Bay Nature magazineApril-June 2012

River of Words, Home to Roost at Saint Mary’s

April 16, 2012

As a sophomore at Saint Mary’s College, poet Robert Hass trained his binoculars on a Caspian tern diving into a campus lake. His professor had sent his students out with binoculars and a journal, and Hass recalls the moment as a catapult that launched him into a lifetime of paying attention to nature.

That experience has even more significance now that River of Words [http://www.riverofwords.org] (ROW), which Hass co-founded in 1995 with writer and activist Pamela Michael, has come home to roost at Saint Mary’s College. “I was given a new pair of eyes to see things, and it was a gift that I wanted to give back,” says Hass.

Since 1995 ROW has sponsored a successful annual children’s art and poetry contest based on the theme of watersheds, complete with a teacher-training program. Hit hard by the recession, the small nonprofit was rescued last year by Saint Mary’s College, which folded ROW into the new Center for Environmental Literacy in the school of education, so ROW can expand its existing training programs to the brand-new teachers studying at Saint Mary’s. “I’ve always thought that place-based environmental education–and art education to some degree–has the capacity to be a driving force behind educational reform because of its hands-on experience for students,” says Michael, who directs the new center.

Saint Mary’s College will host ROW’s 16th annual awards ceremony on April 28, when Sunnyvale 15-year-old Allison Chang will receive the Shasta Bioregion art award. ROW will also present two children’s art exhibits at Saint Mary’s this year. Learn more [bit.ly/ypMvRO].

About the Author

Writer Aleta George trained as a Jepson Prairie docent in 2009. In addition to writing Bay Nature's Ear to the Ground column, she has written for Smithsonian, High Country News, and the Los Angeles Times.

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