Wiggin Street Writers' ProjectGAMBIER, Ohio (February 10, 2004) This spring, fourth- and fifth-grade students of Gambier's Wiggin Street School will see some older faces in their classes. Kenyon students involved with the new Wiggin Street Writers' Project are visiting the school to help students learn the elements of good writing.
The project, a community outreach effort sponsored by the Kenyon Review, will see Kenyon Review Associates-student assistants who work with the journal-visiting Wiggin Street classrooms for six one-hour sessions over the course of the spring semester. Each session's activities and projects are designed to ignite a love for creative writing in the students.
At the forefront of the program is Jessica Freeman-Slade, Class of 2006, an English major and Kenyon Review Associate. She quickly took the lead when Ellen Sheffield, summer writing programs coordinator for the Review, broached the idea for the project. A veteran of children's writing programs as both a student and instructor, Freeman-Slade brought the project to fruition by planning the specific exercises that would comprise the project.
"Writing is a solitary act, but you can't just be on your own," says Freeman-Slade. "You have to have someone set you on your own." From that guiding philosophy, Freeman-Slade designed a set of creative exercises.
For their first session, held in late January, the school students were asked to begin writing in journals every day and were also asked to write freely about themselves. Upcoming sessions include exercises in writing with nonsense language, discovering the complexities of well-known characters, and exploring conflict in everyday situations.
Freeman-Slade notes that an interest in writing must be cultivated in children at an early age, before social pressures turn them away from creative interests. "If you start when they're younger, if you work with kids long enough in the right ways, they won't be embarrassed to be artistic," she says.
Sheffield suggested the project as a complement to the Review's existing summer writing program for high school-aged students. As the former director of the College's Olin Art Gallery, Sheffield organized a similar program that brought Wiggin Street students to campus to explore art.
While the program is starting small, Sheffield and Freeman-Slade hope to expand the classes into the school's third grade next fall. They are also hoping for a further expansion into Mount Vernon Middle School sometime in the future.
One of the nation's leading liberal arts and sciences colleges and home to the Kenyon Review, Kenyon College offers 1,594 students a challenging educational experience enriched by a culture of friendship. Graduates of the College have included actor and philanthropist Paul Newman and author E. L. Doctorow.