Middle School Students Write Messages To Ukraine

Visiting poet Katie Daley discusses Garfield seventh grader Charlaice McDonald’s poem.

Recently, Lakewood middle school students participated in a special learning opportunity made possible through a partnership between Lakewood City Schools, the Lakewood Public Library and the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University.

Kent State Instructor Katie Daley worked with teachers and students to contribute their own poem to “Dear Ukraine,” a global project community poem that provides a space for individuals around the world to speak to the unfolding atrocities of the war against Ukraine and its people.

“The ‘Dear Ukraine’ writing experience was very enjoyable, and taught me a lot about poems in a short amount of time,” said Garfield seventh grader Mia Dugan. “It really opened my eyes to the feelings and hardships people are experiencing in Ukraine.”

Katie Daley and Lakewood Public Library’s manager of Children and Youth Services, Julie Strunk, met with Kevin Spooner’s advanced sixth grade language arts classes at Harding and Colleen Gromek’s advanced seventh grade language arts classes at Garfield. They started by asking the students to share what they knew about what was happening in Ukraine. Katie Daley then shared the poem “Dear Ukraine” with students in both English and Ukrainian, inviting students to note the rhythm and key phrases. 

Students then worked with her as a class to write a group poem and then individual poems using opening lines from the original piece applying what they had learned about word choice, figurative language, and sensory details to their poems. Students could then choose to post their work to the “Dear Ukraine” community poem website. The website provides instantaneous translation of students’ work into Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish, so that poems can be easily read and shared around the world.

This experience developed several of the core competencies highlighted in Lakewood City School’s Vision of a Lakewood Graduate. Students were invited to empathize with the experiences of Ukrainians, grow in global awareness and understanding of the conflict in Ukraine, and effectively communicate their hopes and wishes.

Leah Roudebush, art teacher at Garfield Middle School, will work with students to create art to accompany the poems selected for display at the Main Branch of the Lakewood Public Library.

A handful of selected students will read their poems at the Main Branch on March 12, 2023 at 2 p.m. at the culminating event, which will also feature poems from local English language learners and traditional Ukrainian folk music.

Those interested in participating or learning more about the project can visit dearukrainepoem.com.

Sample group poem by Garfield's 1st and 2nd period 7th grade advanced language arts class taught by Colleen Gromek:

Dear Ukraine,

I want your wounds to heal.

I dream of your wheat,

like feathers,

intermingling with the ash.

I dream of the ash fading away

revealing blue skies,

and the sun beating down on you.

I hope the soldiers leave your land,

and let the sunflowers thrive again.

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Volume 18, Issue 21, Posted 1:41 PM, 11.02.2022