“This is such a stressful time, and poetry is a way kids can release their emotions,” Wong said. “It’s a way that we can make our school environment safer and more nurturing. I feel like it’s really a privilege to come in and create a positive school culture.”
During the Family Poetry Night, Wong asked parents and students to craft poems based on her random selection of items in her “Poetry Suitcase” to inspire creativity, while also working to create a collage of images to bring published poems to life.
Although the event was held in the evening, parents didn’t have to do much convincing to get their children involved; in fact, in many cases, it was the opposite scenario. Sari Erdos said her two children, Taylor and Eden, were the ones asking her to bring them.
“They’ve never wanted to do more school outside of school, so whatever [Wong] did in the assembly today, she made these two super excited to come,” Erdos said. “I’m a former teacher, so anything that gets kids excited and wanting to come to programs like this at the school is fantastic. She’s really getting them excited about poetry.”
Many teachers were in attendance at the event as well, and all of them have incorporated poetry into all their lessons, even if it wasn’t a subject typically associated with poetry. For instance, a poem can help break down the steps of the scientific method or a complicated math concept, like the Fibonacci sequence, in an easy, digestible format.
Michelle Parisi, a sixth-grade language and social studies teacher, said she’s been able to bring poetry into her social studies classes, including lessons on westward expansion. She said having poems helped students think critically about subjects, instead of just reading facts in a textbook.
“I love it,” Parisi said. “It’s really great to have the kids connect with a higher level of ‘what does this mean to you?’ There’s so much they can do with that. There’s no wrong answer.”
The project originally kicked off in September, when teachers met with Wong to learn how to incorporate poetry into all their subjects, including science, history and math. Wong also held a presentation and workshop with students at Cherry Hill and Roosevelt schools in October to introduce them to the idea of poetry in their everyday lives.