National Writing Project

Social Action Summer Institutes Prompt Minigrant Proposals

By: Asali Solomon
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 6, No. 5
Date: November-December 2001

Summary: Participation in the 2001 Social Action Summer Institutes prompted 20 writing project sites to submit proposals to build on what they had learned about social action.

 

Participation in this past summer's Social Action Summer Institutes has prompted 20 writing project sites to submit minigrant proposals, hoping to build on what they've learned about social action. The summer institutes, held in Baltimore and Santa Fe, were a continuation of the partnership of the Centre for Social Action (CSA) and the National Writing Project. To the 60 NWP teachers attending, the gatherings offered practical ideas for facilitating action projects with young people within a social justice framework. (See related stories below.)

In making minigrants available, NWP hopes to further the CSA-NWP partnership by going beyond the initial training stage to get an idea of what teachers and directors who attended the institutes find useful and important about social action principles and tools. As the proposals make apparent, the participants are enthusiastic about using social action to revitalize programming and problem-solve within schools and sites. One key step in this work seems to be infusing literacy and writing into the activities and processes people learned this summer.

Types of Proposals Submitted

The variety of proposals submitted shows a great deal of thought and creativity. Following is a description of the broader categories of proposals that were submitted, followed by specific examples from individual writing project sites.

Social Action Training

The majority of the proposals include some kind of training, inservice, or workshop that will enable the teacher-consultants who attended the institute this summer to share what they learned with teachers who did not attend. Other proposals include plans for advanced institutes that will further the study of teachers who did attend this summer.

Classroom Work

Many of the proposals involve teachers trying out social action methods in their classrooms, then writing and disseminating what they learn in this process within their writing projects and larger school communities. Some of these proposals include doing the five-stage social action process with young people, based on models that CSA uses with young people in out-of-school settings. That is, these teachers will facilitate while their students set the agenda completely.

  • Oakland Writing Project's (Michigan) proposal includes supporting a teacher-consultant who will use social action techniques with sixth grade students who identify social issues that affect their communities and go on to "do something about it."
  • Peachtree Urban Writing Project (Georgia) has a similar proposal, geared toward helping students address issues of racial and economic inequality in their schools and communities in service-learning projects.

Discussion and Study Groups

One component of several proposals is to form study groups in which teachers will think together about ways to integrate literacy and writing into the social action processes that they learned this summer. Others will use social action methods in groups that were formed to address problems such as a school's changeover to the Edison model (from the Southern Nevada Writing Project proposal) or the threat of a state takeover (from the Philadelphia Writing Project).

Links to Other Networks

A handful of the proposals linked ideas for social action work with their Project Outreach Network work, as there is a natural connection between social action work and Project Outreach goals.

  • Peachtree Urban Writing Project and DC Area Writing Project are both using the social action method to galvanize students, teachers, and parents to address social and racial inequity in their schools and communities.
  • Borinquen Writing Project (Puerto Rico) is linking its social action proposal to its work with English language learners by conducting a version of the social action workshops in both English and in Spanish.

Community Links

Some of the proposed projects are centered on building or strengthening writing project relationships with community agencies and out-of-school programs.

  • Coastal Georgia Writing Project's (CGWP) social action team includes a teacher who coordinates after-school programs at the local chapter of a national hunger relief program. The focus of CGWP's proposal is to train preservice teachers who work with the students in these programs in the social action method.
  • Borinquen Writing Project will train teachers to use the social action methods with their Upward Bound students.
  • Marshall University Writing Project's (West Virginia) proposal includes using the five-stage social action approach in a series of writing workshops with female juvenile offenders.
  • The Oakland Writing Project will use the social action approach to enhance a community literacy project.

Proposal Follow-up

By this time, the minigrant proposals, which range in request from $3,000 to $5,000, have been reviewed, and sites have been notified of the outcome of that review. As many as 15 of the submitting sites are sending social action teams to the National Writing Project Annual Meeting in Baltimore this November to participate in a follow-up workshop with Centre for Social Action facilitators Jennie Fleming and Ian Boulton.

There, team members will reconnect with their social action colleagues, share and learn from the group, and begin work on their projects. Additionally, the teams will learn about the grant reporting and dissemination that sites will work toward within the next year. Discussions around how sites will document their work are especially important, since documentation will enable sites to share what they've learned with the network. As that work unfolds, The Voice hopes to feature some of these stories in its upcoming issues.

 

"Social Action Workshops Inspire Teachers," by Ian Boulton, The Voice, September-October 2001.

"Undrowning: A Rediscovery of the Power of Student Voice," by Nannette Overley, The Voice, January-February 2001.

"CSA Offers Teachers Powerful Tools," by Art Peterson, Asali Solomon, and Becky Young, The Voice, November-December 2000.

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