Invitation to the 2018 NETA Spring Conference

As part of our partnership with the Nebraska Educational Technology Association, we’re happy to invite you to join us at the 2018 NETA Spring Conference, April 18-20th at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha.

What you and your school receive from attending the 2018 NETA Spring Conference:

Over 200+ featured, breakout, and interactive educational technology sessions from which to choose
Numerous hands-on workshops designed to give you a more in-depth experience
Nationally recognized speakers
Admittance to an Innovation Lab
Playgrounds to personally experience the newest technologies
Opportunity to meet and interact with over 100 exhibitors
Networking opportunities to expand your professional learning network to continue learning throughout the year

Take advantage of Early Bird Registration pricing before March 16, 2018 and register a group of 10 or more attendees to receive a discount on each registration.

For more information or to register, visit the NETA website.

NeWP Spring and Summer Writing Marathons

Young women discuss their writing at a NeWP

Writing Marathons have always held a special place within the NeWP community.

The Nebraska Writing Project has been sponsoring writing marathons since 2006, embracing their ability to bring teachers back to their NeWP roots and to promote place-conscious thinking and writing. Seasonal writing marathons are held each year. This year the spring marathon was held in partnership with the Omaha Warrior Writers.

NeWP TCs and members of the Omaha Warrior Writers met at Sorenson Library in early June to launch the 2017 Spring Writing Marathon. Writing groups set out across the Dundee neighborhood to capture the day through their pens. Popular writing spots included eCreamery, Memorial Park, the Dundee community garden, and local coffee shops. Please enjoy some of our writing from the day.

NeWP TCs and members of the Omaha Warrior Writers met at Sorenson Library in early June to launch the 2017 Spring Writing Marathon. Writing groups set out across the Dundee neighborhood to capture the day through their pens. Popular writing spots included eCreamery, Memorial Park, the Dundee community garden, and local coffee shops. Please enjoy some of our writing from the day.

NeWP TCs and members of the Omaha Warrior Writers met at Sorenson Library in early June to launch the 2017 Spring Writing Marathon. Writing groups set out across the Dundee neighborhood to capture the day through their pens. Popular writing spots included eCreamery, Memorial Park, the Dundee community garden, and local coffee shops. Please enjoy some of our writing from the day.

The summer marathon was held at the NeWP board retreat at the St. Benedictine Retreat Center located North of Schuyler. Several groups ventured out within the monastery and the city of Schuyler. Participant writing from both events are available through the following links.

Spring Warrior Writer Marathon
Summer Board Writing Marathon

Our next marathon will be the Platte River State Writing Marathon on September 9th. This is held in conjunction with the NeWP UnConference (Saturday, Sept. 10th @9:00AM) and Platte River State Writing Retreat (Sept. 8-10th). For more Information about these events see the event posting on Facebook or email dweis@cox.net.

Agate Writer’s Workshop to be held July 17-19, 2017

Woman sitting and writing near a fossil bed at Agate

This year’s Agate Writer’s Workshop will be July 17-19th at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.  We will explore the Women of the West with focus on the women scientists, paleontologists and homesteaders that built the communities and resources in Western Nebraska.  Please join this unique event by registering online and extend the invitation to interested educators from other disciplines.

Download this year’s flier for more details.

Exploring the Bones of Place: 50 Years in the Nebraska Panhandle

Spend two days at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument discovering the bones of place. Staff from the National Park Service and Nebraska Writing Project will lead teachers through a variety of activities designed to make science exciting, inviting and accessible through writing. This workshop is open to teachers of all grade levels and content areas. Participants can expect to:

generate their own creative writing
explore the women of Agate and their unique roles in paleontology, geology, and place
leave with classroom activities for integrating science and writing

Registration fee for the program is $75. The workshop is limited to fifteen participants. It begins at 8:00a.m. on July 17th and concludes at 2:00p.m. on July 19th. Food and lodging are not available at the park. Registration ends June 30, 2017.

Participants will need to arrange for lodging in nearby communities. Local hotel or camping accommodations can be found at:

Harrison House Hotel in Harrison, NE (www.harrisonhousehotel.com)
Hotels in Scottsbluff/Gering, such as Comfort Inn, Days Inn, Hampton Inn and Suites, Holiday Inn Express
Fort Robinson State Park (Nebraska Games and Parks Commission)

A limited number of tent camping sites are available within Agate. Sites have access to an indoor bathroom and kitchen facilities. Reservations for tenting sites is available on the Agate Fossil Beds website or by emailing Alvis Mar at alvis_mar@nps.gov.

2017 Eastern Youth Writing Festival

Student writers in a classroom

The Nebraska Writing Project held its annual Eastern Youth Writing Festival on April 1st, 2017. This event, designed for students in grades 6-8, was held at Gretna Middle School. A total of 32 students from Elkhorn, Gretna, Bellevue, Fremont, and Wahoo schools attended. While at the event, students were able to participate in three sessions, led by area teachers Theresa Huttman, Patrick White, and Santha Walters. These sessions covered topics such as upcycling song lyrics into poetry, the analysis of film and script writing, and developing superhero characters that are both good and evil. After the sessions, students were able to go on a writing marathon or continue to work on pieces they had begun during the instructional sessions. Some students are working on pieces for publication; these will be available at the end of the month on the Nebraska Writing Project Youth Writing Festival Blog.

NeWP Fall and Winter Writing Marathons

The fall and winter marathon were filled with great writers and beautiful weather. The annual fall writing marathon was held at Platte River State Park September 26-28th. Participants gathered Saturday morning for a new addition to the weekend, an Unconference. Veteran and pre-service teachers enjoyed an open discussion on education issues such as the responsibility and restrictions of social justice in the classroom. Ideas were discussed over hot-off-the griddle pancakes and under a light sprinkling of rain.

The marathon launched from Owen 9 at noon. Two groups of writers ventured out to explore climbing walls, tipis, the Interstate Chapel and Platte River State Park’s rock wall. Writing was shared along with an impressive cabin dinner.

This years Winter Marathon was preceeded by the NeWP winter board retreat and celebration dinner for Rhonda Schoenmaker. TCs and board members offered special thanks for Rhonda’s support of and dedication to the NeWP and teachers. A poetry tribute highlighted Rhonda’s talent for keeping things running smoothly. Her patience, ingenuity, and warmth was likened to everything from motor oil to being a master gardener.

The winter marathon launched from Blue Orchid. The first stop brought the writers to Gallery 9, an independent gallery and professional artists affiliation. The gallery’s highlight was the main gallery which showcased American Veterans paintings and photography. Afterwards the writers spread out around the Lincoln capital, observing and noting the Women’s March. Indigo Books was home of the final writing and read around.

To read writing from these two events, please click here.

Diana Weis  |  Nebraska Writing Project

Plum Creek Literacy Festival

On Saturday, September 24, 2016, I attended the Plum Creek Literacy Festival at Concordia University in Seward, NE. This, the 3rd day of a 3 day event, was designed for adults to enjoy listening to children’s authors speak about their writing and their books. While I got to enjoy the funny, engaging, and interesting presentations by numerous authors, I also got to take part in representing the Nebraska Writing Project. Along with 4 other people, I talked with the educators and interested patrons at the conference about NeWP and what it had to offer. We received information from 12 different conference attendees, including people from UNL, Peru State College, York College, and Lincoln City Libraries, as well as a retired teacher. There were also many others who stopped by to ask questions and expressed interest in our mission. It was my first experience representing NeWP at a conference and was an unbelievable opportunity to socialize with others who also have a passion for writing.

Ashley Mundil  |  Pyrtle Elementary, Lincoln

Nine Secondary Teachers Participate in the Gretna Writing Project Institute

In the Gretna Public School district the practice and teaching of writing is held in high regard. Gretna teachers in all grade levels and across the curriculum have long worked together to discover the best practices in writing instruction and assessment through research, experimentation, and collaboration. The fall of 2016 brought an opportunity for Gretna’s secondary teachers to devote three hours per week in the pursuit of these tasks as participants in the Gretna Writing Project Institute.

Gretna has offered an annual embedded writing institute to its k-12 teachers for several years now, but the 2016 class opened the doors to a new territory when three science teachers joined the six English teachers participating in the institute. Together, these nine educators spent invaluable hours discussing the field of teaching and the craft of writing. Though nearly all participants were initially hesitant to enroll in the institute (We all know that the “We teach! There’s never enough time as it is!” argument is a valid one!) each was glad to have done so by the end of the semester.

It would be impossible to determine which component of the writing institute model is most effective: the EQUIPS, the inquiry projects, or personal writing groups. Each of these facets of the institute inspired lively and heartfelt discussions and helped the teacher participants to unravel their own perspectives on issues facing them professionally and personally. Three small writing groups, made up of three teachers each, were a welcome respite in the hectic shuffle of teaching every week. Personal writing projects that were developed during the institute include poetry collections, a playscript, several chapters of a novel, professional research and writing for journal submission, and even some ancestry chronicling. The relationships formed by sharing these intimate writings with one another are truly priceless.

The EQUIP presentations were also brilliantly planned and executed each week. The addition of the science teachers to the traditional institute dynamic created a wonderfully diverse set of voices in the feedback and questioning portion of each presentation.

EQUIP topics included:

Un-Writing: Putting Language to its Best Use
Using Film to Promote Writing
Stream of Consciousness Composition in the Science and English Classroom
Qualitative Analysis and the Use of Imagery in the Chemistry Lab
Authentic Writing Experiences in Every Classroom
Sensory Observation as a Writing Tool
Creative Writing in Science Content
Drawing for Analysis and Poetry Writing
Imitation Writing: The Book of Qualities and Jue Ju poems

Inquiry presentations were equally diverse and intriguing, featuring research and discussion about multiple intelligences, the brain science behind listening to music while studying and writing, and changing the idea of literature studies to feature more short pieces than novels.

All in all, the 2016 Gretna Writing Project Institute was time well spent. The 2016 participants have been encouraging their professional peers to take the leap and join next year’s institute. Hopefully we will see even more departments working to incorporate more writing into their lives and courses as they are increasingly represented in this powerful program.

Download the anthology

Jennifer Long  |  Nebraska Writing Project

Prairie Visions Writing Festival

Students crossing a bridge at Homestead National Monument

The Nebraska Writing Project in cooperation with Homestead National Monument conducted a Youth Writing Festival at Homestead on September 20, 2016. Nine teachers and 98 high school students, met, attended sessions presented by Dr. Robert Brooke of the University of Nebraska and Director of the Nebraska Writing Project, Diana Weis, board member of the NeWP and teacher at Cather Elementary School, Millard, Nebraska, and Jan Knispel, co-director and board member of NeWP, and adjunct instructor with MidPlains Community College, Valentine extension campus.

After the students viewed the Homestead National Monument video on the history of the Homestead Act and the people who lived in this area over time. Diana Weis lead a student presentation on a quotation from the film regarding ownership “What do you own and what owns you?” Students responded in various writings which were shared at the end of the presentation.

Weis’s second session focused on the idea of journey. This was inspired by Daniel Freeman’s homesteading the land Homestead National Monument now honors. Writers timelined journeys and explorations narrowing theirs to a single moment. The first approach to writing was to speak through the voice and age of that moment. Second, to change perspective and write from second person, speaking to themselves in the moment. Finally, they moved outside of the moment, changing facts in the story to create an altered outcome.

Jan Knispel lead a presentation on oral history. She gave the students an opportunity to hear a repetition of an oral history of her grandmother Bertha Kolbe Newsom, her father James Knispel’s World War II experience which related to the movie Monuments Men or the story of her being born in a famous blizzard. The students chose to hear about her father’s experience.

Activities included Dr. Brooke’s place-based writing experience focusing on immigrant and homestead experiences of the past. Dr. Brooke’s presentation was on writing our own family immigration stories, in connection with the Nebraska immigration stories that are part of the Homestead Act. The idea was to ponder 1) who in our family actually came to Nebraska 2) what they were leaving behind and 3) what they were coming for. We wrote about this, shared our stories with an “elbow partner,” and wrote a list of questions to ask family elders/other informants when we got back home from Homestead.

After a sack lunch outside the Educational Center, students and teachers were put into groups to experience a Writing Marathon led by Diana Weis. Nearly 100 students and their teachers wandered the grounds of the park experiencing the forest paths, and the tall grass prairie. At the end of the marathon, students shared their favorite piece of the day in small groups and then to the large group.

Plans are now underway for a teacher workshop at Homestead National Monument and for another youth writing festival.

Robert Brooke honored for 20 years as director

A Heartfelt Public Thank You from Robert

A week ago Friday at the 2014 Spring Gathering, you all honored me for 20 years as Nebraska Writing Project Director. You surprised me with a quilt (adorned with archaic writing implements called manual typewriters), a Proclamation of support from the current National Writing Project director, and a boatload of personal testimonies about some of the small ways NeWP has touched your lives. I’ve been verklempt all week. (Not necessarily the best emotion for UNL Finals Week, but I managed!) I wanted to use our public blog to say “thank you.” The Nebraska Writing Project network has sustained me for over 20 years as a professional writer and educator. I am happy to be involved in such a great group of people, accomplishing so many fine things.

Sharon Bishop, Robert Brooke, and Robyn Dalton

At Friday’s ceremony, I told an anecdote from my younger days. Back in the mid-1970s when Kate and I were dating in Spokane, Washington, an old family friend of Kate’s did our star charts. (Pamela was an astrologer then. Now she’s the owner of the wildly successful Wonders of the World shop in Spokane’s Flour Mill — well worth a visit if you’re ever in the Pacific Northwest: http://www.wondersoftheworldinc.com/). I think Pamela’s real purpose was to discern if Kate and I would be compatible – and I like to think our 30 plus years of wedded bliss have proved her right. But what she told me then was I had a “grand trine” in my chart – some kind of triangular pattern of planets that channels life energy in a certain direction. “You’re supposed to direct your energies toward a group of some kind,” she told me. “I don’t know what group it is, or if you’ll have the sense to recognize it when you find it. But that’s what your star chart says.”

Now I leave it to you as individuals to weigh the debatable merits of astrology, especially astrological forecasts. But I like to think that I’ve found my group in the Nebraska Writing Project.

On the surface, NeWP seems deceptively simple: a group of educators who like to share writing with each other and their students, and who like to share good teaching ideas. But the longer I hang around with the people who make up the Nebraska Writing Project network, the more I’m convinced there really is some kind of cosmic stellar energy at work. How else do you explain the astronomical growth of NeWP activities, from what was initially a simple four week summer class in 1978 to what’s now our yearly array of 40-60 programs and the strong personal connections between the hundreds of teachers who claim Nebraska Writing Project as an intellectual home?

As Director for some of the years NeWP has been in operation, I’ve done some administrative drudgery to clear the way for such energy. But what’s constantly amazed me is the way volunteer leaders routinely emerge from amongst you Nebraska Writing Project teachers to bring new, crucial programs into being. There are too many leaders and programs for me to name them all, so I’ll just list some of the programs here. I’m sure you all can add to this list. These items are metonymic – parts standing in for the whole:

  • The Rural Institute program that emerged through our participation in Rural Voices, Country Schools, which has reached out to over 20 communities across the state;
  • The Embedded Institute program, initially at Pius X High School, but soon spreading to Papillion-La Vista, and continuing to spread, most recently to Gretna Schools and Lincoln North Star and next year at Saratoga Elementary;
  • The Young Writers Festivals, Young Writers Camps, I/We Love to Write Workshop, Poetry of Place Celebrations, School-sponsored Writing Marathons, Urban Justice Leagues, Community Oral Histories, and a host of other local school events through which we invite young people into the sheer joy of writing as a means of self-expression and social transformation;
  • The Writing Groups, Writing Retreats, Writing Marathons, Professional Writing Retreats, and online Social Network Writing, erupting spontaneously after every NeWP institute in every corner of our state; and
  • The yearly exponential growth in the professional presence of NeWP leaders, seen in masters and doctorate theses, conference presentations, professional publications, book authoring groups, NWP site directorships, professional development leadership assignments, educational advocacy, and an array of statewide teaching and service awards.

There’s simply way more going on in the Nebraska Writing Project network than any one person can keep track of. In astronomical terms, I guess the best metaphor would be that NeWP is something like a nova at work in a white dwarf star, where the combination of energies creates a vast brilliance with the potential to light up several galaxies. It certainly feels that way, when every October we try to compile the year’s activities into the National Writing Project’s continuous activity report forms. We’re aware we never get all the activities of the network into NWP’s database. The leadership team, our NeWP secretary, and I have made a pact, the past few years, just to enter programs until we meet and exceed the year before. I don’t think anyone really knows just how much our community of teachers and writers actually accomplishes.

I feel honored to have been along for this cosmic ride over the past two decades. Thank you all, again, for the tremendous honor of the recognition celebration last Friday night. And for the even more tremendous honor of being your colleague during these years.

Oh. And a final thing from that star chart Kate’s astrologer friend drew for me, back in the mid-1970s: Pamela also told me I was destined to be verbose!

Robert Brooke
9 May 2014