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Aug 02


Take a stand. Don't be a bystander.

Pick an issue that matters to you, research it and advocate for it. Get your class involved.

"There are two kinds of evil people in this world. Those who do evil things and those who see evil things and don't try to stop it."
- Janis from "Mean Girls"

Consider the above statement. Now consider how you could go from inaction to action on an issue that matters to you. The idea behind this project is to not be a bystander, but to take action, take a stand for what you believe in.

The project:

  • Either as an individual or with a partner, pick an issue that you are passionate about. It can be anything: animal abuse, water conservation, human rights, bullying, any injustice you have seen or experienced, etc.
  • Research the issue and take notes; look for examples of the issue playing out in the media; look for examples of action being taken on the issue.
  • On your blog, write about why you picked this issue, what you learned -- and make a list of several ways people can help (Example: Donate to the ASPCA or contact your local congressman to encourage them to support a bill.) 
  • Add audio of you (and your partner) talking about why this issue matters and how people can help.
  • Add a photo slideshow. These can be photos you have taken or downloads of photos that reflect the issue (make sure to provide appropriate credit.)
  • Finally, check out what your classmates are doing -- and make a comment on their blogs!
This resource was adapted from a lesson by teacher Caroline Legan, Orleans, VT.

Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, John Ireland, 2014

Aug 01
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Migrant Mother -- Background

Jul 28


Come up with your own utopian society. 

Use this challenge as a fun writing activity that asks you tough questions about community. In the end, you might even have a really engaging discussion about what a "perfect" community really is. 

Think about the town, country, and world you live in now. What are the flaws of these communities? 

Create the "perfect" society. What would the government be like? Economy? Education? Functionality? Write about a world you think would be perfect to live in. 

After you write, show your friends your perfect world. Discuss with them whether or not it would be better to live in your perfect world, or a flawed world. Look at the worlds they created too. 

[Creative Commons License: Leo the Sound Monster, non-commercial, https://www.flickr.com/photos/soundmonster/​]

Jul 28


Art in your community

Write an opinion piece about an iconic piece of art in your community (or your state). Add photos of the art from different perspectives at different times of day. Send it to the local newspaper as an illustrated opinion piece.

Public art can be one of the joys of community. It can also irritate, confuse or offend people. If there is an iconic piece of art in your town, reflect on it. Do you like it? Does it help define your community in a positive or negative way? Has it been there so long that it is invisible?

  • Find out more about the piece of art (the artist, the name, when it was installed, what it means, etc.)
  • Visit the piece of art at various times of day and take photos from different perspectives.
  • Write a review of the piece. Include the pertinent details (see above) and give your opinion about it.
  • Share your writing and photos with a friend or family member who knows the art and ask for their thoughts. (You might be surprised at their reaction.)
  • If you are swayed in your opinion, you might consider revising it. If you are firm in your original opinion, give your writing another careful look for typos and grammatical errors.
  • Send the package -- the writing and the best two photos -- to your local newspaper as an opinion piece.

[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Madi Cohen, 2016]

Jul 28


Is there a place in your community that you remember fondly and it's now gone?

Is there a special place in your community that is under threat? You can advocate for this place. Write a letter to the local newspaper. Contact officials and make a strong, persuasive argument.

  • Is there a special place in your community that has been changed, removed or is under threat? A playground where you met some of your best childhood friends? A swimming hole? A forest? A sledding hill? 
  • Don't stand by and watch.
  • Organize like-minded people. Write letters to the editor and local officials. Include photos and your best memories of this place. AND make a strong persuasive argument for why this matters -- not just to you, but to the community. 
  • Ask for a meeting with the officials, and make your case, face-to-face.
  • It might not be too late. Act now!

[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]

Jul 27


Where do you feel most at home?

Use words and/or photos to describe the place where you feel most at home.  The best pieces will be selected for Young Writers Project's digital magazine, The Voice.

If we are fortunate, there is a special place where we feel at home. It could be the family kitchen, a favorite beach, a treehouse, a bookstore, a bedroom. Where do you feel safe, content, at home? Describe this place.
Or create a slideshow that captures "home."

(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Dylan Sayamouangkhua, 2015)

Jul 27


Interview an elder in your town. Get the facts and tell their story.

Research and interview an elder in your town. You will create a valuable digital story that will provide a unique look at the history of your community.

This challenge will require several sessions -- but it will be worth it!   (Click here for a resource for this challenge.)

Choose an elder in your community -- it could be a family member, a friend, or someone you've never met, but who is willing to talk to you -- and interview them. Get them to tell you stories. (If it's a relative, get them to tell you a story that they haven't told before, or, at least they haven't told you.) (Ask for help from a teacher, family member, even the staff of a local retirement home.)

1.  Get the story  

  • Before your interview, prepare your questions -- everything you'll need for a fair and complete profile. Correct spelling of the person's name? Date of birth? How long they have lived in the community? Family members? Occupation? etc.
  • And because you're curious and you want to write a great story, think of questions that will elicit more than a yes or no answer. Ask your interview subject about anything surprising, interesting, unusual, funny that they think people should know about them.
  • Set up the interview. Bring an audio recorder and ask your interview subject if they would mind being recorded. This helps with accuracy and will be an important element of your digital story.
  • If your interview subject has one really amazing story, you might decide to focus solely on that one story. Or you might choose to write a full profile and just include the story as part of it. (Either way, make sure to ask plenty of questions to cover all the bases.)
  • After your interview, look over your notes. If you see gaps, you might ask for a followup interview.

2.  Write  

  • With the interview information still fresh in your mind, write your first draft on your blog. Get it all down. Listen to your audio recording to fill in any gaps and/or to accurately convey some of the best quotes. Read it over and take a first pass in organizing it.

3. Comment

  •  With a classmate, exchange posts and comment on each other's pieces, noting details that work, questions, confusion, flow. 

4. Write again  

  • With comments in mind, revise your work, proofread and polish it. Reading the piece aloud helps highlight mistakes and stumbles.

5. Add sound and images  

  • If you have audio and photos from the interview, you can create an amazing digital story. There are many options, including narrating the story using your written piece, including the back and forth conversation from your interview, pulling together the best quotes, adding current and historic photos, etc. Audacity and PhotoShop are great tools (more in Resources).

Remember to check out this resource for inspiration: Frank Glazer - An Elder Story.

Exercise Extension:

Invite senior storytellers to your class to tell their stories. Interviewing and writing their stories can be an amazing group project!


(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Madeline Green, 2015)

Jul 27


What does your community look like during a holiday? 

This is a year-long project. Create a photo story that shows how your community celebrates various holidays through the seasons. 

  • Reflect on how your community celebrates holidays. During these holiday times, take a walk around your community and document what you see.
  • Take photos of decorations, parades, that special spooky Halloween house, the Harvest market, anything that captures the essence of the time. 
  • Observe and write down the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings you encounter on your walk. Record as much detail as you can.
  • Collect the photos and descriptions for a year-long photo story of your town.
  • Is there a holiday that is missing in your town? Make a proposal to your town government to organize an event around it. (They are more likely to react positively if you offer them a solution, rather than a problem.)

[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang, 2015]

Jul 27

Character's Playlist

You thought you had the perfect character, but now you’re stuck. Get unstuck by creating a playlist for your character.

You thought you had the perfect character, but now you’re stuck. Get unstuck by creating a playlist for your character.

You want your character(s) to seem real, so you need to get to know them. Figure out what emotions motivate and define the character(s). What are some potential conflicts? And ... key to this exercise ... what music do they listen to?

1. For each character, think about the personality you have imagined for them, and then go deeper. What really ticks your character off? Where does your character feel most at peace, most at home? What do they like? Dislike? Who are they friendly with? Who do they dislike? Why? What are the back stories behind each of their emotions?
2. Start with your main character and create a blog entry in which you post the character's favorite playlist. Upload a few songs from the playlist to your blog and in the body of the blog, explain why each song is meaningful to your character.
Why create a playlist?

  • It will make you think more deeply about your character's emotions and goals and motivations.
  • It might inspire someone else who is reading your post to make their own characters deeper.

3. Listen to the playlist and jot down descriptive words that help explain your character. Music is almost a backdrop for your character's life.
4. Share your blog with a friend, classmate, teacher and ask them to listen to the playlist and suggest one potential conflict this character could be confronted with (one that would lead to a good story).
4. Take your own understanding of the character and the best suggestion(s) from your peers and/or teacher to create your character's story.

Click here for free sound resources.

(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang, 2016)


In most communities of a reasonable size, there is a "heart" of town. What's yours?

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