Teaching Writing #writeout place-based

Layers of the Land: Prompts for Writing Outside

Write Out

Summary:

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).

According to the Grand Canyon National Park’s website, the story begins almost two billion years ago with the formation of the igneous and metamorphic rocks of the inner gorge. And still today these forces of nature are at work slowly deepening and widening the region. Further up the Colorado River, at the Colorado National Monument, ancient landscapes built up the rock layers of sand and mud that you see there.

The two videos below created by Rangers at these two National Parks prompt writers to get outside and consider the landscapes around them and how those landscapes have been formed, are still changing, and will look in the future.

Writing “Spark”

As educator Peter Elbow writes, “the most effective way … improve your writing is to do free writing exercises regularly.” Use these writing “sparks” to get your 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—Grand Canyon National Park: Imagine yourself standing on the landscape one million years in the future; what would it look like and why?

Content focus: Geologic time and change
Age-level recommendations: All ages
Time: Video length = 4:42; Writing time as needed

After a Land Acknowledgement, Ranger Tarryn supports writers in considering scale of the Grant Canyon through a geologic timeline and then prompts writers to reflect on change and geologic time in your community. Imagine yourself standing on the landscape one million years in the future; what would it look like and why?

Storyboard (and/or Animation) “Spark”

As educator Penny Kittle writes, a storyboard is a combination of sketches and words that help to tell a story or organize an idea. Use this “spark” to get your storyboard (or even an animation) 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—Colorado National Monument: Create a storyboard that shows a place changing over time.

Content focus: Geologic change and forces, storyboarding to tell and share stories
Age-level recommendations: All ages
Time: Video length = 1:43; Writing time as needed

Ranger Sam from the Colorado National Monument describes the way that she learns about and tells the story of the landscape. She describes the way that she creates storyboards to sketch the details that she wants to share with visitors to the park and encourages writers to do the same based on their place and the way it has changed (geologically or otherwise) over time.

Share 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 and go one by one to share your writing, or an excerpt from your writing (writers should always have an opportunity to pass if they so choose); if you aren’t in person, set up an online video conference to do this;
  • Develop a collaborative work on the fly by having each writer share one line of their work as they go around in a circle; 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 is multimodal in nature. This can happen in person or online using a shared collaborative space like Google Jamboard, Padlet etc.
  • Writers are always encouraged by the National Writing Project to share their work by posting on social media using the hashtags #nwpwritenow #writeout; consider connecting and writing outside in October during the annual Write Out event when many others will be doing the same.

Related Resources

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

Geology at the Grand Canyon National Park
Have you ever wondered how the Grand Canyon was formed and why it is found here in Northern Arizona? To understand the formation of the canyon, there is a simple way to remember how it was shaped over time. All you have to remember are the letters D U D E or dude. The letters stand for: Deposition, Uplift, Down cutting and Erosion.

The Active Geology of the Monument
The rock layers here connect many neighboring National Park Service units. The Precambrian rock layer in our canyon bottoms is on full display at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The smooth Entrada sandstone along Rimrock Drive is the main arch-forming layer at Arches National Park. The Morrison formation in our highlands also produces fossils at Dinosaur National Monument. The geology here connects stories from across the Colorado Plateau and the planet.

This post is part of the STEAM-powered prompts for Writing Outside collection.