‘We Tore Down the Forest’ Showcases the Poetry of Youth Wise Beyond Their Years

Each year, COMPAS, a Minnesota-based non-profit education organization that teaches through art produces an anthology of student writing. This year’s anthology is titled We Tore Down the Forest.

As we all know, 2020 was a year unlike any other. Amid the pandemic, the importance of a creative outlet for youth to express the challenges, what brings joy and happiness, but also what brings fear became clear. In continuing to celebrate National Poetry Month, I am sharing three poems from the anthology that exemplify what many are feeling in these unprecedented times through the eyes of students as young as sixth grade. What is clear is expression of wisdom beyond their years and hope for change in our future.

Mother Earth

Amelia Larson, Grade 6
Murray Middle School St. Paul
Teaching Artist: Frank Sentwali

Mother Earth is diseased. She is injured and we are her doctors.

We have yet to come up with her cure, but we sit
like zombies in our chairs as the smoke closes in.

But I will not sit in that chair thinking this is a joke.
Pollution corrupts this beautiful earth and I will not stand by.

I will fight for the people who can’t seem to stand up.
Our world has problems and we have the answers,

but we sit around while the earth develops cancers.
Global warming is killing the things the artic animals need.

If our leaders don’t step forward and lead
then we’ll need to step up and take their place in front.

There are so many people in this world, we just need to
Convince them
that our earth is our home and it is worth fighting for.

The cure to the poison is within our grasp,
but it is up to you if you are willing to grab it.

The Integumentary System

Rowan Miller, Grade 7
Stanford Middle School, Minneapolis
Teaching Artist: Frank Sentwali

The Integumentary System:
Skin, Hair, Nails
It covers our Body
Protecting what’s on
The inside
Like the wrapping of a present protects
The gifts
The vital organs
Hidden from view
The skin has layers
Epidermis, Dermis, Subcutaneous
Box, wrapping, tape
It can get infected and burned
Like cats chewing and tearing the outer
And the bow
The hair
Sitting atop the present
Adorning it
And keeping our head warm
Keeping dust out of sensitive places
Now imagine
You come downstairs on Christmas morning
There’s no box
No wrapping
No tag
No differentiation
On who we are
In society the color of our very own
Wrapping paper
Is judged
And used
To decide our future for us
But on the inside
Behind the epidermis
The dermis
The stereotypes
The ethnicity
The gender
The sexual orientation
The greaser
The soc . . .
We are all just one
Perfectly wrapped
Human being


Evan Gardner, Grade 7
Richfield Middle School, Richfield
Teaching Artist: Frank Sentwali

Like a bad dream
Welcome to my life as a middle school teen.
Bright blue sky (wave to the sky)
Mom says, “Go outside.”
People sick and dying
I think the President is lying.

Stress in E-learning
Just makes my mind sick.
Why can’t this just be over with?
Minds racing, hearts breaking, mask making
Why is everyone baking?

This is my life as a teen
Stuck in this quarantine.
Empty streets like a horror movie scene.
Businesses and restaurants have closed.
Have I been exposed?
Like superheroes, people putting their lives on the line.
I am thankful that I feel fine (in relief).
Dad says, “Careful using toilet paper.”
I should have some for later.

I’ve lost track of what day it is. They all feel the same now.
I’ve done all the puzzles and played allllll the games.
I’m just too bummed to do it all over again.
There’s nothing to do to pass the hours, wait…when was the last time I took a shower?

But what’s the problem with the quarantine, if there’s more than just being a teen.
No worries of going to the bus stop, cause now we’re passed 10:00 o’clock
Only four classes a day, playing video games all night
Wearing pajamas all day because we can stay up
till it’s bright

Now everyone is leaving E-learning as school dies down and
what is there to do if there’s no one around?

No more work,
No more school.
I just want to be in a swimming pool!
Is everything really over?
No pools to swim in, no theaters to sit in, if school is out, why
Does it still feel like I’m in a prison?

View a virtual reading and celebration of the We Tore Down the Forest anthology, and the powerful writing of students here.

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