‘River of Words’ teaches ecology through art

in Arts by

By Tess Malijenovsky
“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught,” said Margaret Rushton at the podium on stage at ARTworks. Her quote encapsulated the philosophy of “River of Words: Musings on Port Royal Sound Through Poetry and Art.”

Students read poems on stage at ARTworks.

Rushton is the project director and fine arts coordinator of the project, and at its reception Friday, March 16, she warmly congratulated the 16 Beaufort County schools involved, the 80 teachers, 2,400 students, as well as artists, Master Naturalists and community partners who took part in this special learning experience about the Lowcountry ecosystems.

“River of Words: Musings on Port Royal Sound Through Poetry and Art” has a goal of educating the next generation of stewards — the children — about the Lowcountry ecosystems and their importance. In an age where more children play virtually than outdoors, there exists a fear that children will become ecologically illiterate. To combat this detachment from nature and to instill an understanding and love of the Port Royal Sound, teachers and members of the community volunteered for “River of Words” in an effort to extend learning beyond classroom walls and into the beaches, marches and maritime forests.
Outdoors students tested the waters, researched the importance of water reclamation and the uniqueness of our tidal zone. They observed the dolphins and fiddler crabs, practiced net casting, recorded the day’s catch and learned about the impact of humans on the environment.
From second grade to high school, all students returned to class expressing their internal knowledge and sensory experiences through art and langue arts, in color and poetry. Each painting, collage and poem was a child’s reflection of “home.”
Thanks to the educational advocacy demonstrated by Beaufort County’s teachers, artists, naturalists and community members, River of Words culminated in an exhibition of student art on display at ARTworks. Students also braved the stage to read poems about Labradors in the plough mud, ospreys and mud minnows. But, what everyone was most excited for was the presentation of the full-color published book of original student work titled “River of Words: Musings on Port Royal Sound Through Poetry and Art.”