“Writing is my life, not a hobby, and I am honored to be a part of this program.”
“I don’t think of myself as a writer, but it was awesome to be involved in this interesting workshop. The volunteer teachers were very helpful.”
With all of the talk of recent about educational funding and what counts as “quality” teaching and learning, I can help but be drawn back again and again to the words of our youngest writers above, as they find their voice and views on the world through writing. I have seen this happen countless time through my work with the Minnesota Writing Project, a local site of the larger network, the National Writing Project. The work of NWP, especially as it plays out locally at MWP, is much more than a teacher organization. While yes, the organization support the professional development of teachers as literacy advocates and instructional leaders, it also supports the literacy learning of a diverse set of community members including K12 students and college students working toward their teaching degrees. Through its many partnerships with institutional and community agencies, NWP has become a multi-pronged network for literacy engagement. Take for instance, the Young Writers Conference, an ongoing youth program through MWP that involves the participation of various educators to support student and learning.
What is the Young Writers’ Conference??
The Young Writers Conference is offered through a special partnership with the St. Paul School District. The Conference is an opportunity for schools to inspire some of their best student writers by bringing them to the University of Minnesota campus and fostering interaction with other student writers.
60 students (grades 6-12)
3 days at either the Bell Natural History Museum
Cross-disciplinary writing experience
Focus on non-fiction writing
This year’s conference centered on the theme of sustainable shelters, which allowed students to incorporate elements of environmental awareness in their fiction and non-fiction writings. To inspire writing and reflect on the stories in nature-based settings, students were given journals to write in, collect their drawings, and remix images into their own artistic creations. Final writings were shared with the larger group and then published in an online anthology.
In addition to supporting young writers, the program supports educators at a variety of stages in their careers. An essential component of the program involves providing experiences for pre-service teachers to work with young writers in real writing contexts, helping them to sort through “what really works” amid the pages and pages of reading they do in their education classes.
We can not underestimate the complexity of literacy learning and how it involves learning across multiple contexts and relationships. With this comes the need for quality professional development programming, such as that of NWP that is not only ongoing but versatile in the ways it provides support for both teachers and students alike.