Saturday, June 1, 2013

Yakima students compose haiku in the Garden

by Cara and aleks
SJG • 5/31/13 - 8th graders from Franklin Middle School in Yakima visiting the Garden

Welcome to this place
where beauty will inspire you -
Be one with nature

Haiku composed collectively by Franklin Middle School 
8th grade students in docent Cara's group

aleks: In May and June Seattle Japanese Garden gets many visitors from schools, some close by and some not so close; there are teachers who bring their pupils to the Garden every year, some because they study Pacific Rim countries, some because they study Japanese language and culture, and some just because.

Franklin Middle School in Yakima is one of those schools -  each year teacher  Mike Fry brings his 8th graders all the way to Seattle to experience Japanese Garden and culture to complement their Japanese studies. The students had to be in school at 6:30 am yesterday, Friday, and left on the bus at 7:15 to make it for the 11:00 am tour.  They were very bright and open to the experience and it was an immense pleasure to share the Garden with them. After the Garden tour they headed to Westlake mall to explore a Japanese shop there and for lunch in Uwajimaya - a huge Japanese grocery/gift/eatery center in International District.

Creative use of  pause...After the tour docent Cara told me that her group's haiku-writing naturally rose from the need to pause when Bev's and my groups were occupying the spots Cara intended to take her visitors to, and they were forced to wait...

Cara: We were in the azumaya, talking about how shelters are used for creative reflection. As the students looked out onto the garden, I asked if they knew about haiku, and we reviewed its form. 'Welcome to this place.' I nudged them with that sentence. They became quiet - a few gestured with fingers as they silently counted the syllables in thoughts they weren't ready to share out loud. A few moments later, someone offered 'where beauty will inspire you.'  Students took turns reciting the two lines and worked together to refine them. After another quiet moment, 'Be one with nature' was offered by another student. We recited our 17-syllable poem again and again, and later, it was fun to have an audience as another group approached us at the end of our garden stroll. I won't ever forget the haiku, or the wonderful group that created it.

aleks: How did you review the haiku form?  Did the students know anything about haiku, or did you have to explain from the beginning?

Cara: I just asked them to tell me what a haiku was, and students volunteered what they'd learned, according to one  student, 'in the fourth grade'. Although I didn't make sure everyone understood the 5 - 7 - 5 structure, it didn't take long for the group to put their creative juices together to compose their own haiku.

SJG  • 5/26/13 -styrax obassia - Japanese snow bell tree
at the SE corner of the Tea House garden blooming profusely now

Hi to Franklin Middle School Yakima students from the guides in SJG! waving hands - please visit us again!


  1. That is a beautiful 17-syllable poem! I really like it. The description of the collaboration process adds more depth to this.
    It reminded me of a Japanese traditional game of making 31-syllable poem: The first 17-syllables are presented, and others adds 14 syllables to make a meaningful and elegant poem. According to this article in Wikipedia, it became renga.

  2. Thanks for the info about renga, Keiko, and your comments on the haiku! I imagine guides use haiku writing on tours all the time, but it was the first time for me to do that - I'll always remember the wonderful students, and their collaborative energy!