These children were taking part in a two-week summer camp designed to hone their science and writing skills as citizen scientists. The camp was developed as part of the Intersections project and involved a partnership between Colorado State University’s Writing Project and the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.
In designing the program, the organizers wrote in their final report, “We believed that even young students have the capacity for developing civic agency if they are equipped with advocacy, leadership, and literacy skills.”
On the surface at least, writing and science don’t seem to be natural partners. But the writers and scientists in this project found that, together, they could create a richer, more rewarding project than if they had done it alone.
Poets helped the children see water in a new light. Digital tools and texts helped the youth better understand water issues locally and globally. Students’ labs encompassed the entire museum, university classrooms, the nearby fields, and, of course, the Poudre River, “as it rushed down the canyon and flowed right behind the museum itself.”
“In the process,” the organizers wrote, “students gained access to a multitude of resources and people,” including scientists and artists across the local community.
The partners have since expanded the two-week camp with offerings during the school year. This extended time frame allowed both the Writing Project and the museum staff to forge deeper and more sustained connections.
“We wanted students to care about science learning,” the partners wrote in their report, “because they care about the local and global contexts all of us inhabit and because they believe their voice has a rightful place in conversations where science is concerned.”
The students, the partners wrote, saw themselves “as confident, scientifically informed youth advocates with the authority to add their voices to conversations about why water matters in Fort Collins and across the globe.”
The Writing Project and the museum plan to continue its rich partnership beyond the scope of this project because, they wrote, “we can accomplish more together than either of us can accomplish alone.”
Follow this blueprint to create a similar program.