Originally Published The Nugget News May 10, 2016
Author Erin Borla

Sisters Elementary School recently celebrated National Poetry Month with a “Poetry-Palooza.” Throughout the morning all students from grades kindergarten through fourth grade, including the Sisters Park & Recreation District preschool, moved from classroom to classroom and experienced different interactive workshops all around the theme of poetry.

Each class was able to participate in seven sessions taught by teachers, community members and parents, including read-aloud poetry, puppets, being mindful, chalk poems and more.

Local volunteers including Paige Bentley-Flannery, the librarian at the Sisters branch of the Deschutes Public Library, Katie Diez from High Desert ESD, parents Catherine Griffin, Haley Ellis, Lucie Pronold and Kelley Moen, retired teacher Mrs. Kamrath and current middle school teacher Becky Aylor helped direct the different workshops.

“Our staff really thought outside the box to come up with this unique way to celebrate National Poetry Month,” said Becky Stoughton, principal at Sisters Elementary School.

Reading specialist Stephanie Jensen worked on coordinating staff and volunteers to make the event happen during the school day. Parents who had been cleared to volunteer within the school were invited to attend and participate with students.

“This really came together well,” Jensen said. “The wide variety of workshops helped our kids enjoy and learn about poetry. The community volunteers and the parents helped to make it happen.”

Many of the students agreed one of the favorite workshops used puppets and was taught by Sisters Middle School language arts teacher Becky Aylor. She taught a brief lesson using her five crates of hand and rod puppets. Students got an opportunity to be in a puppet show and sing along with members of the audience in a rousing round of Mary Had A Little Lamb.

“I related the puppets to emotion and expression,” Aylor said. “The same with poems. Poems are a reflection of culture – everyone has a story to tell.”

Students were originally going to draw poems on the school sidewalks with chalk during one of the workshops – but when the weather turned colder and threatened rain the volunteers had to change the idea quickly. Students were able to draft their chalk poems on long black pieces of butcher paper in the gym. The paper “sidewalks” were then put up throughout the school for everyone to enjoy.

Not all sessions were focused on poetry specific lessons. Other workshops allowed students to move and listen to their body, to be mindful of things around them in order to have better focus. SES parent Catherine Griffin led a workshop on “mindfulness” for the students. Throughout each session she read a story called Lemonade Hurricane, about meditation and listening to your body, and then had some interactive activities where the students were able to move about.

“We talked about paying attention to what’s going on inside and outside your body,” she said. “We took deep breaths and focused. Being mindful of everything around you can help you focus – sports, walking, writing, art; anything can be a lesson in mindfulness.”