Last week marked the end of one of my first projects with Glamorgan GATES, a wonderful community arts foundation in Merthyr Tydfil. Although it was challenging at times, it was also fun and incredibly rewarding. In addition to gaining a new perspective on poetry and community relationships from the young people I worked with, I also learned that drawing is not my forte, Merthyr’s woods are full of (mythical) tigers, and most students are not particularly fond of green Thai curry.
Before stepping into Coed-Y-Dderwen Primary for the first time, I knew I’d be working with a group of Year 3 students who were not low-achieving, but not high-achieving either. They were on the border literacy-wise and needed a push. Also, I was told, they needed help with geography.
So, I decided to incorporate both these things — literacy and geography — by designing a course on Poetry and Map Making which I hoped would leave students with a love of writing, a curiosity about their community and the world, as well as some kind of publication that showcased their work.
I am happy to say that after many weeks of planning, late nights, explanations about where Merthyr is compared to say – Ireland – and tempering of general excitement these goals were met and the booklet we created together was finally published!
Here is the forward I included on the first page:
When I first asked this group of Year 3 students “What makes a poem?” their response was “a pencil and a heart.”
Over the course of several weeks my group of eight students worked hard to write their own poetry about their community. In the process, each student identified places in Merthyr Tydfil that were personally significant, created symbols to represent these homes, shops, and public spaces on their individual maps, and wrote a poem about what these places mean to them.
With the help of Glamorgan GATES and professional illustrator, Pria Borg-Marks, we were able to provide original maps and publish this booklet. Each map and its accompanying poem will give the people of Merthyr a chance to see their town from the eyes of a young person in their community.
In addition to the published book, I collected each student’s work from the entire project into individual folders for them take home. These colorful packets — which were selected by the lovely Lisa Derrick — included their individual community-themed poem, ‘My Merthyr’ poem, original map, and a large pull-out map featuring symbols drawn by the whole group.
Here are two of the many photos that were taken on our presentation day:
Not pictured is the ‘Thank You’ card Lisa and I received of a dinosaur fighting a tree. Amazing.
If you’d like to see the published booklet it should be available in the Merthyr Tydfil Tourist Information Center!