading, and Language Arts (review coming soon!).

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