There’s somewhere around 1 million species of insects on the planet, says Julian of Nat Geo Kids, but that’s just the ones we know for sure. In fact, he says, scientists think there might be as many as 10 million! Do you ever wonder what bugs do all day? Do you ever listen to their songs? With these writing sparks you will be bugging out! by writing about the things that bugs do and by making your own outside orchestra or movement theater, just like the buzzing bees and the hissing cicadas.
This resource is available to support place-based writing outside anytime of year and comes with related resources and age-level recommendations. Originally developed for Write Out (writeout.nwp.org).
“Do you know the legend about cicadas? They say they are the souls of poets who cannot keep quiet because, when they were alive, they never wrote the poems they wanted to.” —John Berger
There’s somewhere around 1 million species of insects on the planet, says Julian of Nat Geo Kids, but that’s just the ones we know for sure. In fact, he says, scientists think there might be as many as 10 million!
Do you ever wonder what bugs do all day? Do you ever listen to their songs? With these writing sparks you will be bugging out! by writing about the things that bugs do and by making your own outside orchestra or movement theater, just like the buzzing bees and the hissing cicadas.
As educator Peter Elbow writes, “the most effective way … to improve your writing is to do free writing exercises regularly.” Use these writing “sparks” to get your free writing started. Use a notebook or a journal, go digital or stay analog, feel free to incorporate images and multimedia; use or experiment with approaches that work best for you.
Spark from Canaveral National Seashore—Write a “What Things Do!” Poem
Content focus: Preservation and insects Age-level recommendations: All ages, good for younger writers Time: video length=1:57; writing time as needed
A Canaveral National Seashore ranger prompts you to write a “What Things Do” Poem, and because we are bugging out, we encourage you to write about the bugs and what they do all day!
Spark from Tar River Writing Project & Poetry Project—Create a Rhythm Circle!
Content focus: Insect ecosystems and sound Age-level recommendations: All ages Time: video length=3 mins 36 seconds; Sound time as needed
CJ Suitt (@suittsyouwrite) guides Tar River Writing Project teachers in creating a Sound Ecosystem based on the many sounds found in nature. Head outside where you can mimic the sound of an insect you have come across, or you can make a whole new sound—the one you’d make if you were a bug! Then come together with others and give the sound circle a try!
Spark from Northwest Arkansa Writing Project—Act Out in Nature!
Content focus: Sounds and nature Age-level recommendations: All ages Time: video length=12:52
Caity Church, a 6th grade English Language Arts teacher and theatre enthusiast in Northwest Arkansas, and her daughter listen to the sounds of the outdoors and get silly by acting out! Bugs provide much of the ambiance. The video guide explains and demonstrates three improvisational acting exercises and includes a handout with more details.
Sharing your writing
Writing outdoors provides a wonderful opportunity to share your writing with others. Here are a few ideas how do this whether you are in person or at a distance from each other:
Come together in a circle to share your writing, or an excerpt from your writing (passing should also always be an option); if you aren’t in person, set up an online video conference to do this;
Develop a collaboration on the fly by having each writer share one line of their work to add to a greater whole; if you aren’t in person, you can create an email address, hashtag and/or online form for individuals to submit their selections;
Set up a “gallery” of writing which could support browsing, feedback and/or response; this is especially useful if the writing includes more than just text but also images, video, sound. This can happen in person or online using a shared collaborative space like Google Jamboard, Padlet etc.;
Especially during Write Out, share your writing by posting on social media using the hashtag #writeout
Below are related resources gathered to further support inquiry and exploration of this topic. If you have additional resources to recommend, please share them online via the hashtag #writeout
Nighttime Bug Hunt: Turning on your porch light at night or looking at a well-lit wall at night can reveal a whole world of insects you might never see during the day! The Beginner’s Guide to Porch Light Insects can help you identify the insects you see! Created by Christine L. Goforth and available online at thedragonflywoman.com.
How Insects Work Together | Nat Geo Kids Insects Playlist:
Understanding Insect Sounds with Naturist Outreach:
Write Out: Write Out is a free two-week celebration of writing, making, and sharing inspired by the great outdoors, and was created through a partnership of the National Writing Project and the National Park Service. It is a public invitation to get out and create that is supported with a series of online activities, made especially for educators, students, and families, to explore national parks and other public spaces. The goal is to connect and learn through place-based writing and sharing using the common hashtag #writeout.
Every culture has a unique sense of “time” and how they track it. Do you see time as linear or sequential? Do you measure it down to the hour, minute or second? The planet Earth also has its own ways of marking time which we can learn about through sediments and fossils. At the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in Nebraska, we can imagine all these different time scales and markings since it is a place where paleontologists unearthed the Age of Mammals as well as the ancestral homeland of the Lakota people.
Are there any interesting structures (such as monuments, sculptures) where you live? Have you ever thought of designing your own? With this writing spark you’ll be encouraged to go outside and consider the built environment that is around you. Think about the very beginning of the design process and all the many steps and materials required for completion.
Marcello Giovanelli, a Reader in Literary Linguistics at Aston University, has looked at the power of poetry to help a wide range of people in the UK, few of them poets, make sense of the pandemic. He wonders, is there a space for COVID poetry to play an important role in education as the pandemic wanes?
Writing and editing Wikipedia entries is an excellent task for older writers who are pursuing specialized knowledge. In this piece, the authors describe a rationale and process for their college-aged writers to participate in Women's History Month by adding to and editing entries on women. The focus here is women's history and experience, but any topic where teachers want to invite writers to contribute to a public knowledge base is fair game.