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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Arts Education, Children & Youth, Environment, Environmental Education, Water, Water Resources, Wetlands Conservation & Management, Youth Development Programs

Mission: River of Words (ROW) is aninterdisciplinary environmental poetry and art program that promotes literacy,the arts and environmental stewardship. River of Words is designed tonurture respect for and understanding of the natural world, to promote literacyin all its forms, and to build community partnerships. The organization aims tofoster place-based, local, interdisciplinary, hands-on education by promotinglocal knowledge of watersheds and the cultures they create; cultivating a senseof connection to place; encouraging action and imagination in young people; helpingthem acquire skills and practice in creating art and poetry; acknowledgingtheir creativity and concerns; and helping them to give back to their local,national and international communities through dissemination of their poetryand art.

Results: In 15 years, we have trained thousands of educators in ways to incorporate nature exploration and the arts into their work with young people. We have nurtured tens of thousands of young people in kindergarten through 12th grade with curricula, publications, events, exhibitions, etc., helping them to become keen observers of the world around them, and giving them tools for creative expression of their observations. In 2004, River of Words was honored as one of the 100 most effective organizations in the country with an Innovations in Government Award from the Kennedy School at Harvard University.

Target demographics: We seek to serve the world’s children and their teachers, particularly those with few resources.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 300 teachers trained by River of Words national headquarters staff, another 300-600 trained by our 30 state coordinators. 20,000+ student participants in our free annual poetry and art contest. 200-600 students participating in classroom workshops.

Geographic areas served: International

Programs: Each year, in affiliation with The Library of Congress Center for the Book, River of Words conducts a free international poetry and art contest for youth on the theme of WATERSHEDS. The contest is designed to help youth explore the natural and cultural history of the place they live, and to express, through poetry and art, what they discover.

Community Stories

21 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Donor

Rating: 5

I am a personal donor and a huge fan of the beautiful poetry that is the heart of ROW program. A chorus I sing with, WomenSing, partners with ROW. Our chorus commissions young composers to write music for the poetry and we connect the poet with the composers so they can have insight into each others creative process. The young poets have been remarkable in their observations, articulate and thoughtful. The chorus and its supporters have been enriched by observing the process and through their contact with ROW.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I'm a professional nature writer and a long-time enthusiast of River of Words (ROW). In its early years, I worked for International Rivers Network where ROW got its start, and was fortunate to work events in San Francisco and Washington. D.C. when the kids were celebrated and honored for their work. One year, I interviewed all the kids, and their positive and passionate attitudes were awe inspiring. I can easily say that ROW is my favorite kid-friendly environmental and art organization.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is a great program to help these youngsters see the artist in there! Roll on river, roll on. I see poems form past participants other places now too.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

The River of Words poetry contest has shown my students that they can be inspired to write about their love for the natural world and be recognized for their efforts. Not only is the potential for publication a powerful incentive for writing, the publications of previous winners provide models to encourage and instruct my students in their own endeavors. When my students began to become winners and travel to Washington DC for the awards ceremony it added another dimension to this potential for recognition. This sense of limitless possibility was not a feeling many of the winning children were used to, one in particular, who was chosen as a grand winner, had been homeless on and off for some time and was amazed at the outside interest and encouragement provided by River of Words. I have countless stories of how participation in the River of Words program have has helped inspire my students, and been an invaluable tool in assisting me to teach writing skills. I have found that writing about the natural world opens up opportunities to work with other disciplines. I decided to work with an after-school environmental club. It was in one of these short workshops that Luis wrote Waterfall Slam the poem that secured him a place as a finalist in the ROW contest. For a fourth grader, it was a major encouragement, he had an article and photo in the newspaper and the experience changed him. He became one the most self-confident writers in the fifth grade. The following year, he was the MC for Poetry night, was referred to the gifted program and went to Middle School as an honor student. I was impressed by the power of success to bring more success. Carlos was a finalist in the River of Words two years in a row. He wrote a poem both in English and Spanish in his fifth grade class. The first year Carlos didn’t want to read his poem in Spanish but he we convinced him to do it anyway. When a family from Puerto Rico came up to him afterward, who had only understood the Spanish version, he was always eager to read his poems in both languages. He was invited back to DC for the third time to read at the National Book Festival. He even signed the beautiful River of Words Book at the book signing with Pamela Michael. I was given the Teacher of the Year award in May of 2009 and it was a great honor. This program has changed lives including mine.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A committed and energetic crew supports River of Words. I had the wonderful opportunity to see how Pamela, Susan, and Louisa work tirelessly to help the organization remain active. No other organization works as hard to encourage children to make the connection between themselves and the rivers and wetlands surrounding their homes. The workshops they offer help introduce poetry and art to students in a time when these essential activities receive very little funding from local and national governments. I fear that without River of Words we might lose a generation of poets, artists, and environmentalists.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As a teacher and administrator, I find River of Words to be the very best program/contest for elementary school students. It is really the only one I emphasize every year at our school with teachers and kids. It is so important for children to understand their connection to the natural environment because it encourages responsibility, stewardship, and certainly learning. Children naturally seek to know how they fit in to the world. How they belong. Understanding one's watershed and then expressing this understanding and relationship in words and visual arts has brought out some truly amazing and outstanding products. This program has opened the door of poetry to some very unlikely students. We had one National Poetry Winner from our school, a State Art Winner, as well as other students recognized. I always display every entry in our school so all of the participants are recognized. This program is a perfect vehicle for integrating so much of the curriculum...science, art, writing, environmental studies, social studies, and even math!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Students colored their ideas of a river and life in/around it. They designed it on envelopes and wrote stories in Spanish and/or English about what they learned. The 450 envelopes were streaming through the class upon completion and the students learned in art that the process was called an "installation." Suggestion:the website can post literature for parents to become involved so that the art and writing can be a home assignment.

3

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

River of Words is a wonderful organization which recognizes the strong connection kids feel to the natural world and encourages them to express themselves through poetry and art. The results are amazing! Each year the contest produces a wonderful outpouring of inspiration from students all over the world. The resource materials and lesson plans for teachers are first rate. I recommend this program to classroom teachers at every level!

4

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

River of Words provides a wealth of curriculum resources to teachers to support environmental education through art and writing. I found out about their amazing resources and student art and poetry contest in 1998 and have been sharing the wealth with my students ever since. River of Words is a trailblazer in Environmental Education. Their international contest is extraordinary in the ways that it touches and inspires students and teachers around the world. Their books are treasures for the classroom and I share them each year with a new group of students to inspire THEIR vision for preserving, conserving and treasuring our natural resources around the world.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

The river of words nonprofit has inspired my 5th grade students to submit poetry and art for the River of Words yearly competition. Our local ESD 113 in Olympia, Washington has a local celebration and sends it's top placing poems to the National contest. It such a joy to see students share their feelings through poetry as they work hard to edit and revise for a perfect poem.