The Children’s Museum Tucson’s Curiosity Courtyard isn’t just for blowing bubbles, drumming, or stopping to smell the herbs and flowers: it’s also a place where kids and their favorite adults can write poetry! The courtyard—which is free and open to the public—includes a Poetry Pod with four writing and art-based activities created in collaboration with the UA Poetry Center.
Rameen Ahmed, the museum’s Educational Engagement Manager, says that the Poetry Pod aims to combine play with learning. The featured poems rotate, and right now are based on “Tucson Meditation,” written in Spanish and English by Davis Bilingual Elementary Magnet students in a Spring 2017 Writing the Community residency. The Poetry Pod includes writing and drawing prompts, a “construction” area where children can rearrange word blocks and magnets, and a touch-based section that features dried local plants, from mesquite pods to sunflowers. For each activity, participants are prompted to think about Tucson using sensory details and their own perceptions of our city.
The pod is paired with the Rooted Heritage Garden, a section of the courtyard dedicated to Sonoran Desert plants like squash, amaranth, and chiltepin alongside native bee habitats crafted by Greg Corman. Much like the garden, the pod has a local focus. The first set of activities in the Poetry Pod were inspired by Ofelia Zepeda’s poem “B ‘o ‘e-a:g maṣ ‘ab him g ju:kǐ/It is Going to Rain,” which was shared in both O’odham and English. Zepeda read the poem at the Rooted Heritage Garden’s opening event in September 2022.
While visitors typically interact with the Poetry Pod on their own, the museum’s discovery guides lead activated play in the courtyard three times a week. They draw on resources available in the Poetry Pod and select from one of three activities: a letter- and nature-based printmaking project, water coloring or the Garden Quest, in which visitors are challenged to find plants and other elements from the Curiosity Courtyard using pictures and clues. The quest often leads to conversations about the plants growing in the garden. “A lot of times it’s the parents that’ll say, ‘Oh wait, what is that?,’” and want to learn more, other times kids may say, “’That’s how brussel sprouts grow?’”Ahmed shared.
The Poetry Pod can be visited Tuesdays-Sundays from 9 am-5 pm. The area is also accessible during free Discovery Nights, held every Thursday from 5-7 pm. Discovery Guide-led activities at the Poetry Pod take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 3 pm.