CALIFORNIA POETS IN THE SCHOOLS
the California Poets in the Schools program began at San Francisco State University in 1964 as the Pegasus Project. Initially, the program placed poets in Bay Area classrooms for the purpose of reading poetry to children. Eventually, the program evolved to include the students' active participation in the writing process, and, in the mid-1970s, CPITS became a statewide organization. Today, CPITS is active in 29 counties from Humboldt to San Diego.
Since 1987, CPITS has placed over 150 poets in more than 300 schools across the state each year, and it is estimated that a half million K-12 students have been introduced to contemporary creative writing by CPITS poets, with over 100,000 poems written each year by students in CPITS poetry workshops (some of the best are collected and published in local, regional and statewide anthologies).
California Poets in the Schools is now the largest writers-in-schools program in the nation. Yet despite its size, it is has maintained its roots in the diverse communities of California. Local Area Poet Coordinators administer the program in their counties, with a policy to place poets in schools in their own communities, often in their own immediate neighborhoods. All CPITS teachers must go through an application process and only accomplished, working writers are selected for the program.
California Poets in the Schools began with funding from the California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Since that time CPITS has diversified its funding base by garnering support from school, corporate, community, and private foundations, including the State of California, The ArtCouncil, Lannan Foundation, Walter and Elise Haas Fund, and the Flora Hewlett Foundation.
CPITS poet teachers function as visiting teachers, working in conjunction with the primary classroom teachers. Class time is divided between reading, writing and sharing, and each lesson is designed to offer tools and skills that help kids combine their imagination, life experience and special perceptions into poetry. Because they are "working poets", CPITS poet teachers serve as living models of what it means to commit one's life to imaginative language.
Depending upon the school, the CPITS program generally consists of 12 to 24 one hour sessions. How this time is allocated and what grades receive instruction is determined by the school. All CPITS requires is that the school administrator fills out the appropriate form (given to the school by the poet teacher) and give it back to the Poet Teacher, who then mails it to the CPITS SF office.
I have taught and worked extensively in the South Coast Area. Every year as a CPITS Poet Teacher, I work with Point Arena Elementary (24 sessions to K-4 students), Point Arena High School (12 sessions with 9-12 graders), Horicon School (24 sessions to K-8 students) the Pacific Charter School (grades 1-8). I also coach the Point Arena High School Poetry Slam team¾ so far our competition schedule includes Anderson Valley High, Mendocino High, Fort Bragg High, and Willits High.
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