Camp inspires young authors

A project spearheaded by three University of Central Arkansas faculty members has helped channel the energy of aspiring young writers.

The camp, called “Bearswrite: From Pencils to Pixels”, helps rising fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders delve deeper into the world of writing as well as providing guidance for the campers.

“The point of the week is writing,” said camp director Dr. Donna Wake, who is teamed with Drs. Stephanie Vanderslice and Jeff Whittingham. . “We provide the kids with a lot of experiences and time for writing and guidance and structure for their writing.”

The students not only are involved with traditional writing methods, but are also introduced to writing with technology. They create digital portfolios of their work during the weeklong camp, culminating in a public performance of their work and a reception for their parents.

“The focus of the program is really the kids,” Wake said. “We really saw a need in this area for writing for kids, and particularly this age level seemed to have kind of a gap in terms of camps and availability. We just really loved writing and we wanted the kids to love writing, too.”

“The benefit to the college of education is probably getting some kids in here and getting some good information out about what good writing is and what we hope for writing in the school systems.”

The camp was started last year with seed money from the UCA Foundation. Tuition from the campers will help continue the camp, but materials used by the campers were provided by the initial grant.

This year, funding from the foundation was used to bring in children’s author Spelile Rivas to help inspire and encourage the campers.

“We saw her at the National Council for Teachers of English conference,” said Wake. “We thought she was engaging and very personable. The people with the grant told us that they usually don’t give money twice to the same organization, but we had made a strong enough case for what we were doing in bringing the author that they went ahead and gave us the funding to bring her, and we’re very grateful.”

Grants such as the one used to fund Bearswrite are made possible through unrestricted giving to the UCA Foundation’s Annual Fund. For the 2012-2013 academic year, the foundation was able to provide seed money in the amount of $35,000 for grants such as these, as well as allocate $35,000 for faculty grants this academic year.