Write Out: Stories Around the Campfire with the National Park Service

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The National Writing Project will be rebroadcasting NeWP’s recent series of podcast episodes—“Place-Based Education with the Nebraska Writing Project”—as part of their upcoming virtual writing festival, #WriteOut.

#WriteOut is a free two-week event—October 11-25, 2020—organized as a series of online activities where educators, students, and the public are invited to explore national parks and other public spaces to connect and learn through place-based writing and sharing. #WriteOut is in its third year and is sponsored by the National Writing Project and the National Park Service.

Learn more about the event and register on the National Writing Project’s website.

Place-conscious education, Nebraska style: NeWP Podcast Series

Willow Lake Recreation Area Outside Pierce Nebraska

As part of a partnership between the National Writing Project and the National Park Service, the Nebraska Writing Project (NeWP) presents its Place-Conscious Education NWP Radio Podcast Series. In this seven-part audio series, NeWP director Robert Brooke and several Nebraska teacher-leaders introduce their place-conscious approach and discuss several projects and partnerships that have expanded and deepened the approach over the years. The full audio series is available at write.learn.lead, and will be rebroadcast as part of the Plainstate podcast, a production of the Department of English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Listen Online

Episode 1: Basics of Place Conscious Education: The Nebraska Experience. In this first episode, Nebraska Writing Project director Robert Brooke introduces the basic concepts of place-conscious education and frames the series of examples that are featured in the remaining episodes.

Episode 2: We Are All Immigrants
In this second episode, Brooke is joined by educator and doctoral candidate Cara Morgenson to discuss an extensive project for her high school English learners with the Homestead National Monument and Brooke’s college juniors.

Episode 3: Blending Place-Based Education and C3WP in Rural Nebraska: A Focus on Civil Discourse
In the third episode, Brooke and English educator Melissa Legate illustrate how a place-conscious focus can blend with the C3WP emphasis on civic engagement and understanding issues from multiple perspectives.

Episode 4: Place-Conscious Experiential Writing for Students and Teachers
Learn about a partnership between the Nebraska Writing Project and Homestead National Monument that used place-based writing to give students a greater appreciation of place, writing, history, and the Homestead Act.

Episode 5: Bare Bones: Place-Based Teaching Through the Stories of Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
Part five of The Nebraska Experience gives an outline of the initial work between the Nebraska Writing Project and Agate Fossil Beds National Monument and examines the rich place-based teaching that occurred in this partnership.

Episode 6: Writing the River: Nebraska Writing Project and Niobrara Scenic River Partnership
Hear about a new partnership between the National Park Service and the Nebraska Writing Project that is under development and moving toward a planned river float for area high school students to allow them to experience the Niobrara River in a way they may not have done in the past.

Episode 7: Being Heard: Students Presenting Live to State Senators on Local Issues
The final episode of our seven-part series, The Nebraska Experience, explores an approach to teaching argument writing that involves students in researching local issues and presenting advocacy writing live to legislators at the state capitol.

NeWP at Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival

The Nebraska Writing Project was pleased to once again partner with the annual Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival, which took place at Concordia University in Seward on Saturday, September 21.

Saturday’s events included the adult conference, which featured breakout sessions by various authors, illustrators, and educational experts and a closing keynote delivered by acclaimed YA author Jacqueline Woodson. In addition to Woodson, authors presenting were Sarah Albee, Ben Clanton, Kate DiCamillo, Rita Williams Garcia, Lita Judge, Alan Katz, Kate Messner, Wendell and Florence Minor, Barbara O’Connor, Lin Oliver, Jayson Reynolds, Lori Richmond, Matt Tavares, Duncan Tonatiuh, and Stephen Savage. Additional sectionals were presented by Dr. Amy Foss, Matt Glover, Dr. Joan Jacobs, Dr. Kim Marxhausen, Penny Kittle, and NeWP’s own Dr. Rachael Shah, who presented on strategies for teaching argument writing (C3WP).

The conference also featured a luncheon, during which several Nebraska teachers, including some from the NeWP community, were presented with National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)/Nebraska English Language Arts Council (NELAC) awards. Receiving the NCTE/NELAC Future Teacher of the Year Award was UNL pre-service teacher Taylor Golden. The Leadership Development Award went to NeWP board member Melissa Legate of Pierce High School. Dr. Laurie Lee of UNL received recognition for being a nominee for the Academic Freedom/Intellectual Freedom Award, as did Dr. Erika Bruening of Lincoln Public Schools. Middle School Language Arts Teacher of the Year went to Melissa Cody of North Bend High School, and the Secondary ELA Teacher of the Year was Stuart High School’s Brenda Larabee, NeWP board member.

In addition to NeWP’s being present through attendees and honorees at the conference, an information booth was set up where conference goers could learn more about NeWP and several of our upcoming programs, including the Summer and Advanced Institutes. A number of Nebraska teachers and librarians inquired here between sessions.

Writing workshop gives young Lincoln authors freedom to do what they love

Lily Abele and her mother, Melissa

The Nebraska Writing Project’s youth workshop, “I Love to Write,” was the focus of an article by Margaret Reist for the Lincoln Journal Star:

Presented with a choice not long ago — go on vacation or stay in town to attend a weeklong writing workshop — Lily Abele did not hesitate.

Not for a second. Hint: The mountains lost out, a distant second to the mighty pen, or maybe laptop.

“Lily said ‘I have got to go to the writing workshop. It’s just a good time to spend time writing,’” according to her mom, Melissa Abele.

And so it will be that next week, Lily, who will start fifth grade at Pyrtle Elementary this fall, will join other students on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus for a workshop called, appropriately, the “I Love To Write” workshop.


Melissa Legate and Jennifer Troester sitting at the NeWP table during NETA

The Nebraska Writing Project once again partnered with the Nebraska Education Technology Association (NETA) to be part of the NETA Spring Conference at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha April 19-20.

This year’s partnership was coordinated by NeWP advisory board members Jennifer Troester and Melissa Legate, who communicated with NeWP’s executive director throughout the school year. As part of this partnership, NeWP was able to feature a slide in the NETA Conference slide deck that promoted our organization and linked to the NeWP webpage. Additionally, NeWP had the opportunity to publish an article written by one of our affiliates in a monthly NETA newsletter. This year’s article was written by Jennifer Troester about her O’Neill 8th grade class’s writing partnership with co-director Rachael Shah’s class of UNL preservice teachers and was featured in the April issue of the NETA newsletter. One additional perk of the NeWP-NETA partnership was NETA’s promotion of our Summer Institute in February through its email list.

Perhaps the most significant benefit of the partnership with NETA was the chance for NeWP to present two breakout sessions at the conference. However, with two NeWP members submitting proposals of their own, the organization was represented in four breakout sessions. The first was titled “Digital Collaborations Across Schools: How to Build a Strong Online Writing Exchange” by Jennifer Troester and Rachael Shah. NeWP TC Jenny Bruck presented a session titled “Using Online Tools to Conference Grade,” which received tremendously positive feedback from several attendees. Melissa Legate also presented at the conference with a session on “Digital Discussion: Sharing Students’ Learning, Thinking, and Writing.” And finally, Rachel Jank presented her session titled “Every Student Gets a Website.”

For both days of the conference, NeWP promoted the many activities our organization sponsors for teachers, students, and communities with special emphasis given to promoting the Summer Institute, to which teachers could apply until April 30. Dozens of Nebraska teachers from a variety of grade levels and disciplines stopped by the information table and spoke with NeWP representatives Jennifer Bruck, Sarah Kroenke, Melissa Legate, Rachael Shah, and Jennifer Troester about what NeWP stands for and the opportunities it provides. Nearly thirty people gave their contact information in order to receive more information about NeWP and future events.

Also on Thursday, NeWP had the opportunity through the NETA partnership to host an evening event after the day’s final session. Jennifer Troester and Melissa Legate coordinated a Speed Geeking event in which participants could share their favorite educational technology strategies in presentations of five minutes or less. This year’s event was attended by Melissa and Jennifer, as well as advisory board member Brenda Larabee, her colleague, and Katie Morrow of ESU 8. Earlier promotion in future years should hopefully yield stronger attendance at this event.

The NETA conference continues to be an excellent way for NeWP to connect with passionate and innovative educators all across Nebraska and get the word out about the many quality programs our organization offers.

Join us May 3 for the NeWP Spring Gathering

NeWP Spring Gathering participants pose with masks

Please join us for our annual Spring Gathering Friday May 3 6-8 PM on the UNL campus. We will celebrate the year’s events and participants, hear readings from Young Writers and Veterans and National Park outreach, and honor the year’s teaching and administrative award winners. We hope to see you there!

NeWP Spring Gathering

Join us!

May 3rd, 2019
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
UNL City Campus Union, Regency Suite
14th and R Streets

2018 Agate Writer’s Workshop – Women of the West: Strength in the Nebraska Panhandle

Spring is here! And so is your invitation to carve away some time to be creative and re-energize this summer at the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument Teachers Writing Workshop and Writing Marathon this summer, July 16 – 18, 2018.

“Exploring the Women of the West: Strength in the Nebraska Panhandle” marks the third year the Monument is collaborating with the Nebraska Writing Project to offer teachers of all disciplines and grade levels the opportunity to learn new strategies to integrate science, language arts, and social studies with writing. Workshop participants will not only delve into the many resources of Agate Fossil Beds, but also at select sites on the Pine Ridge Reservation and at Fort Robinson State Park. Workshop registration closes on June 30th.

Teacher participants of the 2018 Agate Teacher Writing Workshop will be immersed in place-based writing exercises, readings, and discussions. In “Exploring the Women of the West: Strength in the Nebraska Panhandle,” participants will uncover in the history of Agate through the women of the late 1800-1900s. Participants will explore paleontology from women’s perspectives—both historic and modern; discover the voice of an African American woman in the Nebraska Panhandle in the 1880s; learn from Lakota women and their art; and consider the contributions of the women of the Agate Springs Ranch, the land from which this national park unit originated.

Past participants have come from every corner of Nebraska for this opportunity to network and share their ideas about cross-curricular writing. All have left with a rich sense of writing through place, science and history.

Scheduled Talks

“Paleontology: A Woman’s Perspective”by Ellen Stepleton, a retired fossil preparator from the University of Nebraska State Museum (confirmed)
“Octavia Reeves, an African American woman in the Nebraska panhandle in the 1880s”by Holly Counts, an independent historian (confirmed)
“American Indian Women and their art” by Audrey Jacobs, museum educator, Red Cloud Indian School Heritage Center (confirmed)
“The contributions of women ranchers” by Gretchen Meade, great-granddaughter of Agate homesteader James Cook and the granddaughter of paleontologist, geologist, and writer Harold Cook (confirmed)
“Agate museum collection and artifacts” by Maryann Neubert, NPS museum curator (confirmed)

Scheduled Activities

A ranger-led tour of Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, including of the Red Cloud artifacts in the park’s museum collection
A tour of the The Heritage Center at the Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, SD
Access to primary sources from the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument museum collections
Visits to the Fort Robinson State Park, including site of the Red Cloud Indian Agency
A Monday evening cookout with National Park Service rangers and staff

Workshop Information

Registration is available through June 30th at https://goo.gl/21pj1p or by contacting Jan Knispel at jknispel@gmail.com


July 16-18th




Participants will need to make their own lodging accommodations.

Accommodations can be made at:

the Sage Motel (http://sagemotelharrison.com/) in Harrison, NE (the community nearest the park)
the Quivey House Bed and Breakfast in Mitchell, NE
Comfort Inn, Days Inn, Hampton Inn and Suites, Holiday Inn Express, Monument Inn and Suites, or other hotels in Scottsbluff and Gering, NE
Fort Robinson State Park in Crawford, NE (Nebraska Game and Parks Commission)
Tent and RV campsites outside of the park (https://goo.gl/mkL49P). Refrigeration is available at the park for those tent camping.

If you would like to split the cost of a room with a roommate, please choose the option at this registration link, and you will be connected with another teacher to make arrangements. Questions about accommodations can directed to Alvis Mar at alvis_mar@nps.gov.


For additional information, access the workshop brochure here https://goo.gl/RkNwqm

To register for the workshop, complete and submit the online application at https://goo.gl/yGfG8C

You can also contact Park Ranger Alvis Mar, (308) 665-4110, alvis_mar@nps.gov, or Jan Knispel, jknispel@gmail.com for more information

“By examining, reflecting upon and analyzing through writing the contributions of the uncelebrated—yet phenomenal—women of this remarkable landscape, teachers can create learning opportunities for their students that will lead them to better understand the factors that have molded our nation’s collective heritage. What better place than a national park–like Agate Fossil Beds National Monument– to find those lessons and revelations?” – James Hill, Agate Fossil Beds Park Superintendent James Hill

Speed Geeking! Networking & Professional Development Event @ NETA

Please join the Nebraska Writing Project at NETA!

Thursday, April 19, from 5:00-5:45 Room 208 of CenturyLink Center

We are hosting a fun networking and professional development event following NETA Day 1 entitled “Speed Geeking!”

Connect with fellow educators who are passionate about using writing and technology together. Anyone can get up and “geek out” about the ways they use technology with their students. Think speed dating, but with
cool tech projects!

Each participant gets 5 minutes or less to present their tech idea. We’ll provide the projector, connections, and speakers. The more, the merrier at this high-energy event! If you’re interested, come on by room 208 of CenturyLink after the final session of NETA Day 1! The event will be hosted by NeWP board members Jennifer Troester of O’Neill High School and Melissa Legate of Pierce High School.