Writing the Summer Away!
It may be summer, but for the groups of kids cycling through The Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield (CWP) summer writing labs, the work has just begun.
The writing camps will be held on campus through August 8.
Fortunately for the young students involved, it’s work with a whole lot of fun thrown in. Like rolling down a grassy hill, then writing about the experience, or using chalk to decorate the sidewalk with random thoughts and pictures, or creating a graphic novel that blends the art of storytelling with drawing.
"With the Common Core State Standards adopted by Connecticut, students need to demonstrate proficiency in a wider variety of genres, across all content areas and grade levels," noted Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall, director of the CWP. "Yet too often the ways young people are assessed monopolizes the instruction they receive. In the words of a participant in last year’s program, ‘The writing labs are what school wants to be but can’t.’ Rather than test-only writing, our labs aim to restore a passion for writing.”
Using best practices for teaching writing, CWP redesigned its summer programs so that professional writers, educators, and graduate students could help young people to achieve their goals in a wide variety of genres. This year, weeklong labs focus on novel writing, poetry, graphic novels, journalism, digital storytelling, and perfecting the college essay. Labs are open to students in middle and high school, but there is one for younger students to compose fractured fairy tales and scripts.
New this year: Ubuntu Academy, a free, 10-day literacy institute specifically designed for immigrant teens.
Based on the African philosophy of Ubuntu - "I can be me because of who we are together" - the Academy is for English language learners, including refugee youth with limited or interrupted formal education. “The goal is to assist young people to advance their English skills during the summer months,” reported Crandall. “Research shows that there is significant literacy loss when school is out each year. We designed Ubuntu Academy to address this.”
After Crandall offered daylong workshops at Bridgeport’s Bassick high school, several of the language learning students sought him out and expressed a desire for more.
"They found me on Facebook, which I thought was amazing," said Dr. Crandall, who has more than 18 years’ experience working with urban schools and students. "They want to learn. They are driven to be successful in the United States, and several are already on honor roll.”
Ubuntu Academy will provide opportunities for the young people to interact with other students in the graphic novel and journalism labs. In addition, Fairfield University’s head basketball coach, Sydney Johnson, is providing time for them to work with athletes. “I’m really excited about this,” Coach Johnson said. “These students and our own student-athletes can share their stories and collectively recognize the value their experiences bring to our University community."
Students who cycle through CWP summer labs join hundreds of others on campus this summer. Though many are in athletic camps, there is a long-running computer camp and Missoula Theatre camp. And this summer, The Summer Scholars program for high school students boasts 29 attendees, the highest enrollment ever for the three-year program.