UAB Students teach Young Writers in Birmingham

By on April 4, 2014
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UAB students participating in a Young Writers in Birmingham project spent four weeks making writing fun and creative for Inglenook K-8 School’s third and fourth graders. The project was collaboration among Dr. Jaclyn Wells’ Writing in Birmingham course, Inglenook Elementary and Birmingham Public Libraries.

Inglenook students engaged in several writing activities throughout the project. UAB students developed prompts ranging from “Write a letter to yourself 20 years from now” to “Tell a story about having a superpower in a Birmingham setting.” Responses were insightful, creative and downright hilarious.

“It’s interesting to see these kids kind of take an idea and run with it,” said Peyton Chandler in a CBS 42 interview. “Some kids go one way, some kids go another way. I think they’re all getting a lot out of it.” Chandler is one of 18 students enrolled in the Writing in Birmingham course.

UAB students guided the writing process by developing workshop itineraries in their Writing in Birmingham course. Lesson plans included pre-writing, writing, sharing, editing and drawing. Students adjusted classroom itineraries according to their students’ needs.

“This project really shows what can happen when different groups in the community come together. When multiple groups come together as they did in this project, the results are powerful,” University Writing Center Directory and Assistant Professor in English Dr. Wells said.

UAB community members, students and teachers were able to view the students’ work during a reception at Woodlawn Library on March 30. Inglenook Public Library sponsored the celebration. Nearly 100 students’ biographies, stories and several drawings will be printed in books called “Young Writers in Birmingham.”

The “Young Writers in Birmingham” cover features each school’s mascot, Inglenook’s panther and UAB’s Blaze, in an illustration by Geoffrey K. Gwin. Jefferson County residents can read the Inglenook students’ stories and biographies at the Birmingham Public Library beginning in April.

UAB and Inglenook’s collaboration fulfills curriculum requirements and provides a service learning experience for all students. Service learning is a method of integrating community service into the academic experience. Service learning is required for students taking the Writing in Birmingham course, a service learning course that focuses on engagement, reflection, reciprocity and public dissemination in a community liaison.

“I really feel like I learned a lot from these students. I was pleasantly with how eager they were to learn. It was truly inspiring,” senior Taylor Suttle said. “[The kids] got excited and wanted me to read what they had written like they were really proud of it.”

Participating in a UAB Service Learning course is encouraged to form educational liaisons and volunteer opportunities, experiences that strengthen resumes. According to UAB Service Learning’s website, a benefit of participating in a project “addresses concerns such as academic rigor, time constraints and liability.” Writing in Birmingham is one of several service learning courses offered at UAB.

“The Writing in Birmingham course is so important because those UAB students are experiencing the connection between classroom and real life learning. They also get to enjoy the rewards that come from collaborating with community partners and to see how their civic engagement can have an immediate positive impact on others,” Coordinator of Service Learning at UAB’s Office of Academic Student Engagement Libba Vaughan said.

UAB Office of Undergraduate Research’s annual EXPO showcases students’ research and work in all academic disciplines and departments. Over 300 students presented their completed service learning projects at the UAB Undergraduate EXPO last year. Several students will showcase their Young Writing in Birmingham experience with Inglenook students at the 2014 EXPO on Friday, April 11 at the Campus Recreation Center.

Writing in Birmingham will be offered again in Spring 2015 where students will have the opportunity to become involved with Inglenook Elementary School. The Young Writers in Birmingham project is one that Dr. Wells plans to continue for far into the future.

“Many of the students enjoyed the project immensely, so I am hopeful that they will continue with community work. I know couples already have plans to get involved in mentoring programs,” Wells said. “Another student landed a job with a non-profit organization, partly as a result of her experience in this and other service projects she’s done in English courses.”

“Young Writers in Birmingham” can be viewed at 16 Birmingham Public Libraries. To locate a branch near you, visit http://www.bplonline.org/locations/. To learn more about service learning opportunities and courses, visit http://www.uab.edu/servicelearning/.

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