April is National Poetry Month and we are excited to spotlight one of our newest volunteers, Sheila Hawley. Sheila is a talented educator who is able to develop and nurture the creative spirits of her students. About 10 years ago, Sheila attended the Favorite Poem Project Summer Poetry Institute for Educators at Boston University which inspired her, as a classroom teacher, to start a program called Bridges Over Time linking fourth graders with seniors from the community to read, write, and present poems together. Her current position as the facilitator of the New Hartford Public Schools Poet Laureate Project is an extension of that program. Each year, students who show an interest in writing are selected to be part of this program where they learn about poetry through a chosen theme. Participants create their own poems and share their learning with their classmates. The poems are compiled into a book published through Amazon and the profits are donated to a charity. This year’s book, Nature’s Nuggets: Poems Inspired by the Natural World, was just published on March 20, and all profits will go to Roaring Brook Nature Center.
Sheila has a strategy for teaching children to write poetry that begins by reading and sharing many poems; then they learn presentation skills. She also teaches them about different literary techniques that they can use such as alliteration, repetition, simile and word choice. Her favorite quote about poetry is from poet, Ralph Fletcher: “Poetry makes the ordinary extraordinary.” She likes this because it expresses how a poem can take a moment in time and make it memorable and shareable with other people. Learning about poetry gives kids an opportunity to explore language and celebrate the common things that are universal to being human.
It was her mother’s passion for nature, poetry, music, and art that inspired her to delve into the world of poets and poetry. Her book, Poetry Playground, published in 2018, is dedicated to her mother (and poet), Dorothy V. Grimes. It it is filled with poems and activities to inspire young children to explore language and also discover nature.
You are the flower that welcomes spring
In you we see so many things.
You are the color of the sun above
You are a toddler’s bouquet of love
Your stem is a pipe
from which to blow bubbles.
Your white floating seeds
wish away troubles.
Your flowers make a tasty wine
Your leaves are a vegetable
on which to dine.
You are rounds of sunshine
Dotting the earth
Reminding us all
Of each life’s worth.
By Dorothy V. Grimes
(From Poetry Playground by Shelia Grimes Hawley, Published Sept. 11, 2018)
Besides facilitating poetry programs at the Museum, Sheila also drew on her knowledge of child development as a Program and Exhibit Observer. Her favorite exhibits at KidsPlay are the Grocery Store and the Air Tubes. In the Grocery Store, she enjoys watching the kids interact because dramatic play is such an organic way to learn. As for the Air Tubes, Sheila said, “I think I enjoy them as much as the kids do!” She added that "KidsPlay is important because it engages children in active and thoughtful play."
In her spare time, Sheila enjoys drawing, singing, participating in community theater, and reading. Her favorite author is Barbara Kingsolver. She also enjoys Georgia Heard and Ralph Fletcher who write non-fiction books about writing with children. Her favorite children's authors include Eric Carle, Jane Yolen, Chris VanAllsburg and Joyce Sidman, who writes “beautiful books that connect language and science.”
She is celebrating National Poetry Month by launching her new book of poems and attending Beekley Library’s Poetry Evenings.
Shelia’s program, Playing with Poetry, will inspire young children to express their thoughts and feelings with words so that they, too, may make the ordinary, extraordinary! Join us on Thursday, April 18 at 1 pm to hear, discuss, and play with poems! Please pre-register.