June is here, and with it, schools across Rhode Island are closing their doors for the long awaited summer vacation. Students and teachers alike are putting away their textbooks and lunch bags and settling in for a well deserved break… or at least that’s the popular opinion. In fact, many educators and their students return to the classroom for professional development and various academic camps even though school is not in session. The Rhode Island Writing Project (RIWP) is one of the most well-known hosts of these types of summer activities and when the school year ends, they gear up for their July offerings.
Hosted at Rhode Island College, RIWP is the state affiliate of the National Writing Project and their shared mission is to foster creativity among teachers and students through reading and writing. They offer a number of different summer sessions geared towards educators looking to hone their practice as well as kids who want to spend some of their summer perfecting their own writing craft.
For teachers, RIWP offers their Summer Institute, which runs Monday through Friday from July 8 to 26, and is open to all educators from pre-K teachers to college professors. The program aims to allow education professionals to “explore critical and progressive theories of teaching writing in the analog and digital realms, engage in inquiry, and develop new pedagogical skills and practices.” In addition, teachers who participate get a $300 stipend and three graduate credits in education studies.
Teachers Brittany Richer Ahnrud and Emmanuel Ramos are the co-directors of the Institute and facilitate the activities. According to Brittany, teachers walk away from the experience with new skills, ideas for activities they can utilize in their own classrooms, and even some artifacts that they themselves wrote and workshopped.
“Teachers get back in touch with themselves as writers,” she says. “We spend the first hour of each day writing and sharing within our community. This is a practice that many teachers bring back to their classrooms.”
Brittany also emphasizes that collaboration is a huge part of the Summer Institute each year. Considering that the participants are all teachers with varying degrees of experience, sharing their strategies and stories goes a long way.
“We try to provide readings and activities that make space for teachers to share their expertise with one another, to ask questions of one another, to push each other to be the best teachers – and humans – they can be,” says Brittany.
RIWP doesn’t leave the students out by any means as they have a long running Summer Writing Camp for kids K-12 held Monday to Friday from July 8-19. Tuition is $225 and includes opportunities for students to improve their writing skills through creative activities. Camp director Jeff Lawton explains that the goal each summer is to offer multiple opportunities for campers to explore their own stories. This includes collaboration, writing “marathons,” and exploration outdoors for inspiration.
“We know there are many students who love to create and express themselves with the written word – and we want to give them the opportunity, encouragement, and support to explore their passion and improve their craft,” he explains.
For more information about the Summer Institute, the Summer Writing Camp, or any of the RIWP’s other programs throughout the year, visit their website, email RIWritingProject@gmail.com, or call 456-8701.