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A summer camp to write home about

ASU camp offers youth a fun environment to explore the power of writing.
Young writers explore storytelling through song, poetry, graphic novels & more.
July 7, 2016

3rd- through 12th-graders explore power of writing with creative approaches — and without pressure — during two weeks at ASU

Curly Hopkins, Texas Pickles Franklin and Fat Bad Boy King sit contemplating their next verse in a classroom on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus.

In reality, these students have fairly normal names. But this day they were blues lyricists as part of an exercise for the Young Adult Writing Program (YAWP), a two-week summer youth writing camp sponsored by the Central Arizona Writing Project within the Department of English at ASU.

YAWP offers young writers a non-evaluative environment in which to explore the power of writing. It’s one of the things program instructor Jason Griffith loves about it.

“One of the big benefits of this program is that kids are able to write without the pressure of being graded,” said the English education doctoral student.

According to program director and English professor Jessica Early, YAWP has grown “dramatically” over the past couple of years — so much so that it is now being offered at three ASU campuses: Tempe, Polytechnic and West.

“How do you create a beat with lyrics?” Griffith asks the students during Monday’s session at the Tempe campus.

A student toward the back gets it right: using the accents on syllables.

Songwriting is just one of the avenues students have learned to use as a means of storytelling. They’ve also participated in workshops that explored poetry, comic strips, memoirs, graphic novels and even tweets.

YAWP instructor Michelle Spears, who teaches English at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, focused one of her lessons on something called a “six-word story.” The exercise challenged students’ ability to be concise and demonstrate the best possible word choice.

After writing their stories on the whiteboard, the students examined each other’s work, underlining what they thought was the most important word. Paradise Valley High tenth-grader James Khalsa values the opportunity to hear her peers’ opinions.
“It’s helpful to get critiques from other writers,” she said.

They’re also getting valuable industry information about things like the hairy process of publishing, which Griffith explains can vary greatly depending on whether the writing in question is fiction, non-fiction or something the author is looking to self-publish.

“The instructors are amazing,” said Early, pointing out that they each had been trained through the Central Arizona Writing Project before taking on leadership roles in YAWP.

Hersh Nanda agrees. The Basis Chandler seventh-grader said he feels they’ve definitely helped improve his writing by challenging him to look for inspiration in non-physical places like his imagination and memories. His blues song lamented the fact that he didn’t have any money to spend at the market.

Mesa Academy student Emily Stockwell’s bemoaned the difficulty of getting out of bed in the morning, something just about every other student could relate to as evidenced by the laughter and nods of agreement.

“This is really just a chance for us all to have fun writing together,” said YAWP instructor Autumn Warntjes, who teaches at Landmark Elementary School in Phoenix.

As if to prove her point, the class once again responds to a student’s verses with laughter and applause.

Top photo: Juniper Shutters, 8, writes down the thoughts about being on the University Drive bridge at the Young Adult Writing Program on Monday, June 27. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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Young scholars choose science in the summer at ASU

High-achieving 7th- through 9th-graders take college-level courses at ASU camp.
July 7, 2016

Competitive Barrett camp draws academically talented teens to campus

School is out for the summer, but 26 high-achieving eighth-graders are spending this week dissecting plants, using a microscope and learning about physics and chemistry.

They were among 500 Barrett Summer Scholars — academically talented students who lived in the dorms, ate in the dining halls and were able to take college-level coursework at Arizona State University.

“There’s no test, no quiz. This is hands-on fun,” Cindy James-Richman told the group as they prepared to examine pink vinca flowers under a microscope. James-Richman teaches sustainable horticulture and biology in the College of Letters and Sciences at ASU’s Polytechnic campus.

“The first thing about being a scientist is that you need curiosity and observation,” James-Richman said to the students, who wore white lab coats, just like real scientists.

Now in its 10th year, the selective camp is sponsored by Barrett, the Honors College, and is a way for motivated seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders from around the state to engage with each other and to learn about the unique opportunities they can find at Barrett. Camp applicants must have high grade-point averages and be recommended by a teacher.

About half the campers attend on scholarship because their families’ incomes are low enough to qualify them for free or reduced-price lunch. The camps are held at four ASU campusesTempe, West, Downtown Phoenix and Polytechnic.

“They get a taste of what college life is really about, and they get to take classes that they’re really interested in,” said Araceli Villezcas, coordinator for the camp.

Barrett Summer Scholars dissect fruit and veggies.

Students do a lab exercise on grocery-store botany at the Barrett Summer Scholars program on Monday, June 27. The teens studied plant biology by looking at the parts of the plants and then examining common fruits and vegetables through the eyes of a scientist. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

The eighth- and ninth-graders take a scaled-down version of the Human Event, the critical-thinking seminar that’s a signature course in Barrett, the Honors College. All campers can choose electives they’re interested in, including journalism, nursing, engineering, sustainability, entrepreneurship and criminology. They study engineering by building with Legos, practice medical procedures on simulated patients and learn how to create smartphone applications.

The Barrett Summer Scholars session is so popular with campers that the ninth-graders created petitions and a social-media campaign to lobby for ASU to add a session for 10th-graders next year.

Soledad Romero, an eighth-grader who attended this week’s session at the Polytechnic campus, is another loyal Barrett Summer Scholar.

“I went last year and I really liked it, so that’s why I came this year,” she said.

“Even though it’s like school during the summer, I like the hands-on classes and I learned a lot.”

Top photo: Kamini Ramakrishna (left), 14, studies a petal from a Madagascar Periwinkle flower as partner Soledad Romero looks on during the Barrett Summer Scholars program on Monday, June 27. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now





Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News