AAA students visit Osage Park

This week Ms. Wenzel’s creative writing class titled “Wandering Cloud” ventured to the wetlands at Osage Park in Bentonville for an “invasive” experience. Why would a creative class visit a marshy landform?  All part of Ms. Wenzel’s curricular plan for an arts integration experience involving creative writing, the art of ikebana and the community.

Part of that plan involves the AAA high school musical, Little Shop of Horrors, which will be performed next week. Prior to each performances a “pre-show” will take place in the Commons. Stations representing various classes and disciplines will showcase student work revealing themes from the musical to the respective discipline through arts integration projects.  In the case of the creative writing class Wandering Cloud, Ms. Wenzel has provided the opportunity for the students to make connections from the theatrical presentation to poetry, ikebana (Japanese style of plant arrangement) as well as horticulture, by investigating species of plants that are invasive to Ozark eco systems.

Students in Wandering Cloud are studying “invasive” plants and the language used to imagine and describe them. Having learned that these are plants engaged in immature relationships within the ecosystem to which they’ve been introduced (primarily by humans!). Students are envisioning a greater balance through making arrangements of the plants in the Japanese ikebana style, which will then be sold at the “Little Shop of Horrors” store/installation during the pre-show.

Where does one find an assortment of “invasive species”?  Any public botanical garden will happily invite you to their property and provide an educational lesson of the numerous species that have devastating effects to native plant life in the Ozark Plateau.  We reached out to one of AAA’s partnering institution, Osage Park, to learn about invasive species that threaten native wetlands and inquired if the class could harvest some of the plants for their installation.  The staff at Osage Park were thrilled for such an opportunity and invited the class to the property.

Osage Park, is an urban park designed to protect a wetland section of the Illinois River Watershed. A network of boardwalks allow visitors to explore and experience the 12-acre park to learn the importance of wetland eco-systems.  The class was greeted by Angie Chavez, Osage Park Site Manager, Jordan Burke, Grounds and “invasive species” expert, Taylor Reed, Social Media Coordinator and Layne Hyatt, Director of Programs.  The Osage Park team guided the class throughout the park and taught students how to identify invasive plants such as Bradford pear trees, Japanese honeysuckle and privet.  Each of these species threaten the balance of the native plants and wildlife at the park.  The Osage team demonstrated how they manage the park through removal of these invasive species. They then supervised the class as they carefully navigated the park to locate invasive plants and harvested is crucial provided and demonstrated removal of the species. Students gathered a “bus load” of invasive species to take back to the school and prepare them for their installation.

The results of this experience are an integration of poetry, science, community and performance coming together to offer both an educational and entertaining experience.  The arts integration product will consist of original poems written by the students from the perspective of an introduced species common to the Northwest Arkansas area, using an existing haiku by one of the great classical haiku poets (Basho, Buson, Issa) as the “site” for a kind of verbal overgrowth. The poem will be paired with a species removed from the site and displayed in the Wandering Cloud installation called the Little Shop of Horrors store.

We invite you all to come see the Little Shop of Horrors musical performance as well as participate in our Arts Integration pre-show experience. Performance dates and times for the musical and pre-show:

  • Friday April 22nd Pre-show beginning at 6:00 pm and performance at 7:00 pm
  • Saturday April 23rd Pre-show beginning at 6:00 pm and performance at 7:00 pm
  • Sunday April 24th Pre-show beginning at 2:00 pm and performance at 3:00 pm

Wandering Cloud would like to thank the wonderful staff of Osage Park as well as Yannik Dwyer (AAA ’19) who’ve taught the students how to engage with these plants and helped us harvest them for this installation.

For more information about the AAA High School Musical and Pre-Show Experience visit

To learn more about Osage Park visit