Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 21, 2013

Terry Wooten: World in poetry, through eyes of children

Special to the Record-Eagle

---- — The young woman working behind the cash register recognized me. She said I’d visited her Fife Lake School when she was in fifth grade, and again when she was a sophomore.

For her fifth-grade class, I taught a Watershed Critters writing workshop. The kids pretended to be critters indigenous to their area and wrote from the earth citizens’ viewpoint.

They had to add facts and similes to their free verse poems. She remembered she was a spring peeper. We laughed, and I told her I still use her poem as a visual teaching tool.

I don’t think I’ve ever written a poem that hasn’t changed me a little bit. I hope that’s also true for most students, especially the ones who have written Watershed Critters poems.

This writing workshop is a creative way to sensitize kids to their environment and all the living species of the puzzle they are a part of. In celebration of Earth Day and Poetry Month, here’s a herd of new Watershed Critters poems.

Poet Bard Terry Wooten has been performing and conducting writing workshops in schools for 29 years. He is also the creator of Stone Circle, a triple ring of boulders featuring poetry, storytelling and music on his property north of Elk Rapids. Learn more at





Caw! Caw!

My deep black feathers

gleam like an igneous rock.

Many like me are hated.

I sweep over land

like a jet on a mission.

I see a woman’s shiny jewels

in a box,

calling me to snatch.

I go to a field

of edible corn,

free for me to swallow

like my ancestors snacked

on whole fish.

Footsteps full of hate.

Farmers! Dogs! I flee

to represent my defeat.

Caw! Caw!

We sing as one in a chorus.

We steal as we fly.

It is what I am. A crow.

Samantha Strang, 4th grade

Glenn Loomis Montessori




Autumn is when I mate.

My mate will kill me

if she dislikes me.

She will eat me

if I am liked.

I’m a male Praying Mantis.

A female picked me.

She is gigantic

like a sumo wrestler.

My mate loves me.

She devours me 

like lunch.

I am inside her stomach.

It’s dark as black ink,

boring as watching you sleep.

Levi Dimon, 4th grade

Fife Lake Elementary



River Otter

I wish myself among otters

and I find myself on the rocky shores of a pond.

Diving into the once still water,

I swim after fish, crayfish, mollusks, amphibians, reptiles

any meat I can get my paws on.

With my mouth full,

I drag myself to the surface.

I’m about to eat when…

A beaver rises from the water,

slaps its tail, then goes under.

Although otters are beaver’s enemies,

we know that a slap from a beaver’s tail means danger.

Following the tail slap is a loud howling… gray wolves!

Beavers retreat to their lodge.

Raccoons hide in their dens.

Us otters dive into the water.

We wait until the howling is only a distant sound,

and the pond is peaceful again.

As the sun begins to go to sleep,

the ponds settles down.

Beavers swim to their lodge.

Raccoons nest in their dens.

Us otters crawl out of the water to our holts.

As I settle down inside the tree roots,

the moon awakens,

and the stars sing the night song 

that puts me to sleep.

Madeleine Myers, 5th grade

Glenn Loomis Montessori



Fox In the Night

I feel the moist wet dirt

under the pads of my feet.

I bark to my friends,

and dash away

swiftly through the forest.

I hear the tick, tick, tick

of a human’s watch

40 yards away.

The moonlight

glances and glints

off my reddish fur.

My fur bristles and I growl

hearing other strange noises

stirring in the night.

The human

comes closer,

and stares at me

with beady eyes

full of wonder and delight.

The light of dawn creeps

over the hills.

I melt away

silent as the rustle of wind

in the grass.

The sun casts 

an eerie glow on my surroundings.

I am a fox at night.

Millie Foglesong, 4th grade

Glen Lake Elementary




With black and white stripes

like the Milky Way,

I do whatever I want.

Skunks live in hollow logs.

I have white swirls on my tail.

Skunks are the same size as your head.

When I’m grumpy

I spray a horrible stench!

I’m a skunk

sprinting away from dogs!

Ty Jones, 4th grade 

Fife Lake Elementary



White-tail Deer

I am light tan.

When humans are near

I frighten and run away.

When monsters with bright yellow eyes come,

I freeze.

I blend into my surroundings,

so do my children.

They have spots on their backs

white as snow.

I have long strides

and a sleek neck.

I sneak into gardens

stealing veggies,

apples and cabbage.

I am an herbivore.

Lilly Koby 5th grade

Fife Lake Elementary



A Loon’s Adventure

Splash! I dropped into the water.

I was flying.

Now I’m looking for fish.

I saw one through my sharp, red eyes.

The water is cold as ice.

I dove under anyway.

Snatch! The fish is mine.

After eating that slimy fish I relaxed.

I looked at the feathers on my back.

They were beautiful

like someone painted white stripes

and checkers on a black canvas.

I was admiring my feathers

when Owww!

A massive pike tried to bite me!

Swimming for my life

I gained enough speed to fly away.

I flapped my wings fast as a race horse runs.

Getting tired,

I found a place to sleep

away from the pike and danger;

a good place for a Common Loon like me.

By Ellena Izatt, 4th grade 

Glen Lake Elementary



The Marbled Salamander

Everything seems so huge

like you compared to Mt. Everest.

It’s hard making my burrow

in a rotten log

in the forest.

My tail is 40% of my body

and I’m four beetles long.

Other salamanders are gigantic

compared to me.

I don’t see other salamanders.

We are threatened in Michigan

like space in Traverse City.

I help my mate

keep her 50-200 eggs safe.

It feels really cold

because salamanders

are cold blooded.

Wyatt Pugh, 4th grade 

Glen Lake Elementary