Monday, October 29, 2018

Reviving Reading: 2018 MCTE and Penny Kittle

Reviving Reading: 2018 MCTE and Penny Kittle
by Angela Hase
October 29, 2018

I am sitting at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, Minnesota, listening to Penny Kittle talk about reading. It is beautiful here. The trees are auburn, gold, scarlet; there are so many of them. And so many pumpkins. They line the roads, form intricate designs and patterns, pile on top of each other to build towers. I can see now why pumpkins exist. It is not to spice our lattes, but to create a fall fairytale in Minnesota. They will live here, the pumpkins, intricately displayed, until they die. A beautiful death if ever there ever was one.

The Slow Death
Penny Kittle is also talking about death: the death of reading. Kittle tells the story of a kindergartener she met, years ago, while she was coaching a kindergarten teacher. The student was so excited to share a story she wrote about a brown dog. Kittle shows us a picture of a little girl,

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Visiting the Scholastic Office in New York City

by Kelly Sassi

The newly remodeled offices include lots of art from the books published by Scholastic, Inc. 
Today, I visited the new Scholastic offices in New York City at 130 Mercer Street. The reason for my visit was to attend the board meeting of the Alliance of Young Artists and Writers. Who are they? The Alliance is the nonprofit organization that runs the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. The Red River Valley Writing Project is in its 5th year of serving as an Affiliate for the Awards. We partner with Plains Art Museum to promote the awards, encourage submissions, oversee blind adjudication, and award gold key, silver key, and honorable mention awards to North Dakota students ages 13 to 18.

The board of the Alliance has an Affiliate Advisory Council, made up of 7 members. My role on the Council is as representative of the 11 writing project sites who serve as state affiliates for the Awards. This is my second of three years serving on the Council. I've learned a lot more about how the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards work, which helps our work here in North Dakota. I have also passed on feedback to Scholastic that has improved how the Awards work. One of the big changes is the use of online submissions and payments.

After the board meeting, M. R. Robinson (the owner of Scholastic) hosted a dinner at the posh Crosby Hotel. During the dinner, people shared more personal stories about why they are inspired and motivated to work on the Awards. One board member, Andy Merson, was so moved by our work here in North Dakota that he took out his checkbook and generously wrote a check--right then and there-- for $2000 to support us! People really do care about creative teens in North Dakota and want them to have access to the recognition that the Awards provides. I remember when our whole budget for the first year of running the state Scholastic Program was only $500 (and it hasn't increased much since), so this kind of gift really makes a difference!

Here is the report I presented to the board:

Report from the Writing Project Affiliates
Conference Proposal Accepted
The Philadelphia, New Hampshire, Northwestern, and Red River Valley writing projects, with

Friday, August 31, 2018

Scholastic Spotlight: Payton Johnson

Rock Bottom

Honorable Mention

Author: Payton Johnson
12th Grade
Educator: Shawn Krinke
Northern Cass

I heard them laughing,
when I couldn't do my best.
They aimed their axe at my base,
so I took my final breath.

The base I built for years,
that held me up so high.
It faltered to the bottom.
Splinters and leaves colored the sky.

I hit the ground hard,
it was cold I do remember.
The others down here don't mind,
they told me it'd get better.

The sun isn't so warm here,
the flowers are dead.
I try not to think about what could've been,
but the mistakes echo in my head.

Tomorrow I'll replant my roots.
I tell myself I'll breathe again.
they say rock bottom has the best foundation
to build and grow within.

Friday, August 24, 2018

3rd Video Game Design Workshop Engages Students with Story Elements

by Dave Binkard, RRVWP TC and owner of PODS Game Design

This summer, we had another successful workshop with students of the Turtle Mountain Reservation! For this workshop, we used RPG Maker MV, a popular, powerful, and easy to use program to build our video games. The theme of this year’s workshop was the idea of the branching storyline, where the player would be forced to make a critical decision that would affect the rest of their game. We studied some examples from other popular games with branching storylines, such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, for examples and even drew upon the classic Dungeons and Dragons manuals for even more inspiration.
Once we had our ideas and a basis for our characters, conflict, and plot, it was time to get to work to bring their vision into reality. After going over the ins and outs of making maps and scripting events, the students’ stories began to come together as they games began to take shape. One student saw their game’s hero start the game imprisoned and have a chance at freedom--at a morally ambiguous expense, of course. A group of two students built a modern-day mystery game, where people were disappearing, but horrendous monsters made in a secret lab were beginning to appear in a quiet town. Naturally, the two situations were related. Yet another student, a veteran of the two previous PODS Game Design workshops held at Turtle Mountain, drafted a massive storyline and several key characters for their game. At the end of the workshop, their game, a long way from being completely finished, had a very strong start and structure to build on.
As the workshop went on, we covered a multitude of topics, but none perhaps as impactful as cut-scene development. The students learned how to create complex cut-scenes involving many characters, movement around the screen, and expressing emotion and thoughts through various means. One student commented, " I liked that [Dave] taught us how to make games interesting. For example, we learned that knowing what your story's about before you start developing it is very important, as is dialogue."
Turtle Mountain students used Scholastic journals and writing workshop to develop the storyline for their video games
In the end, the students not only got a playable version of their game, but also the development files for their game and an access code for RPG Maker MV, so they can keep working on their games at home. Video game design ties so many disciplines together. From story development to understanding programming logic to creating art and graphic assets to juggling mathematical formulas and equations, it is an excellent tool for learning.
We are grateful to the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers for the grant that funded this workshop and to NDSU's Office of Teaching and Learning for funding one of the workshop alums, Rick Belgarde, to return in the role of workshop assistant this year. Rick is a sophomore at NDSU, majoring in mechanical engineering. 

Rick Belgarde performs at the Turtle Mountain Teen Art & Workshop in 2015 as a participant

 PODS Game Design is glad to have led this workshop and we look forward to what summer 2019 brings!

Scholastic Spotlight: Diane Mutumukeye

Author: Diane Mutumukeye
12th Grade
Educator: Leah Julke

I was born in Congo and grew up in Rwanda. We moved frequently in Rwanda because my dad was looking for better jobs and places for our family to live. I would guess we moved about ten times in about a few years. We moved from big huts in one camp to big straw houses in another camp. We never had much stuff to move, and when we did move, we would often throw some of our stuff away or give it to the neighbors.
When I was about 6 years old, I started going to school in the state of Nyagatare. I remember having to walk to school with my best friend and it would take us about 25 minutes to get there. The school I used to go to was called Karangizi Primary School. It was far from my house, so we would wake up early in the morning, about 6 o’clock, to go to school.
One dark morning, while walking to school, my friend was crossing the street. She looked cautiously at both sides of the road and didn't see any cars or bikes passing by. When it was my turn, I looked too and saw nothing. While crossing the road, a motorbike came from nowhere and hit me. Motorbikes in Africa are dangerous because they go so fast and are difficult to see. I fell down and tried to scream but couldn't. After I was hit, the guy got off the bike and carried me to the side of the road, near a big hole. He laid me by it and rode away. My friend took my shoes off my feet, so no one would steal them and ran back home to tell my mom what happened. I was in so much pain. I felt like I was going to die. Eventually, a policeman saw me and rushed me to the hospital. When I got there, I received stitches on my face and had surgery on my leg. Feeling the pain, I cried and called for my mom but she was not there yet.
My friend had ran to my house and told my mom what happened. My mom didn’t have a phone and my dad was not with us because he was working in another country. When my mom heard the news, she asked one of our rich neighbors to give her a ride to the hospital. When she arrived, I was out of surgery and had bandages everywhere. When I opened my eyes, I saw the guy that hit me and his mom standing by me. In my mind I was thinking, “How did he get here? I thought he ran away?” His mom apologized and they paid the money for my hospital bills. Eventually, my mom took me home.
For awhile after the accident, I was in a wheelchair with a cast on my leg and bandages around my head and arms. I was really thankful to God that I was still alive. At the same time, I was not happy because my sister would not come near me because of the way I looked. She would not even eat with us or sleep by me because she was afraid of me. One day, she was with her friend and I tried to talk to her, but she ran away. She didn't want to see me. I must have looked like a mummy to her. It took me a long time to feel better. At times, I wondered if I would ever walk again. I thank Jesus, who is my “Promota,” my Everything, who saved my life.
Later that year, my siblings and I went to stay with my grandpa and grandma because my mom was pregnant and needed to rest. When my dad called to say that she had the baby, we all went to see her. After that day, chose to stay with her while my dad was working at a job nearby. Everyday, my little sister and I used to bring my dad food at work. On our way back to our house, there was a house that nobody lived in. It looked like a haunted house. When my sister and I passed by, we saw a small baby lying in the grass. There was blood everywhere. We walked closer and saw it was a little baby and it looked dead. It so very small. I felt so bad and very sad. No one can imagine seeing a baby with its head cut off. We ran home screaming for our mom. When we took her back to the house, there was a bunch of people looking at the baby. Because of this, we went back home and packed our stuff and moved back to my grandparent’s place. They lived in Kibungo which was far from our current home. My dad did not come with us. He went to Kenya because there were jobs there. He sent us money and eventually we went to live in Kenya too. We stayed there for two years.
While living in Kenya, I went to a school called Bethlehem. There were mean teachers at school who used to beat me. They made me clean the whole school by myself when all of the other students were gone. Sometimes, it was almost midnight before I got to go home. One day my parents told me, “You won’t have to stay at that school much longer. We are going to America soon!”
“Uvuze gute? Ati America!?” I screamed. I was so happy that I started joyfully jumping. For the next couple of days, my family and I got ready to go to America. We went shopping, packing and spending time with our family and saying goodbye to our friends. We bought a lot of things like clothes, shoes and new bags. The next morning, my family members came over and we had a little party. After the party, we prayed for a little bit.
When it was time to leave I went to my friends and told them “Amahoro abane namwe.” We all went to the airport and boarded the airplane. When it went up into the sky, I was praying. I said to myself, “God be with us in this journey and guide us wherever we are. Are we going to heaven with our eyes open? Ndibaza.” Eventually, we arrived at the Fargo airport. My cousins and our case manager came to meet us and hug us at the airport. They started showing us everything.
When we got outside, I saw white things falling on me and when I looked up I was wondering how could powder come from heaven? All my cousins started laughing at me and one said, “Diane that's not powder. Here in North Dakota, we have something called winter. When it's winter time, it gets cold and we call this snow.” I laughed at myself.
When I first arrived in America, I was in 5th grade and my English wasn’t very good. The first day I went to school, kids made fun of me. They were saying I was so African as an insult, meaning I didn’t belong. They also said other mean things that hurt me. I didn’t have friends and I was lonely. I was really happy to go to middle school, but it wasn’t until high school that I started to be more confident and get more more friends.
At times, I would think about the loved ones I left back home. They were all working hard to find a better life, to make money for food, water, homes and clothes for their kids. They even needed money to pay for their school fees. When I think about my life in America, I am happy and thankful that I am here. I am reminded that sometimes I need to spend time thinking about where I came from and maybe someday in life I will go back home to visit.

Kinyarwanda Language Glossary

I wondered.

“Uvuze gute? Ati America!?”
“You said what? America?”

“Amahoro abane namwe.”
“Peace be with you.”