Falling in Love with Home – Caledonia-Mumford

One of the beauties of small towns is the long history of the families who live there.  Our project at Caledonia-Mumford Elementary and Middle School seeks to harness those stories as well as an appreciation for cultural and natural resources in the area.  Caledonia-Mumford is home to the Genesee Country Village and Museum, the largest living history museum in New York State.  The town also houses the Big Springs Museum, a museum with a focus on the rural history of the area and stories of its residents.   Caledonia-Mumford is home for many local businesses, farms, and even  beekeepers!

We don’t always appreciate our hometowns – they’ve just always been there, and we may not even stop to consider scenes and stories as they roll by us.  So on our first day, students and teachers met to discuss this idea of home, what it means to buy locally, to cherish our communities and take care of them.  Students shared their families’ new and old connections to Caledonia-Mumford: the work they do in dad’s mechanics shop, the grandmother who served as the first female African American firefighter, the generations of relatives catching fish in Oatka Creek.  This sharing opened up many possibilities for writing, and I explained how there are many doorways into a poem; each of us has to find our own way in.

So Many Ways to Enter a Poem:

  • Describe a place in great detail
  • Speak TO a place
  • Speak AS a place
  • Talk a walk around a place – tour poem
  • Recount a conversation between two people
  • Describe a person (shopkeeper, farmer, historical figure, family)
  • Speak TO a person
  • Speak AS a person, in this person’s voice
  • Tell a story of one brief moment
  • Ask a question – wonder out loud about something
  • Describe an object
  • Imagine the past back alive – describe
  • List words about a person, place, object, and go
  • If…
  • Start with a belief – what do I believe about…?
  • Become an inanimate object and speak as that object
  • Describe a scene – make something happen on the page
  • Tell the outside and inside of something, a photo, moment, person
  • Begin with just one of your senses: a smell, taste, feel, sight, sound…
  • Go back and forth between two things/thoughts/ideas
  • Ode – praise something for its goodness and virtue
  • Begin with snatches of conversation you remember
  • And on…and on…and on…

Over the next week, students will continue working on their poems.  They have received some place poems to read and use as inspiration, and they may look at photographs of the museums on the internet.  These writers might also wish to check out information regarding local foods at the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce site.  As each class has visited local museums on past school field trips, they will have memories to draw from, but we will all be visiting Big Springs Museum together next week.  Next Monday’s trip (May 24) to the museum will rotate us through exhibits, a talk with Mumford farmer Mike Balonek and a session with local beekeeper Joann Crossman.  Each of these three experiences will feed us all for more poetry writing.

This joint project with Kyle Leonard’s and his fifth grade students, Courtney Monahan and her sixth grade students, and reading teacher Katrina Hatch will combine history with poetry.  Ultimately, we will record original poems celebrating the Caledonia-Mumford area accompanied by Kyle’s student ukulele players’ music.  With reading teacher Deborah Bussewitz and art teacher Mary Lathron, we also plan to collect our poems into a book of original artwork and colorized photographs.  Copies will be made for classrooms, school libraries, the public library, and these local museums.  We are on our way…

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