June 22, 2022

Liberty Memorial Central Students Create Unique Multimedia Poetry Project With Lawrence Arts Center – The Lawrence Times

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Call it a colossal community collaboration showcasing the creativity of nearly 150 seventh graders. The Zinn Writers of Liberty Memorial Central Middle School has again partnered with the Lawrence Arts Center, resulting in a multimedia literary project titled “I Hope You Know”.

Led by arts center artist-in-residence Alysha Griffin and LMCMS educators Jackie Stafford and Ashley Weaver, the teens explored spoken word poetry, the personification of art, and themes such as bravery during of a 10-week unit.


Griffin is originally from Georgia and recently earned her doctorate in theater performance from the University of Kansas. During the early stages of the project, which began in February, Griffin met with students and brainstormed ideas to come up with a participatory poem.

She encouraged students to draw pictures of the bravest things they’ve ever seen in real life, heard from family members, read about in a book, or acted out themselves. Then each student contributed a line, resulting in common themes such as fire and water emerging, Griffin said.

“Everyone’s words are in there in one way or another. And I didn’t add anything. I only took a few pieces and then put them together, so all their work.

Camera assistant Kaity Allen attaches a microphone to a student for a recording session in the auditorium at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School. Behind her are filmmaker Jacob Schermerhorn and Lawrence Arts Center writer-in-residence Alysha Griffin. (Tricia Masenthin/The Lawrence Times)

Filmmaker Jacob Schermerhorn lent his talents to the video portion of the project.

Seventh grader Claire Lindemeyer called it “really cool” to hear a peer speak their written words in the video. Claire explained the meaning of the line she wrote – “or the eraser under the table”.

“We were talking about memories, I think in that part, and we were hanging on to it and remembering something. And it’s like a chewing gum is stuck somewhere. It’s hard to get out of it. »

She said she would remember the multiple stages of the project the most. “It took a lot of class periods to do this, and it’s nice to see it all put together.”

Through the Lawrence Arts Center, the Zinn Writing Project receives financial support from Richard “Dick” and Diane Zinn in memory of their daughter Rebecca, a writer who died in 2012. Last week, the Zinns attended the first film at the LMCMS and met with Zinn’s writers.

Alysha Griffin, far left, led a project to boost literacy and showcase the work of seventh graders at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School. Diane and Richard “Dick” Zinn, far right, are providing financial support for the project through the Lawrence Arts Center. (Photo provided by Jackie Stafford)

Griffin said each class brings its own unique qualities and talents. “Each class had a different personality and a different vibe. So it ended up being different, but I think it works.

Zinn’s writers—and the poem’s readers—agreed. At the end of the school year, seventh graders Oscar Paden and Deacon Bonee reflected on their work and why they volunteered to recite lines from “I Hope You Know.”

“It was amazing,” Oscar said. “We wanted to try something new and loved the descriptive words in the poem. It really made us feel it – like “piercing darkness in a sharp white zigzag”.

Deacon said he liked the phrase “when panic and hope rise in the sky” the most, calling it “deep and touching”.


Griffin had never worked with teenagers before the Zinn Writing Project. Stafford said it took courage for Griffin to step into the classroom for the last 10 weeks of the year. “It’s not easy to be a visiting professor in the middle of the year when you don’t know everyone very well. It takes time to build relationships. »

The final product, Stafford said, left her in tears. “To hear it from start to finish is really, really special.”

At the premiere, Griffin told the students that even though poetry wasn’t “their thing,” they could still pursue art.

“I hope you find something artistic to master, to play, to try, because I think it’s really important to who we are as people, and I think it’s really important to the way we connect with others.”

“I Hope You Know” can be viewed on YouTube. The Lawrence Arts Center also produced a poster featuring part of the poem.

Upcoming opportunities to view the video also include an in-house experience at the arts center and screenings at the Free State Film Festival, said Andy Smith, director of youth education at LAC.

“It’s a really nice video. We want a lot of people to see it.


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Tricia Masenthin (her), Equity Reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more about his work for The Times here. Check out his staff biography here.

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