History, Writing, Mapping: Planning a Summer Camp Experience

WMWP Armory Camp promo 2019

The other day, I helped gather together another team of teachers together for another year of offering a free summer camp for middle school students at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site — as part of an ongoing partnership between the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, the Springfield Armory and the City of Springfield school district (focused on a social justice magnet school in Springfield).

This will be my third year as main facilitator of the camp — which we call Minds Made for Stories — and the sixth year of the camp itself, which has been funded over the years through a variety of support from the National Writing Project and the National Park Service, and other local organizations. This year, with no grants and with worries that there might be no camp, the Duggan Middle School in Springfield and the Springfield Armory itself stepped up to fund the work, and I am very grateful.

WMWP and Springfield Armory

The week-long camp takes place at the end of June at the Armory itself, and each year, we change the themes of the experience for the participants. We also have new folks from the middle school involved, as a way to provide more professional development to more teachers.

This year, we are using “Seasons and Maps” as our hook, with each day focused on a season and a historical theme (such as Autumn: Pearl Harbor and Winter: Shays Rebellion), while we work different kinds of mapping activities through the week to visualize history (such as mapping out the immigrant journeys to Springfield during the heydays of the Armory as the main manufacturing center for the US government). Our goal is to publish a Zine of student work at the end of camp.

At our planning session, we did our own mapping — charting out each day’s main events along themes, taking on responsibilities, tasking each of us with some different elements, and after two hours, the camp really took shape.

Now I just need to get through the school year (3 1/2 weeks left!) and then it is right into summer camp.

Peace (in planning),
Kevin

 

When Your Classroom is a National Historic Site

We just wrapped up a professional development partnership between the Springfield Armory Historic Site and the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. I was one of the lead facilitators, and it was such a great experience to use the Armory itself as our classroom as a way to explore history and primary sources. The course was supported through a grant by the National Writing Project and the National Park Service.

After all the participants shared lesson plans and resources and topics — ranging from the role of light rail transportation at the Armory, to the use of the Organ of Muskets poem that was inspired by a visit to the Armory by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, to use of The Things They Carried to invite a veteran oral historian into the classroom, to deep research into local history of a community — we asked the teachers to write a reflection. Part of what we are doing is gathering resources for a future website to showcase the potential of exploring local history.

Peace (and thinking),
Kevin

Video Interview: A Student’s Perspective on Project-based Learning

At the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, our site is working with a local school district on implementing the design of Project-Based Learning (something my WMWP colleagues have already done in another school district.). I am not directly involved in that work but I am facilitating a Professional Learning Community in my own school district on Project-Based Learning.

So when our WMWP UMass intern Grace Dugan sat down to share her experiences in high school at a charter school based on the PBL philosophy, I was grateful to have an ear open (and I helped edit the video). I appreciated how Grace talked about her experiences, and how the inquiry model really shaped how she approaches learning and PBL has a resonance effect.

Peace (more than a project),
Kevin

Innovation, Design and History (plus Multi-Genre Writing with Primary Sources)

Innovation and History PD at Armory

Our second professional development session of Exploring HIstory with a Local Lens with teachers at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site last night focused mostly on engineering design and innovation, with a deep look at some of the designs in the Armory archives that worked, and those that did not. (This project, a partnership between Western Massachusetts Writing Project and the Springfield Armory, is funded with a grant from the National Writing Project and the National Park Service.)

We were pleased to have the Springfield Armory Curator, Alex, join us, sharing his vast knowledge of the Armory’s history and an understanding of how the engineering design process fueled not only the Springfield Armory’s place in the field of manufacturing and innovation in the country, but how other businesses and innovators in Western Massachusetts grew and expanded as a result of the work being done in Springfield.

Alex showed us a variety of prototypes, and like a detective game, we had to figure out why a design worked and was further developed, and which were not. A coffee grinder in the stock of the rifle? A sword with an embedded whistle? A gun with revolving chamber that might blow up at any moment?

Ranger Scott and the 3D Printer

Armory Ranger Scott Gausen, a fellow facilitator in the course, then had us exploring patent diagrams in a lesson about interpreting engineering drawings, and determining the notion of a patent. We then worked on our patent drawing for a flying machine. Mine became a Rube Goldberg machine that you probably should not build at home.

How to Fly (but don't)

Scott then brought us down to the museum floor, where he made a connection between the innovation practices of old and the new, as he had a 3D printing machine up and running, working on a plastic part that the huge lathes behind the printer used to make.

Finally, after perusing and exploring our state’s new Social Studies standards, I had our participants exploring multi-genre writing through the use of primary sources of Shays Rebellion, which was a farmer’s uprising and assault on the Springfield Armory after the Revolutionary War. We made black-out poems, drew illustrations, wrote journal entries, made newspaper/media products, and I joined in with a rough comic, featuring George Washington and Daniel Shays.

Shays Rebellion Comic Strip

All in all, it was a great professional development session, leading us deeper into the notions of history, stories and innovation. We meet again in January as participants start to fine-tune their project ideas.

Peace (in the past),
Kevin

We’re In This Room Together

At our recent Western Massachusetts Writing Project conference, the keynote speaker was educator Kelly Norris, whose new book — Too White — explores her identity and her story through the lens of race, bias, empathy and social justice.

Here, she reads some of her recently published book:

Interestingly, during the Q&A period, Kelly responded to a question about addressing difficult issues like these while working in a relatively insular school community, and Kelly mentioned how difficult a role that can be. Particularly, she noted, when she always seems like “that person in the room” who raises questions and challenges assumptions and bias.

Then, while watching the video archive of a Studio Visit for the Equity Unbound course, I heard the same phrase by some of the guests, noting that they often feel like “that person in the room” and put on the spot.

Which led to a comic. We’re in the room together.

Spark change

Peace (and understanding),
Kevin

WMWP: Conversations from the Digital Margins

This is the digital annotation workshop for WMWP’s Best Practices. While this is here for participants in the workshop itself, anyone else who might be visiting (hello to you) is free to explore and join us, too. Although, the first part — where we write on paper — might prove trickier for you than for us.

Links/Resource List:

Peace (in the piece),
Kevin

Getting Ready for Annotation Workshop

Big Article for Annotation Workshop

Tomorrow, I am leading a workshop at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project about digital annotation (and a second one about Write Out and place-based learning). My frame is to have them first work with the text on their own, with pen and notes in the margins of their copies of paper; and then together as a workshop group, marking up the text with sticky notes; and then online with the world, using Hypothesis to make connections with the text and others.

I took the Christensen article we will be using — a powerful piece about critical literacy and paying attention to students by Linda Christensen — and blew it up into poster-sized pages. For the second phase of the workshop — annotating as a small group — we will use these over-sized pages and sticky notes. The article was part of a Writing Our Civic Futures activity last year.

You will be able to see the slideshow for the workshop here tomorrow, since I am going to embed it for participants to use for links and such.

Peace (writing on the walls),
Kevin

 

At WMWP: Instruments in a Common Band

WMWP Best Practices Overview

The small group planning the two main conferences for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project this year have decided to have an overarching theme of the entire year. Which I think is a fantastic idea — the theme is the thread to connect our work.

Even better is the theme they chose: Instruments in a Common Band. The tagline is: Voice, Identity and Respectful Dialogue. Perfect, right?

Not just metaphorically, which works for me as a musician, but also with the intent of encouraging the consideration of different voices and identity and discussion in the field of teaching and writing. Our first weekend conference is coming up, and the sessions and the keynote address reflect this theme rather nicely.

The “common band” phrasing has stuck with me, too. How we are all making music together, metaphorically — sometimes in harmony; sometimes, with cacophony; sometimes in rhythm; sometimes, not. Our obligation is not just to make noise but to make music. Not just as teachers, but as learners. As citizens.

And the theme certainly dovetails nicely with our WMWP Mission Statement.

Peace (sung from the band of the Common),
Kevin

PS — if you are in Western Massachusetts, there is still time to register for our Best Practices in the Teaching of Writing on Saturday, October 13.