Students at P.S. 178 St. Clair McKelway School in Brownsville, Brooklyn, celebrated the unveiling of SOULTASTIC, OH YEAH! – a mural inspired by their poetry through the Poetry and Urban Mural Project (PUMP). Our thanks the administration at P.S. 178 and to the program’s sponsor: the Leonore Gordon PD Arts and Wellness on the Go Fund at the Stonewall Community Foundation.
This year is our first year piloting the PUMP program, which was developed by poet, author and educator, Matthew Burgess. He previously led a similar project at a school in South Philadelphia through the literacy organization, A Book A Day (find more on that project: “Superheroic Delight Songs”).
During the 7 week program at P.S. 178, third and fourth graders learned about the work of Corita Kent, an activist and artist whose work often included words among other graphic elements. They met illustrator Kara Kramer who, with Matthew Burgess, created a book about the life of Corita Kent called Make Meatballs Sing. Then the writing began! Students learned about and practiced literary techniques such as portmanteau, alliteration, and personification.
Burgess described a guiding principle he shared with students:
“When we write poetry, we want to PLAY ON THE PAGE without stopping to worry about spelling and punctuation. We can fix these details at a later stage of the writing process, but if we stop every time we don’t know how to spell a word, then we risk losing our idea, our inspiration, our groove. I think it was Peyton who wrote a wonderful poem about oatmeal, of all things; it was full of little misspellings, and if she had stopped to worry about ‘oats’ versus ‘otes,’ that poem would not exist.”
Students wrote poems on their own, and also contributed lines to collaborative class poems.
Taking inspiration from phrases in students’ poems and the graphic style of Corita Kent, Kramer and Burgess created the vibrant design of the SOULTASTIC, OH YEAH! mural. Their design was painted onto a 25 foot wall in the school building by muralist Nick Kuszyk with the help of a handful of volunteers.
At the unveiling, students were delighted to discover lines that they wrote incorporated into the final piece. Each of the three classes had a chance to explore the mural using “finders” — a playful tool invented by Corita Kent made up of an index card with a hole cut out, meant to help students discover surprising and interesting details in the world around them. Students discovered examples of rhyme, onomatopoeia, portmanteau and other literary devices they had learned during the program.
T&W is thrilled to have been able to pilot this program, and offer thanks to the staff and administration at P.S. 178, the volunteers, Nick Kuszyk, Kara Kramer, and Matthew Burgess for working together to create this beautiful work of art and soultastic experience for students.
Following is a collaborative poem made by students in one of the classes in the program.
KINDNESS: A Collaborative Poem by Ms. Sharpe’s Class
Kindness cooks you food when you are hungry
and gives you ice cream on a hot day.
Kindness is big and brave and generous.
Kindness wears yellow shoes.
It is a small kitten, a person
helping a grandma cross the street,
a gift that makes you happy.
Kindness is waiting its turn.
Kindness asks if you need help
and gives you foot rubs after a long day.
Kindness is black and beautiful.
Kindness is like a service animal guiding its owner to safety.
Kindness’ eyes are filled with hearts
when they see you sitting in the dark—
All alone with nothing to say and then they come to play.
Kindness is like a summer vacation.
It’s when my Mom makes me a sandwich
and puts no pickles in it,
or when she makes me feel better with all
of the extra heart she has.
Kindness BOOMS like a firework in the sky. It pops and makes happiness.
Kindness pulls you out of the darkness.
It picks you up when you’re in the sea, big and tough.
It’s God sending love when you need it the most.
When your sister is cold, Kindness puts a blanket on them.
Kindness is the sun in the sky lighting people’s day up.
It’s when your sister wants to play hide-and-seek and you do it. A lot.
Kindness es un gato y esta pasando el rato con el pato.
Kindness is when my dog lays next to me on my bed without leaving any hair!
Kindness is contagious, catching you unaware.
Kindness is a bolstering breath of fresh air.
Kindness can save the world if you use more of it.
Kindness can turn an enemy into a friend.
Photos with permission of P.S. 178K, Saint Claire Mckelway School