River of Words, 2008
When teacher Linda Cover walks into a classroom, she steps onto fertile soil, knowing that her students have a cumulative knowledge of their watershed. As a Spectra Arts teacher with the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz, she works with kids year after year in Santa Cruz County to teach them about local watersheds through poetry, art, and science. “Visual arts, language arts, and science are different ways of knowing, but they marry beautifully,” Cover says.
Every year, all those threads come together when Cover’s students participate in the River of Words (ROW) poetry and art contest, co-founded in 1995 by poet Robert Hass and writer Pamela Michael. By the time its February 15 deadline approaches each year, the organization has been deluged with 20,000 entries from around the world, including 2,000 from Bay Area students.
“It’s important for kids to have their voices heard outside of the classroom,” says Cover, who was named ROW’s 2006 Teacher of the Year. At least 20 of Cover’s students have been finalists. Two were chosen as international art winners and attended the awards ceremony held at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. “This contest has been a life-changing event for many of my students,” she adds.
For a real treat, go to the free ROW ceremony at the San Francisco Public Library on Sunday, April 20. The event includes a slide show of winning artwork, many winners and finalists read their poems, and several poets perform in American Sign Language. For more information on the contest and the ceremony, visit the River of Words website.