As I searched through the course catalog last spring, I’m sure my advisor–and definitely my mother–would not have approved of the classes I was looking at. They might have had a point; I was, and still am, a Political Science major who was scrolling though the writing classes as my quest to graduate was nowhere near close and my college fund was empty. But nevertheless, I scrolled.
Soon I came upon the class “Writing With Purpose,” and my search was done. The class fused writing, social justice, and education into one: who could say no? One of the components of this class was to become actively involved in the community through a wonderful program called the Iowa Writing Youth Project (IYWP). Three of my classmates and I volunteered at Longfellow Elementary every Thursday afternoon, attempting to engage and inspire students to write. The task, a lot less daunting once you get there, was one of the best parts of my fall semester at the University. Along with the volunteering was a two hour class on Wednesday nights where we were able to debrief and discuss the realms of education and writing while utilizing our actual experiences.
During the class discussions, often heated and always interesting, we debated education and all that constitutes learning, and the ever important presences of writing in education. I won’t go into detail about any side of the arguments (you’ll have to take the class to find out), but I will say that after questioning, determining, and reflecting again it is so clear to see that IYWP is the type of program the American schooling system could use right now.
Regardless of the policies and regulations that come down from the top, complementary learning programs can make just as much of an impact on students’ lives as regular curricula. Programs like IYWP are what make learning matter to students. My students at Longfellow would line up for Writing Club excited to tell me about the stories they were working on or the pictures they drew that they wanted to share with the group, and it is moments like that in which you remember learning can be fun. I wish our education system could allow for exploratory learning or hands-on experiments every day, but the stakes are high and efficiency wins the battle more often than not. But learning is not restricted to 8am-3pm, and the content isn’t limited to the grade’s standards of proficiency. IYWP gave me the opportunity to teach students about alliterations while laughing so hard we cried.
Iowa Writing Youth Project does more than just create fun lessons. It also attempts to instill creativity, curiosity, and self-advocacy in students who want to write. As our education system focuses more on the scientific method and arithmetic it is important not to neglect the soul of learning. Writing communicates all that we learn and is the most widely used form of sharing ideas. Without the skills to write, students lack an outlet of communication and expression. IYWP combines the excitement of supplemental learning with the importance of writing and creates a program that changes student’s lives.
– Phoebe Yetley