Writopia Lab’s Younger Students Create at JHUMCC
Creativity can blossom at any age. Just ask the younger Writopia Lab students on the Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus. Some of the youngest participants have quite a few stories under their belts and are brainstorming about the next stories they can tell.
Founded in 2007, Writopia Lab is a nonprofit organization with sites around the nation including the Greater Washington area, where students from ages 6-18 can take workshops to improve their writing skills. The Montgomery County Campus has been hosting Writopia Workshops for almost two years.
During the summer, Writopia offers summer intensive classes that last for one week at a time where students are able to write for three hours a day and perfect their skills.
One of the many talented youngsters on the Montgomery County Campus is Katie Henley, an 11 year old Writopia student who has written two stories during her time in the program and is currently working on a third. Under the guidance of her instructor, Cristin Terrill, Katie has enjoyed the opportunities to get creative with her classmates.
“We play fun writing games together at the beginning of every class to get our juices flowing. The story can start off with a kid going to school and then end up with someone on Mars,” she explains.
Her instructor, Cristin Terrill, who has been with Writopia Lab for a year, also started writing for fun as a child. She is now a young adult fiction author who enjoys helping younger children tell their stories.
“I try to let the kids set the pace,” Terrill says. “But I also try to teach them how to craft a real story with a beginning, middle, and end.”
During the workshops, students are given the opportunity to express themselves in any way they see fit whether through a short story, play or poem. While some students are shy and quiet and others are loud and outspoken Terrill says they all love to create.
As students practice mastering writing concepts, they have the opportunity to share their writing at a local Barnes & Noble bookstore. Henley has read two of her stories aloud to an audience in the store and enjoyed the positive feedback from listeners.
Students also share their work with each other at the end of each class for encouragement and feedback. While Terrill’s job is to provide encouragement and guidance to students, she says as an author, she has also learned from her students.
“Teaching has affected the way I think about writing,” Terrill says. “The students write in a way that I envy. They have no problems with self-doubt. They never second guess themselves.”
And according to Henley, there is certainly no shortage of ideas. “My favorite thing is just being creative with others,” she explains.
CATEGORY: K-12 Outreach