The complex ecology and peaceful beauty of Port Royal Sound serves as the inspiration for a new collection of art and poetry by Beaufort County School District students.
“River of Words: Musings on Port Royal Sound through Poetry and Art 2016,” was unveiled before a reception crowd recently at the Port Royal Maritime Center. The annual student publication is the culmination of an interdisciplinary learning experience about the sound’s watersheds.
“‘River of Words’ lets students explore science and art in a seamless and interconnected way,” said project coordinator Heather Brabham. “It also lets students get out of their classroom and explore the amazing ecology and natural beauty of Port Royal Sound, which is a national treasure.”
Brabham said that second- through twelfth grade students from 19 district schools accepted the “River of Words” challenge last fall to extend learning beyond their classroom walls and into neighboring marshes, beaches and maritime forests. More than 100 science, English language arts, math, gifted and talented and visual arts teachers joined forces to design interdisciplinary units of study that examined local watersheds from multiple perspectives.
Students and teachers equipped with binoculars, cameras and sketchbooks experienced first-hand the intricate ecology of Port Royal Sound. They tested water quality, studied storm water run-off and discussed the effects of pollution and population growth. They kayaked the May River, rode in a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources “Discovery Vessel,” witnessed abundant wildlife at Nemours Plantation, toured Hunting Island State Park and explored the Lowcountry’s natural history and cultural heritage at Coastal Discovery Museum.
Brabham said that while students observed, measured, tested, researched and documented, they also heightened their senses and attuned them to the sights, sounds and smells of the natural world. Following their scientific discoveries, students were charged to transform their new knowledge into poems and art. “River of Words” was the result.
Now in its sixth year, “River of Words” enables K-12 students to use humor and haiku, free verse, figurative language, vivid vocabularies and heartfelt advocacy along with paint, pencil and digital images to demonstrate their understanding of Port Royal Sound and to make their voices heard.
Participating schools this year were: Battery Creek High, Beaufort Middle, Bluffton Elementary, Bluffton Middle, Broad River Elementary, H.E. McCracken Middle, Hilton Head Island Elementary, Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts, Lady’s Island Elementary, M.C. Riley Elementary, Mossy Oaks Elementary, Okatie Elementary, Port Royal Elementary, Red Cedar Elementary, Riverview Charter School, River Ridge Academy, Robert Smalls International Academy, Whale Branch Elementary and Whale Branch Middle.
Brabham thanked the environmental organizations that taught students and teachers to examine and respect the uniqueness of the Port Royal ecosystem, as well as the local artists who helped students merge science and art into the book. Graphic artist Liz Chase incorporated hundreds of written texts and images into the book. Brabham also thanked the Port Royal Sound Foundation for helping to fund the project.
“River of Words” can be purchased for $20 at the school district office on Mink Point Boulevard. An exhibit of the students’ work will be on display at the district office until the end of May. The students’ original art is for sale for $25 each, with proceeds going to fund next year’s project.