Writing: It's ElementaryGAMBIER, Ohio (February 7, 2005) This spring, fourth- and fifth-grade students at Gambier's Wiggin Street School will see some older faces in their classes. For the third consecutive semester, Kenyon students involved with the Wiggin Street Writers Project are visiting the school to help the youngsters learn the elements of good writing.
The project, a community outreach effort sponsored by the Kenyon Review, brings Kenyon Review Associates-student assistants who work with the journal-into Wiggin Street classrooms to introduce elementary students to a variety of writing genres. Weekly lessons held during the fall of 2004 introduced the schoolchildren to poetry, short stories, and science fiction. This spring, they will learn about mystery writing, anthology writing, and playwriting.
At the forefront of the program is Jessica Freeman-Slade, Class of 2006, an English major and Kenyon Review Associate. A veteran of children's writing programs as both a student and instructor, Freeman-Slade designed the lessons and activities that will be presented to students.
Freeman-Slade believes that it's best to cultivate an interest in writing at an early age. "Having that initial taste in elementary school may make a big difference in their interests later," she says, noting that this spring's lessons in playwriting will likely be the students' first-ever introduction to that genre. "We're trying to broaden the kids' minds in terms of what they can do intellectually."
In addition to the lessons taught by Kenyon Review Associates, the program brings writers into the school. Last fall, poet and writing instructor Ingrid Wendt worked with the Wiggin Street children. This spring, they will hear a reading by writer Fanny Howe.
The program was formed as a complement to the Review's existing summer writing program for high school-aged students. It has been a great success among both Wiggin Street teachers and students. Freeman-Slade eventually hopes to expand the program into other grades at Wiggin Street and into nearby Mount Vernon Middle School.