Frances Vitali and Susan Watson participate in the Writing in Place program on Tuesday at Riverside Nature Center in Farmington. The Bisti Writing Project
Frances Vitali and Susan Watson participate in the Writing in Place program on Tuesday at Riverside Nature Center in Farmington. The Bisti Writing Project organizes the week-long creative writing program. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

FARMINGTON — Area educators spent a week of their summer vacations communing with nature and reflecting on the environment as part of a writing project that explores the Four Corners.

The Bisti Writing Project's Writing in Place program wraps up today. The program brings together kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers, as well as college instructors, for a week of writing at sites in Aztec, Farmington, Shiprock and Naschitti.

Kristine Ashworth was among the organizers who founded the local chapter of the National Writing Project. The intent, she said, is for educators to participate in creative writing exercises that will inspire lessons for their students.

The local chapter of the writing project started in 2005 and is organized by educators.

Ashworth, a retired Farmington Municipal School District elementary school teacher, said the program had a profound effect on how she approached field trips with her students.

"When I first went through something like this, it just totally blew away my concept of field trips," Ashworth said. "I think going through something like this will make you more creative and aware of how you can be creative within a certain boundary."

Susan Watson led Tuesday's workshop at the Riverside Nature Center in Farmington. The educator has taught at a number of Bloomfield School District schools, including Naaba Ani Elementary School and Bloomfield High School, and she will teach next school year at Blanco Elementary School.

During one exercise, Watson asked educators to write about how they identified with the nature around the center using their senses of sight, smell, hearing and touch. She has used a similar strategy with her students to develop their writing skills.

"I have taken my kids to the river and have them walk through the river and take notes and have them come back and share," Watson said. "These workshops are really important for those teachers that teach writing."

Frances Vitali, right, listens as Susan Watson speaks on Tuesday at Riverside Nature Center in Farmington during the Writing in Place program hosted by the
Frances Vitali, right, listens as Susan Watson speaks on Tuesday at Riverside Nature Center in Farmington during the Writing in Place program hosted by the Bisti Writing Project. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

The group visited Aztec Ruins National Monument on Monday and the Shiprock pinnacle on Wednesday. On Thursday, the educators traveled to Naschitti to visit the Toadlena Trading Post. They are scheduled to end the program today at the Blue Moon Diner.

Lisa Renner, a parent educator for the Farmington school district, has participated in the project since 2007 and has led a number of workshops. Renner said she used lessons from the program when she taught journalism and yearbook classes.

"It has really shaped my curriculum and how I approached writing," Renner said. "It's very powerful to have other people hear your thoughts and also to be validated in that way, to be listened to."

Joshua Kellogg covers education forThe Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4527 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.