While the recently published report of the Maine Children’s Alliance that 65 percent of Maine fourth-graders scored below grade proficiency in reading in 2009 is certainly disturbing, it is heartening to talk with people such as Washington Academy of East Machias English teacher Jean Plummer, who has a different perspective, because the young people she works with want to read and, more particularly, want to write.
Plummer founded the Maine Writing Project in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Maine in Orono, and she spends her summers enjoying the fruits of her labors as Maine children sign up for Young Authors’ Camp.
Now in its 12th year, the program is an affiliate of the National Writing Project, and Plummer, its director and a veteran educator with 34 years’ experience, is just as excited about this year’s programs as she was about the very first.
“When I became a teacher-consultant [for the National Writing Project] we were asked to try to do something to promote this [creative writing] with our students, and this was my project,” Plummer said.
This year, Young Authors’ Camps are being held at five sites: July 12-16 at the University of Maine in Orono, Benton Elementary School and Sebasticook Valley Middle School in Newport; July 26-30 at Brunswick High School and Aug. 9-13 at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor.
For clarification, the programs at all locations, except Benton, are for students in grade three through 12.
The Benton site accepts young authors in grades one through 12.
Each program, Plummer explained, differs in that the teacher-consultant who conducts the camp prepares her own guidelines and program.
But all the camps offer “morning snacks, T-shirts and anthologies to take to school in the fall,” Plummer said.
For information regarding the dates and times, numbers of openings, the cost and registration deadlines, contact Heather Pullen, Young Authors’ Camp-Maine Writing Project, 5766 Shibles Hall, Orono 04469-5766; call 581-2443; fax 581-2423, e-mail heather.pullen@umit.Maine.edu or visit www.mainewritingproject.org.
Plummer said all camps try to strike the same balance as campers can try their hand at different writing genres ranging from autobiography to fiction.
“We want them to have fun,” she said, and while the programs “vary completely with the teachers,” the programs they produce “never cease to amaze me,” Plummer said.
“I used to teach too, but now I just sit back, watch and enjoy,” she said.
While half of the campers may come “because they love writing,” the other half may come “because it is what their parents want them to do,” Plummer said.
But she has found that if you pair one with the other, “when they leave, 100 percent” will have been happy that they came, she added.
Part of that happiness is tied directly to the fact every camper gets published, since each program produces a book, Plummer said, “and the kids love that.”
According to its website, each year 16 Maine educators attend the Maine Writing Project summer institute.
After successfully completing the course, they become National Writing Project teacher-consultants and are eligible to conduct their individual programs.
The Maine programs are five of nearly 200 throughout the country.
If you are an educator in kindergarten through postsecondary school, in all curriculum areas, and are interested in this opportunity, visit www.mainewritingproject.org.
Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; firstname.lastname@example.org; 990-8288.