Welcome to our first Oregon Writing Project Collaborative at George Fox newsletter. We wanted to bring you up to date on the work of the site and, as well, let you know about a wonderful opportunity to help us design and launch Digital Young Writers Camps. This first year at GFU has been amazing with official approval of our new site from NWP, faculty approval of our Certificate in the Teaching of Writing course series, two Institutes, and family literacy and coaching activities. The first Institute was a Winter/Spring Institute with 17 teachers and a leadership team of 7 including Nancy Fischer, Janis Wurgler, Karen Hamlin, Steve Jones, Grant Huhn, Sarah Dalisky, and Janet Foster. A fantastic website emerged from this institute, complete with lessons for teachers to explore and use. The second institute was a more traditional Summer Institute this month with 11 participants including leaders Nancy Fischer, Janis Wurgler, Susanna Steeg, Tracy Velez and Angela Newport.
We also spent our first year establishing the site at George Fox. That work included hiring our amazing new Administrative Assistant, Andrea Byerley, setting up an office, setting up accounts, and informing George Fox faculty, administration, and staff about what a Writing Project site is. As part of that work we hosted a brunch for the College of Education where we wrote and shared “I am From. . .” poems.
We are hugely grateful for the support that the site has received from George Fox. Along with providing tuition waivers, release time for the site director and co-director, facility and office space, and travel funding, the university this June officially approved setting up an entire new Continuing Education system in order to allow the site to offer workshop credits for teachers at a greatly reduced cost. This endeavor will require an estimated 216-560 hours for implementation, testing and documentation by various GFU departments and has an estimated completion date of Fall 2016. Given the recent licensure renewal changes approved by TSPC, these workshop credits will now be even more important and useful for teachers at all stages of their careers.
Looking back at this “first” year, I am grateful for all of the support provided by “long time” writing project leaders Angela Obery, Nancy Fischer, Janis Wurgler, Steve Jones, Grant Huhn, Sarah Dalisky, and Janet Foster as well as the infusion of new energy and ideas from Susanna Steeg, Carol Brazo, Angela Newport, and Tracy Velez. The site has come a long way in a year, and the future is bright.
By Tracy Velez
If you happened to stop by Salem Broadway Commons the last two weeks of June, you may have noticed writing was happening there; at coffee tables, clusters of couches and arm chairs, in conference rooms, sunny spots, and small groups, pens and pencils scratched against rapidly filling composition notebooks. Eleven teachers gathered together to write and share and grow in their practice during the Oregon Writing Project Collaborative’s annual Summer Institute. Nancy Fischer, Institute Director, led and encouraged the group of teachers to consider their strengths and find things they do well to practice and share with each other. Through writing and inquiry into these areas of strength, teachers--who represented elementary to university level classrooms stretching from Sherwood to as far south as Winston—explored and shared ideas about writing in the classroom. They learned how music, photos, videos, podcasts, and mentor texts can serve as entry points for student writing, imagined how writing can connect and have relevance to students’ 21st century lives, dreamed of developing deeper awareness of self through poetry and private writing, and discovered new ways to use the writer’s notebook, guide revision, and enhance non-fiction writing. Through the process, they were also able to focus on and share personal writing which culminated in rich and delightful portfolios of work from each teacher.
Institute Director Nancy Fischer, who will be stepping away from the Institute after many years of leading, guiding and directing to spend more time with family, was joined by a talented leadership team of TC’s: Susanna Steeg, Tracy Velez, and Angela Newport.
On July 1st, the group was joined by a number of Summer Institute alumni and guests for a private tour of Oregon State Hospital’s Mental Health Museum. As part of the thoughtful and mind-opening presentation by museum volunteers and hospital leadership, teachers were given lesson plan ideas and encouraged to return with students to help begin a community conversation on mental health. This experience seemed to affirm themes emerging from the Summer Institute of offering a positive environment of hope for students to learn and write and receive feedback while nurturing the development of empathy.
The teachers and leaders of the Institute are excited to reconvene in the fall to share how they have been able to apply new practices and writing strategies in their classrooms. Participants expressed that in addition to fresh ideas for their teaching, this Institute experience helped them find their voice, explore their identities and purposes, and gain confidence as writers.
For more information about the Oregon Museum of Mental Health, please visit: http://oshmuseum.org/
By Angela Newport
If you know Janis Wurgler of the Summer Institute leadership team, you know she has a knack for inspired ideas. And, if you know Krina Lee of Salem-Keizer Education Foundation, you know that she has a knack for helping good things come together. It's thanks to these ladies' collaboration that our Summer Institute Guest Day took place at the Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health. Ostensibly, the intention of Guest Day is to introduce future participants to the OWP experience and provide all with rich writing inspiration, but all of the nearly 30 writers assembled found that this experience was about much more.
Welcomed and hosted by Dennie Brooks, a museum board member, and Heather Woodward, OWP alum and museum educator liaison, participants were treated to a self-guided tour of the interactive museum and a panel discussion with members of the board and hospital staff. As the group debriefed and shared writing inspired by the exhibits and artifacts, it was apparent that all would have enjoyed even more time to explore and think and write in the space. Our perceptions about what a state mental health institution is and the people who have been served there were beginning to shift. With this greater awareness also emerged greater compassion. Further, Heather, who partners with and develops museum-related curriculum and field trip opportunities for interested educators and their students, provided all in attendance with model lesson plans and mentor texts for our future use. Where prior to the opportunity to explore the museum ourselves we may have been curious about just how such a field trip would augment our curriculum, given our tour and her materials, inspiration took hold. Guiding students to use the mentor texts and images in the space, the stories of first hand accounts from multiple perspectives - all of these could inspire student writers to explore and process their own perceptions.
Lunch was hosted by Dr. Greg Roberts, current hospital superintendent, in the Cremains Memorial Garden where he explained the historical background of the space, as well as the dramatic shifts that have taken place in both how mental health is clinically treated and how society has viewed those in need of such support. It is his vision that educators have the potential to affect transformation in our students' perceptions by inviting them to write and think and learn about mental illness. For, this is exactly what he and his staff are working to do - teach others about how mental illness is like any other illness, treatable.
At the close of the afternoon, participants, guests, and our hosts gathered to share thoughts about our time at Oregon State Hospital. It was evident that a shift had taken place for all of us. The alchemy of history, place, and writing indeed produced interesting contemplation and conversation, as well as numerous seeds for future writing. It also did something we may not have expected - it transformed our perceptions about society's understanding of mental health. You see, Janis and Krina really do have a knack for making good things happen.
For additional information about the Museum of Mental Health and opportunities for field trips and curriculum email firstname.lastname@example.org
OWPC at George Fox has received a grant from the National Writing Project to support Writing Project teachers in working together to explore, dream, envision, design and pilot innovative models of Digital Young Writers Camps. Young Writers Camps have long been a foundation activity for Writing Project sites. Our site at George Fox fully intends to continue those. Additionally, there is a need to serve the increasing numbers of kids who would prefer and greatly benefit from involvement in a hybrid or online Young Writers Camp. Currently Digital Writing Camps are nearly non-existent across the Writing Project network, so this is an opportunity for our site to both provide an important service for under-served kids in our area, and also to grow the knowledge base within the NWP teacher network.
We are inviting all K-university Writing Project teachers to become involved in this effort. You do not need to be an “expert” in technology, although it would be great to also have some technology wizards on our teams. We are inviting 15 teachers who have been through a summer or winter/spring institute with us to participate in this work; space is still available. Teachers must be available and willing to commit to:
- two full working days on August 6th and 7th, Location TBD.
- 4 follow up meetings this fall/winter
- time to recruit kids and organize details of the Camps
- time to co-lead the Camps during Summer 2016
Teachers will be paid a stipend of $500 for the Design Work in August and the 4 meetings in the fall and winter. Teachers will be paid additional stipends for recruiting, coordinating, and leading the resulting Digital Camps. The work will be led by Karen Hamlin and Carol Brazo.
We are excited about this initiative. If you have questions or would like to volunteer to participate, please contact Karen Hamlin at email@example.com.