Yesterday the weather was gorgeous, a classic spring day such as you read about in books, but rarely experience here in Nova Scotia, where spring can really hang you up the most. The sun was shining, the air was balmy, the birds were singing their hearts out. When my workshoppers arrived, I could tell they were a little school-stunned and logy. “We’re going to try something different,” I told them. “We’re going to go out into the garden and use all our five senses to observe the afternoon. Pay close attention, because afterward, we’ll come back in to write about what we’ve noticed!”
Out we all went into the sunshine. Already, they were perking up. They wondered what there would be to taste in the garden. Mint, I said, or tulips. Tulips?!? They’d never heard of such a thing. I pulled petals off my red tulips and handed them around, and watched the idea of eating flowers blow their minds. One kid liked the petals so much she ate an entire tulip. A small price to pay for the inspiration the garden time brought. The kids were totally engaged in paying attention, thinking up metaphors and similes to use in their descriptive paragraphs, bringing narrative to bear, explaining what they’d observed in minute detail.
One wrote about the red tulips as garden sentries. Another compared the white tulips to the lightning on a Percy Jackson novel cover. A third noticed the leaves of rose geranium are soft and fuzzy and delicate, like a peach. The fourth got up close and personal with a fiddlehead fern. Myself, I described two haskap bushes in detail. It was a great afternoon in the garden, and in the workshop.
If there’s a young writer in your house, encourage them to pay close attention to a corner of the garden (or window box, if that’s all the space you have, and if you’ve no garden at all, a corner of a park will do!), using all their senses to observe a few minutes in the garden’s life. Then, they can return to their notebook and write a paragraph of two using the most descriptive language they can muster. A great exercise for practicing metaphors, similes, and descriptive writing in general, which is key for building theme and bringing stories to life.