National Writing Project

Minigrant Projects Provide Inspiration

By: Laura Paradise
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 6, No. 3
Date: May-June 2001

Summary: A look at the 2001-2002 recipients of the NWP minigrant awards and their proposed projects.


Recipients of the 2001-2002 National Writing Project minigrants have now been named, and 18 network minigrants of $3,000 to $4,000 each have been awarded. Each year, the National Writing Project subnetworks--Urban Sites, Rural Sites, and English Language Learners--award minigrants to projects that address the specific needs of each network. Many minigrant projects serve as models for other sites struggling with common concerns. In some cases, minigrant awards give sites the seed money needed to bring remote teacher-consultants together or initiate conversations between ELL teachers and writing project TCs. As in the past, this year's cohort of minigrant recipients illustrates diversity among sites as well as efforts to address shared needs within each of the subnetworks.

Urban Sites Network Grants

Through Urban Sites Network (USN) minigrant funding, the DC Area Writing Project will develop strategies to help teachers establish meaningful and positive relationships with their students' parents. Much of this work will focus on documenting family histories. The Oklahoma State University Writing Project's "Community Connections: Discovering, Writing, and Creating Identity" grant will be used for a four-day advanced institute, bringing together teachers interested in participating in the project "Keeping and Creating American Communities." In this program, students, teachers, and community participants study how local cultures construct themselves as "Americans" through a variety of forms including text, language, and architecture. At the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project (GA), funding will be used to increase the writing project's capacity for leading professional development. Teachers in two sites will lead seminars for urban teachers and administrators on state writing assessment and other issues.

Publication is the focus of USN's three other minigrant projects. The UCLA Writing Project has designed a writing retreat aimed at making teachers' voices heard in the public debate over education. The retreat's 15 TCs will write and get feedback on articles about Los Angeles teachers, students, and schools, which they will then submit to area newspapers for publication. At the other end of the country, the Philadelphia Writing Project will conduct a two-day writing retreat to encourage TCs who have participated in teacher inquiry communities to write for publication. The retreat is modeled after the NWP writing retreat, and a works-in-progress publication is planned. And last, the Peachtree Writing Project (GA) will use its minigrant for an advanced summer institute. The institute's primary focus is to introduce TCs to the publication process. Monthly follow-up sessions will be used to discuss works in progress and to continue encouraging TCs to write for publication.

Rural Sites Network Grants

The Rural Sites Network (RSN) recommended seven projects for funding this year. Several projects build on innovations piloted by sites that participated in the NWP-Annenberg Rural School and Community Trust initiative. For example, the Southcentral Pennsylvania Writing Project proposes an innovative use of the Nebraska Writing Project's Rural Voices Country Schools' (RVCS) work involving "School at the Center" rural institutes and a celebration of heritage and place. The rural institute will bring together TCs and community members to learn about teaching and writing in the classroom and in the "field." In another example, inspired by last summer's RVCS Digital Storytelling institute, Third Coast Writing Project (MI) will extend the opportunity to produce stories during its summer institute. Using a "teachers-teaching-teachers" approach, pairs of teachers will create multimedia stories. Through a competitive application process, the Greater New Orleans Writing Project will conduct two five-part inservice series in remote rural schools; this is an inservice practice developed through RVCS that Greater New Orleans has adapted for its own use. Inspired by Rural Voices Radio, the Southern Georgia Writing Project has delved into folklife activities. With an RSN minigrant, the site will produce a book for teachers that will help them implement multi-genre folklife studies in their curricula.

The remaining three projects funded by RSN this year are a little more diverse. The Maine Writing Project proposes an innovative project involving TCs supervising a literacy camp for young boys. The project is intended to build teacher leadership at the Maine site while developing ideas that can be brought to other NWP sites. The Little Rock Writing Project's minigrant represents collaboration among the state's four writing projects. The sites will organize a mini-institute connected to a young writer's camp in a new area of the state. Finally, the Alaska State Writing Consortium will use its award to help address the site's most significant problem: distance and its effect on recruiting summer institute fellows. The minigrant will not only help to build the site but will also provide an opportunity for the site to study the problem of distance in rural sites and to search for additional ways that NWP sites can address this problem.

English Language Learners Grants

The Western Massachusetts Writing Project will use its ELL minigrant to host a three-day summer program for teachers of English language learners in its area. The program will have a dual subject: the best research and practice in the teaching of writing and reading to English language learners; and the pedagogical implications for ELL teachers and students of the new high-stakes, statewide assessment program, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.

Meanwhile, the Borinquen Writing Project will investigate how English teachers in Puerto Rico learned English or Spanish as a second language and will subsequently produce a collection of personal narratives concerning language acquisition by teachers. The project will bring together former TCs in discussion groups located in three geographic areas of the island.

The Minnesota Writing Project's proposal builds upon the work of its Diversity Task Force, which was established with a USN minigrant last year. Minnesota's ELL award will be used to conduct a week-long institute for teachers with recognized success teaching ELL students. Participants will come from 11 school districts and will ultimately serve as consultants who can assist teachers working with English language learners. The Bay Area Writing Project's minigrant also supports teacher leadership and capacity building. Funding will support an ELL study-group program consisting of a series of year-long study groups for BAWP network members, focusing on research, examination of English language development standards, student writing, and advocacy. And, at the Peachtree Urban Writing Project, minigrant funding will be used to bring together foreign language, ESOL, and writing project teachers to develop collaborative strategies on issues of language acquisition and ELL instruction.

For More Information . . .

To learn more about network minigrant projects, sites may contact network leadership directly, link to Programs on the NWP Web, or attend events sponsored by the networks such as the annual Urban Sites Network Spring Conference, the biannual Rural Sites Network Retreat, and the Rural Sites Network half-day session at the NWP Annual Meeting. If you are interested in applying for a minigrant next year, please refer to the application information that will be mailed to site leaders in the fall. Network leadership also offers a session at the NWP Annual Meeting each year, at which they answer questions about the review process, proposal writing, and more.

About the Author LAURA PARADISE is a program associate with the National Writing Project.

2001-2002 NWP Minigrant Award Recipients

English Language Learners Network

Bay Area Writing Project, California
Borinquen Writing Project, Puerto Rico
Minnesota Writing Project
Peachtree Urban Writing Project, Georgia
Western Massachusetts Writing Project

Rural Sites Network

Alaska State Writing Consortium
Greater New Orleans Writing Project
Little Rock Writing Project, Arkansas
South Georgia Writing Project
Southcentral Pennsylvania Writing Project
Third Coast Writing Project, Michigan
University of Maine Writing Project

Urban Sites Network

District of Columbia Area Writing Project
Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project, Georgia
Oklahoma State University Writing Project
Peachtree Urban Writing Project, Georgia
Philadelphia Writing Project
UCLA Writing Project, California

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