Young Writers Camp Supports Creative Collaboration

Young Writers Camp students recently interviewed the U of A Police Department's K9 handlers about their dogs, Faye and Oakley.
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Young Writers Camp students recently interviewed the U of A Police Department's K9 handlers about their dogs, Faye and Oakley.

School may be out for the summer, but U of A alumnae Anne Minton and Rebecca Webb are still in teacher mode.

They are leading Young Writers Camps at the U of A. The primary goals for students: have fun and improve their writing skills. That has been easy to do with small class sizes and a relaxed camp environment, said Minton, who teaches eighth grade at Prairie Grove Junior High.

The students' creativity inspires her.

"This has been rejuvenating, especially after COVID," Minton said. "I love to write and help others who love to write."

She works right along with her students, who range from sixth to ninth grades.

Webb, a Fayetteville High School librarian who previously taught in various district elementary schools, is working with students in the third through fifth grades. Even though they're the youngest of the young writers, they have big dreams. One student is an aspiring children's author. Another is serious about becoming a graphic novelist.

"My group has been very energetic and engaged," Webb said. "They bonded on the first day of camp."

She said they've especially enjoyed being free to write about any topic — in the genre they prefer. They were most excited about creating comic books.

Minton's older students also used the phrase "freedom to write" when describing what they most appreciated about the camp. And creatively collaborating with fellow writers who were just as invested as them was refreshing.

"It's a great opportunity to be in a safe space with people who are passionate about what you're passionate about," one student clarified.

Creative writing prompts, games, deep dives into the craft and field trips rounded out the camp, which ends today.

This is Minton's second year teaching secondary students on campus, but she's been involved in the U of A young writers program since 2017.

"I'm an alum of the Northwest Arkansas Writing Project and was a four-year fellow of the university's ARTeacher arts-integrated program with Hung Pham and Dr. Chris Goering," she said.

Minton said she continuously learns something new about teaching or writing from her students during the camps.

She and Webb are also learning from fellow Young Writers Camp instructors teaching at additional sites across Northwest Arkansas. Every day after pick-up, camp teachers meet virtually to compare notes and focus on improving their writing instruction. Professional learning experiences are an essential part of the project, said Vicki Collet, an associate professor at the U of A and camp program director.

"Not only are students learning during Young Writers Camp, but teachers are also taking away strategies they will use in their classrooms," she said.

The Northwest Arkansas Writing Project has sponsored Young Writers Camp experiences for more than 20 years. The professional organization focuses on improving writing in area schools. As one of about 200 national Writing Project sites, it provides professional development for educators and directly reaches young writers through summer camps and other activities. For more information about writing project events, contact Collet at collet@uark.edu or visit nwawp.uark.edu.

Contacts

Shannon G. Magsam, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, magsam@uark.edu

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