In mid-March, I facilitated a workshop at Metro Opportunity High School in Fort Worth, Texas. Metro Opportunity is an alternative high school where, on any given day, the student body might range from 15 to 60. I had asked my colleague and friend, Jo Dufo—who is the art teacher at Metro Opportunity—if I might be able to present a short program on rewilding and then personally invite the students to submit original creative work to this theme.

Of course, Ms. Dufo was very enthusiastic about this idea and on the day of the presentation, there were about fifteen students ready to connect with me—sharing personal stories, hiphop poetry, and some of their previously-created art work.

When it was my turn to show, I performed a few of my spoken word pieces and then presented a slideshow about Black Earth Institute, About Place Journal, and rewilding.

I engaged the students in conversation about the lyrics to “America the Beautiful” and revealed to them that I only began to understand the meaning of “amber waves of grain” just last summer on a windy Texas afternoon. They revealed to me that “purple mountain majesties” “fruited plain” and “sea” were mostly abstract unknowns to them. However, when I asked them to consider a meaningful place from childhood, their recollections instantly took them to outdoor places (“a quiet hill with a great view,” for example) in nature.

When I showed the students a slide image of a dandelion pushing up through a concrete sidewalk, I invited them to consider their answer to this: What is the concrete poured over you that wants to hamper or hinder your growth? Their responses: stress, rules, depression, judgment.

Lastly, I asked the students to share a word to describe how they felt in their meaningful place from childhood. Their words: “Open” “Heaven” “Alive”.

Three students submitted new artwork and statements in response to the workshop. Many thanks to muralist, community activist, and art educator Jo Dufo for helping to facilitate my connection with her brilliant students.