Friday, August 18, 2017

Scholastic Spotlight: Ifedayo Omotunde

The Man of the Trees
Omotunde, Ifedayo
Grade: 12
School: Park River Area High School, Park River ND Educator: Kierstin Hurtt
AWARD: Silver Key

The work starts on a late morning before the fog completely lifts. A short ride in a beat- up pick up full of an odd assortment of pruning shears, garden trowels, and plant clippings delivers me to the spot where I will work. Once I get there, I realize the area is bigger than I thought. Even so, the job seems easy; I just have to pull some plants out of the ground. The garden is beautiful, with tall wheat-like grasses framing an ornate metal arch with a garden bench, accented by colorful flowers. Small and medium size trees provide the whole area with shade, and to the right a great boulder stands guard. The boulder is a striking, yet ordinary grey mass about ten feet tall, entirely solid, radiating a gentle sturdiness. That boulder could be used as quite an accurate description of the man that I was volunteering for: Joel Hylden.

Joel is a man who is the picture of the middle-class, Protestant, North Dakotan, quite ordinary. He could be described almost as an ent from The Lord of the Rings. He radiates a gentle sturdiness, with kind eyes and a muted youthfulness. His beliefs are of the old- spirit, of getting back to our roots. He believes in people learning about nature and embracing the beauty of God’s creation, not constricting it to man’s ideal sense of beauty. He also believes that “everyone should be taught how to prune a tree properly.” He has a fatherly wisdom about him, wisdom that he teaches to anyone that will listen; a wisdom of doing things the way God wants.

A deeply religious family man, Joel has a down-to-earth, quiet demeanor. He is the rock of every room he walks into. His home is full of life, the way it was meant to be: natural. Nature peeks out

Friday, August 11, 2017

Scholastic Spotlight: Hannah Slater

Not Worthless
Slater, Hannah
Grade: 11
School: Fargo North High School, Fargo ND 

Educator: Lori Koenig
AWARD: Silver Key

As the little girl with the pink ribbon sits alone on the swing staring at her lunch box, the principal watches as she slowly eats her lunch all by herself. He decides to go out and talk to her. Grabbing some paper clips from the top of his desk he walks to the little girl.

“You know, you don’t always have to eat alone.”

“No one wants to sit with me,” she doesn’t look up from her food.

The old principal sits next to her on the other swing. He pulls out a paper clip and holds it up for her to see.

“This paper clip looks boring, doesn’t it?” he asks. The girl nods. “But like your ribbon, it has many uses. You aren’t boring, people just don’t see what you can do, yet.”

Her big, round eyes look upon his kind-filled face, smiling down on her. He hands this little girl a paper clip. She smiles back. Squeezing her little hand over the paperclip.

“Don’t let anyone say you are boring and if they do, tell them that you can do many things if you put your mind to it.” He gets up from the swing and continues to watch as the little girl grows...

Friday, July 28, 2017

Scholastic Spotlight: Braden Vetter

A Note to Depressed People

Vetter, Braden
Grade: 11
School: Sheyenne High School, West Fargo ND Educator: Stephanie Cwikla
AWARD: Honorable Mention

I am so very sorry.

You have done nothing to deserve the way you are feeling.

I know the world is painfully brutal but it is also a painfully beautiful place. I won’t and can’t take the stage and say that things will get better because I have not experienced things getting better. To be entirely honest, life is shit and horrible and unfair and ugh and gross and difficult and stupid and monotonous. The monotony of living day to day was what got to me, repeating the same tasks day in and day out, just to expect something to be different but nothing ever changes. Wake up, go to school, go home, work, go to sleep. Wake up, go to school, go home, work, go to sleep.

After trying to kill myself, I ended up writing pages upon pages where the words expressed my extreme happiness because all I needed was to realize people honestly cared. I remember how the tears flowed while writing it, silently at night. Once again those feelings of just wanting to stop existing and just fade away into oblivion. I was no longer actively suicidal but if a car was coming towards me, I’m not sure I would get out of the way. I often found myself thinking terrible things, wishing I would get in a car accident or get cancer. I remember how I would take long showers at night because it was the one place I really had my privacy and would make the water as warm as I could because I was so cold all the time. If the water didn’t burn I would turn it up. The steam would cover the mirror, so I would be able to write temporary words for temporary feelings. Being cold is a side effect of living in almost-Canada part of the northern United States.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Writing Prompt for Healing: Stillness

Stillness. What is stillness?  According to Pico Iyer, travel writer and author of The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere (2014), it’s not so much about meditation, but “sanity and balance…a chance to put things in perspective.” 

A suggestion for writing:   For this week, consider how quiet and stillness have been part of your healing process.  What practices have helped you learn to embrace quiet and turn your attention to what is, instead of what was or could be?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Scholastic Spotlight: Jarod Jeglum

Oversocialization Found in the Fountainhead

Jeglum, Jarod
Grade: 12
School: Divide County High School, Crosby ND Educator: Richard Norton
AWARD: Honorable Mention

The word “oversocialization”, although not invented by Theodore John "Ted" Kaczynski, first gained major notoriety from his manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future or what is simply known as the Unabomber Manifesto. It is used to describe people who believe, in Ted Kaczynski’s words within his manifesto:
     We are not supposed to hate anyone, yet almost everyone hates somebody at some time or other, 
     whether he admits it to himself or not. Some people are so highly socialized that the attempt to 
     think, feel and act morally imposes a severe burden on them. In order to avoid feelings of guilt, 
     they continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations 
     for feelings and actions that in reality have a non-moral origin. We use the term “oversocialized” 
     to describe such people.

Although Theodore Kaczynski is a psychopath with a flawed view of reality, the man does have a wealthy amount of education on the subject of the human condition to prove that he does indeed know what he is talking about, and to deny him the ability to spread his radical and controversial views or ignore them entirely is a great atrocity for this nation’s guarantee of freedom of speech and the sociological community’s development as a whole.

In my own words I would describe “oversocialized” as follows: when one believes that they are at fault for someone else’s problems or situations and believes that to make up for it they have to work

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Writing Prompt for Healing: A Letter to Your Past Self

A Letter to Your Past Self.  Do you continue to be weighed down by events in the past? Writing about those events honestly and from your heart can help you make meaning of what happened, as well as better understand others’ points of view.

A suggestion for writing:  Write a letter to your past self—the self that went through the loss or trauma—from your today self. What would you say to comfort yourself? What advice would you give? Offer your past self the acceptance and love that s/he needs.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Scholastic Spotlight: Tiffany Brunelle

Brunelle, Tiffany
Grade: 8
School: Turtle Mountain Community Middle School. Belcourt, ND Educator: West Clark
AWARD: Gold Key

I am from pure white La Gallette and golden fry bread. 
I come from a big pot of bullets and bangs.
From fierce storms, that make your cheeks cherry red. 

From a big, steep hill covered in ice.

I am from many scary tales.
I'm from different myths
about rougarous, chupacabras and the ghosts of Wales.

 I live by storytelling around a fire.

I am from a green and beautiful reservation, 
that my people grew up on.
It's where there have been many deaths. 
Where my homeland has been taken.

We lost our precious culture.
We stopped speaking our Native language. 

We were forced to stop hunting.
We had to follow their rules.

They sent us to boarding schools. 
They thought we were wild.
All they did was ridicule
us. They wanted us to be mild.

We were called a beast.
They bartered us with the French.
Our full blood count had decreased. 

We were forced to live on reservations. 
Ishgonigan. Leftover land.

When we grew up,
we didn't tell our story.
We were forgotten,
they put our skin color into a category.

That was not fair.

They get us confused with the Crow and Blackfeet. 
We were recognized by our floral moccasins.
Did you find out where I'm from now?
Doonji Siipiising Mickinoc Wajiiw Ishgonigan. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Angie Hase, Lisa Gusewelle and Kelly Sassi attend i3 C3WP launch in Minneapolis

Kelly Sassi, Angie Hase, and Lisa Gusewelle attended the i3 C3WP launch in Minneapolis, Minnesota from June 20-22. C3WP stands for College, Career, and Community Writers Program, a renaming of the CRWP program we led in 2016-17. It is funded by a $36 million  i3 (Innovations in Education) grant that the National Writing Project received in January. The Red River Valley Writing Project participated in the grant proposal by recruiting the Belcourt and Dunseith school districts to be involved in this current scale-up of the C3WP.

C3WP provides professional development to teachers in teaching source-based argument writing. Outstanding research results were obtained from the first iteration of the program three years ago; student writing of teachers who participated in the program increased significantly in the four attributes of student argument writing--content, structure, stance, and conventions. Full results can be found here. 
Lisa Gusewelle takes the latest instructional materials for a walk.

The National Writing Project has developed a rich body of materials, from mini-units and other instructional materials, to formative assessment tools, videos, handouts and more to support argument writing in grades 4-12. 

Lisa Gusewell, Kelly Sassi, and Angie Hase (left to right) analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the RRVWP in scaling up the C3WP
Also, we can begin getting more excited for STEAM lessons as well. Argument mini units range from scientific topic such as nutrition all the way to space debris. This is a great year for cross-curricular lessons!
Angie Hase works with our site's coach for the C3WP, Casey Olson of the Elk River Writing Project in Montana.

While at the launch, Kelly, Angie and Lisa were introduced to the latest developments in these materials, tried out some mini-units, brainstormed problems and solutions for our writing site, heard about others' successes, and listened to a presentation from the lead researchers, Alix Gallagher and CJ Park, from SRI Education

Want to hear about some creative lesson plans? NWP National Director Elyse Eidman--Aadahl showed us American Creed, a new film from PBS about what it means to be an American, and your students can participate to by writing about what they think it means to be American. This program will be especially exciting for those TCs who participated in Letters to the Next President, as this program will have a similar publishing platform for student writers. 

Want to get involved in the C3WP? We are now recruiting the next cohort of teachers to experience the materials and develop leadership skills for sharing it across North Dakota. The format for this Advanced Institute will be a 3-day launch August 8-10th followed by monthly meetings during the academic year. You can Apply here:

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Weekend Writing Prompt

School’s out for summer! If you’re a teacher, write a reflection on a peak and valley of the school year. If you’re not a teacher, look back on your school days and write about a memory that sticks in your mind.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Scholastic Spotlight: Zach Howatt

More Than One Weekend

Howatt, Zach

Grade:  12
School:  Northern Cass Public School, Hunter ND
Educator:  Brittany Breiland
AWARD:  Gold Key, flash fiction

They both had paper name tags pressed to their chests– the tour guide insisted she know everyone’s names, even though they would only be on campus for one weekend– but the mother had simply written on hers (in lower case letters) “parent” to deter confusion, while the daughter’s tag was completely blank. There wasn’t anything to be done about that.
She and her mother had broken unceremoniously from the pack, leaving the Memorial Union to have a chat outside. The folders, flyers, t-shirt, and tuition pricing flopped over the girl’s folded arms like fly-attracting salmon drying in the heat of the day.