Just as school was ending for the year, the Oregon Writing Project Collaborative at George Fox held a Visioning Retreat on June 18th at the beautiful Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge. Founding site leader Steve Jones led a “Writing into the Room” introduction on the topic of “How do our students let us know that our teaching is working?” Throughout the day, the twelve teacher leaders in attendance shared stories about how and why their experiences with the Writing Project made a difference in their teaching lives and the group talked about what types of professional development projects and activities they thought the site should prioritize as it begins to grow at its new university.
There was a productive and reassuring consensus amongst the group as these gathered teachers talked about the importance of providing meaningful, helpful PD that meets teachers “where they are.” There was interest in growing our offerings of Young Writers Camps, creating Advanced Institutes with a focus on developing Institute presentation lessons into workshops and publications, creating Advanced Institutes with a subject-specific focus, building on-line offerings, and emphasizing both cultural awareness and the needs of children living in poverty. Teachers felt that there are untapped opportunities with partnerships and social media. Examples include planning towards the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference coming to Portland in 3 years and growing our Facebook and social media presence and team. There was interest in hosting a one-day teacher conference where teachers might present their Institute lesson presentations for colleagues—similar to what the site formerly offered with our Write On Conference.
The conversation about the future of the site was important. Perhaps even more important was the opportunity to re-connect with friends, meet other OWP teacher leaders, and strengthen our site network. As one teacher mentioned, she stayed involved because of the “growth mindset and wisdom in the room.” Over and over throughout the day, teachers talked about the importance of professional relationships, the resources that those relationships represented, and the renewal and energy that comes with their involvement.
On that note, you’ll see in this Newsletter multiple ways to get involved as we begin to plan for new Young Writers Camps and other projects. We welcome your involvement in these or other ways. If you have ideas for projects that you’d like to pursue, please feel welcome to contact Susanna or Karen at their email addresses below. We’d love to hear your ideas and/or get you connected with work on these new initiatives.
Karen Hamlin Susanna Steeg
Even though it’s almost a year away, planning has already begun for next summer’s Young Writers Camps. These camps are a wonderful opportunity for K-12 students to engage as writers and connect with other like-minded folks. These camps cannot happen without wonderful leaders like you, teacher leaders who have gone through an Institute and who are passionate about the development of writers.
Have you considered leading a camp? Much of the infrastructure for recruiting, registration, and budget planning is already in place, so you would just need to generate the idea and the curriculum. Do you love poetry? Want to tap into the maker movement? Passionate about getting high school students onto a college campus? Interested in onsite writing camps at places like Gilbert House in Salem or the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville?
Ideas are limitless and possibilities are endless! If you have even a basic sketch of an idea and want to work one-on-one with OWP site staff or in a team of other teacher leaders to develop the camp, contact the OWPC site (Karen Hamlin, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com).
Summer is already in full swing for the Oregon Writing Project Collaborative. Eleven campers attended the C3: Code, Create, Compose camp in Newberg the week of June 20. The 3rd through 5th graders had a wonderful experience exploring, creating, and collaborating. Eight middle-school campers participated in the first fully online camp, Oregon Battle of the Books, including one international participant from France! The camp was a great success and a second week of this camp will launch August 1.
OWPC partnered with George Fox theatre faculty to offer the first Continuing Education Workshop, a Theatre Design Institute in costume design, targeting high school theatre teachers. Eight participants spent four intensive days learning costume design techniques and emerged with fabulous information to take back to their schools.
One more continuing education opportunity will be available in August. Teach the Future: NGSS, CCSS, and Beyond will partner with Evergreen Aviation Museum for daylong workshop on Saturday, August 20. A variety of morning and afternoon sessions will be available and this workshop will also offer one continuing education credit. Registration is open now!
Finally, registration is still open for this summer’s Institute in the Teaching of Writing. Invitational Institutes have been at the core of the National Writing Project for years and teachers who have gone through this experience usually emerge changed, energized, and grateful. Do you know someone who has not yet experienced an Institute? Please consider sharing this opportunity with your colleagues and friends. Let’s expand our group of teacher leaders throughout the state!
As we launched Young Writers camps this summer, we heard from a number of parents and teachers who knew children who longed to participate in the camps, but could not afford the camp fees. Even the camps with the lowest fees of $80 were too expensive for some of the students who really needed it or could benefit from it. The interested children ranged from those who love to read and write and wanted to participate with other book lovers in the Oregon Battle of the Books camp to those who are hoping to be first generation college students and wanted help on their college admissions essays. Because the OWPC site runs independently from (though in partnership with) the university, any site ventures must at least break even financially. This means that camp fees are not always as low as campers need them to be in order to participate. One individual gave two scholarships this summer and we are incredibly grateful for that gift. At least one other person has committed to giving a scholarship next summer. For those with a passion for children and writing, this is a wonderful opportunity to give back. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information.
Similarly, there are teachers who would love to participate in the Summer or Winter Institutes in the Teaching of Writing, but their school district does not reimburse and they cannot afford even the $400 for the institute registration. If you have been through the Institute you know the amazing benefits both personally for institute participants and their schools and classrooms. Partial or full scholarships, or housing stipends for those out of the area would go a long way to allowing teachers in rural, poor, or underserved districts to benefit from the institutes.
Finally, did you know you can donate monthly to our site through the National Writing Project? We are grateful for our faithful monthly contributors who give to help with general site costs.
We are so grateful for your support in many ways and share this information with you not as a fundraising campaign, but simply because we know how much you value writing, the teaching of writing, and the education of young people. We know that many of you are excellent teacher leaders in your schools or districts, lead professional development for the site, lead camps, and any number of other things to support our site. But we also know there are some of you who may not have the time ot inclination to engage in site leadership in that way but still want to contribute. These are simply opportunities to do just that.