When I was a kid, my mom read to me from a book (I think it had actually been a required book for one of her college courses) called Piping Down the Valleys Wild. I loved that book, mostly because the poems were funny and vivid, not stuffy or boring like I thought poetry would be. Nancy Larrick, the editor, writes in her introduction that “[the child] learns to observe his own world more clearly because he has had fresh glimpses through the eyes of a poet”. Poetry brings imagery and experience to all ages, and in this case can be used to educate urban or suburban children who have not had much exposure to the rural outdoors. Agricultural-themed poetry can also provide those who live in a rural area with a peg upon which their life experience can be built.
When milkweed blows in the pasture
And winds start spinning the leaves,
And out by the wall the cornstalks
Are neatened in packs called sheaves;
When apples bump on the roadway
And over the road and higher
The last of the birds, like clothespins
Are clipped to the telegraph wire…
Through this poem we experience brilliant autumn imagery as well as a beautiful picture of the agriculture industry, combining both a poetic learning experience with a practical agricultural education. Hopefully, if the reader (that’s you, teachers!) is good and engaging, the students will enjoy hearing poetry read. Keeping poetry time short at first is probably best.
Sun is coming up
Farmer’s out the door,
He will go to milk the cows,
And start his daily chores.
Sun is going down
Horse is in the stable,
All the fields are planted now,
Supper’s on the table.
Poems don’t have to be fancy or wordy to be good poetry. The poem above is short and simple, but still is exciting and portrays a clear image. It also reflects a day in the life of a farmer!
My favorite poem, from Oklahoma State’s Ag in the Classroom page, is this one:
by Charles Guigna
Pigs are playful
Pigs are pink
Pigs are smarter
than you think.
Pigs are slippery
Pigs are stout
Pigs have noses
Called a snout.
Pigs are pudgy
Pigs are plump
Pigs can run
But never jump.
Pigs are loyal
Pigs are true.
Pigs don’t care for
I hope that by incorporating agricultural-themed poetry (as well as stories and other forms of literature) into the classroom, kids can receive a well-rounded education while having fun and learning about an important, relevant industry. Teachers will also be able to kill two birds with one stone by teaching poetry and agriculture as one, instead of having to spend twice as long teaching both subjects with completely different themes and approaches.
Larrick, Nancy, and Ellen Raskin. Piping down the Valleys Wild; Poetry for the Young of All Ages. New York: Delacorte, 1968. Print.