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Poetry & Stillness - Arts/Language Arts for grades 3-5

In this activity, students will look at photographs of Antarctica and read descriptions of the silence that abounds there. Students will write descriptions and poems about silence and paint on frozen paper.

Learning Objective: Students will be able to create artwork that expresses emotion. Students will be able to write a poem that expresses emotion.

1. Visit the following Web site, which contains images that capture the vast stillness of Antarctica: www.coolantarctica.com/%20fact%20file/%20environment/mountains.htm
Teacher Note: You may choose to print this page ahead of time and pass it out to students:

2. Read the text that accompanies photograph 2, which is titled "A Huge Silence." at the page www.coolantarctica.com/gallery/scenic/mountains/_mountains_2.htm
    "The cold winter temperatures usually mean crystal clear days as there is no water vapour in the air. The scale of Antarctica in these conditions becomes quite overpowering, almost frightening. You can be standing on a cliff edge and be able to see a clear 100 miles in all directions knowing that the only other human beings in that 100 mile radius circle are your fellow winterers in the collection of huts just below you. If the air is still then the silence too is equally huge, with nothing moving or making a sound in the whole of that vast wilderness."

3. Read the first paragraph of "Into the White at the South Pole" by Noel Wanner from the website www.exploratorium.edu/origins//fieldnotes/1_1spole.html
    "When the motors fall silent, the silence rushes in from the flat horizon and hits you like a wall-- the silence of thousands of miles of empty ice, a frozen desert on an ice plateau two miles deep."

4. Ask each student to write several sentences and/or a poem describing silence. Invite students to read their descriptions or poems aloud.

5. Pass out frozen paper and have students paint on them with watercolors.
    Teacher Note: Do the following to prepare frozen paper:

  •  Gather these materials: watercolor paper, plastic wrap, watercolor paint (tube or cake), and a cookie sheet or tray. You will also need access to a freezer or an area out of doors that is below freezing.
  •  Wet each piece of watercolor paper in a container of water.
  •  Use two towels to remove most of the water from the paper.
  •  Place the sheet of paper between two pieces of wax paper, and place on a tray or cookie sheet.
  •  Repeat the process with the other pieces of paper, and stack them on the tray or cookie sheet.
  •  Place the tray in a freezer overnight.
  •  Provide students with brushes and watercolors.
  •  Working quickly to keep the paper frozen, pass out the frozen paper and have students apply the watercolors.
  •  Roll a piece of plastic wrap into a ball.
  •  Unroll the plastic wrap and place it over the painting.
  •  Return the paintings to the freezer.

6. Create a silence exhibit that contains quotes, pictures, and poems on the silence of Antarctica. Continually add to the classroom exhibit.