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Class travels to Costa Rica:

Monteverde, Costa Rica epitomizes a kind of wonder and hope – blending the culture of indigenous inhabitants with that of the American Quaker settlers that arrived in the 1950’s, and balancing a model of conservation with becoming an international eco-tourism destination. 

During the 2010-2011 school year, seven students participated in a year-long interdisciplinary class that included reading Walking With Wolf (a great book about the settlement of Monteverde), creating student blogs (which you can check out at, developing individual research projects, and a 10-day trip to Monteverde during the Spring. The students also worked throughout the fall in an entrepreneurial business class, creating and running the Lister Leaf Busters as part of their efforts to fundraise all of the funds for our travel.

English Language Arts: Envisioning our voices in order to write with voice

Voice is an important element in any kind of written work. Voice is the idea that thinking about and controlling the tone and mood of our writing contributes to our audience’s understanding and engagement with what we want to communicate.

How would you describe your voice? What sounds, objects, actions, locations, colors, does your voice look like and sound like?  If you could create a visual depiction of your voice using paint and other materials what would it look like? Questions such as these led students in English classes studying the concept of voice in writing to produce poems about their voices and then, in turn, to create abstract expressionist paintings visually depicting their voice

This poetry and visual art are the products of each student’s exploration of his or her own, unique voice. The model for this exploration was a large abstract expressionist painting entitled “Psalm” which incorporates a poem of the same title into the artwork. “Psalm” is about the struggle to find our voices and then to let them be heard. 

This award winning painting, commissioned through the Portsmouth Poet Laureate Program, hangs in the C and J Bus Depot located at Pease International Tradeport. Two different English classes took a field trip to the bus station to view the painting and to write down their observations and questions about it. A day later, one of the artists who created the poem/painting, Kimberly Cloutier Green, came to the school to answer questions about the painting and to lead us through a poem-making process.

Students were then assigned to write two poems: to finish the one begun in Kimberly’s workshop and to write a poem in which they were to find different ways to describe their voice. One of the prompts used to discover ideas for the second poem asked students to detail what their voice would look like if it could be made visible for themselves and others to see.

In turn, individual responses to that prompt became the basis for the visual component of the project. The paintings and assemblages are representations of one or both of the poems written by the artist. Acrylic paint on canvas board were the basic materials used along with various media including fabric, sequins, tissue paper, toner on printer paper, cellophane, foil, feathers, and glitter. Artists made conscious choices, for practical and aesthetic reasons, to display their work with or without glass in the frame.

The next step, then, was to take the discoveries made through this exploration and integrate  them into a consistent practice of using voice to enliven their writing.