As the Communications Manager, I am assigned the fun and interesting task of interviewing staff about their work. With my background in creative writing, I am particularly eager to learn more about the RISE and Tell Summer Camp, which focuses on writing and storytelling.
Erin Roberts, Summer Camps Lead Instructor, is responsible for creating and delivering the curriculum for RISE and Tell and she sits down with me virtually to fill me in on her experience. “I’ve been working as a one-to-one instructor with LDS for two years now,” Erin tells me. “With my other work, I’ve done group facilitation. This was a nice merge of those two worlds.”
Erin is able to both lead group activities and work individually with kids, where she learns their fears around writing and how she can help break down those fears. “I just really enjoyed doing this over the summer—taking those two things that I love doing and having them go together.”
The camp’s curriculum is centred on a different writing genre each day:
Tuesday: Biography and Autobiography
Wednesday: Writing for Media (storyboarding and screenwriting)
Thursday: Graphic Novels
Friday: Oral Story Telling with an Indigenous focus
On Monday, kids learned how to use their senses to describe their natural world and write about it in a poem.
On Tuesday, “One camper wrote this amazing zine as an autobiography and it had all the details he needed. And he was one who said, ‘I don’t want to do this. I can’t write. I can’t do it.’ And then he wrote the most!” Another camper “made a zine every day on a different topic! It’s been great to see her find a way to express herself and what she’s interested in.”
“Wednesday was movies, so talking about stories from a plot perspective: rising action, climax, falling action, resolution—those mechanics of a story—but thinking about it from a movie perspective to, kind of, sneak in that lesson,” Erin says, laughing.
Erin used the Disney movie Frozen as an example: “‘What happens in the beginning? What is that called?’ I try to find ways to make it accessible to all learners—because they are all at different stages—and then we can adapt. One camper got so into it that she wrote two pages of a movie story and plotted it all out and cast it and everything!”
“That’s so great!” I say, “I did an MFA in Creative Writing and when I took Intro to Creative Writing, they actually used the movie Wall-E as an example of all the perfect elements of a three-act structure of a movie.”
“I’ll have to remember that for next year!” Erin says.
On Thursday, the kids worked on graphic novels. They presented their stories, beaming with pride. Erin explains: “I wanted to have them showing their work and taking pride in their work. We talked about the different ways a graphic novel tells a story…or, how can we tell a story without any words? Here’s a sequence of three things happening—what’s the story and how do we know?”
“They basically got a mini-MFA!” I interject. “This is all stuff I went over in my MFA! These kids are ready for graduate school!”
Friday focused on oral storytelling. Erin brought in some improve games to show how a storyteller uses their voice and their body to make their story more interesting and exciting. She included perspectives on Indigenous storytelling to weave in themes that might get missed in school.
“Structuring the camp with a different theme every day is more accessible and engaging…. I live by the mantra, Be Who You Needed When You Were Younger, and this is the kind of camp that I would’ve loved when I was younger.”
“My son has a learning disability,” I tell Erin. “He was always so creative, and to this day he is always creating, so I think finding each kid’s strengths can really make them feel successful.”
“And showing them the strengths they already had, but didn’t know.”
Instructor Erin Roberts comes to LDS with a background in childcare, support work, and youth education. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice from UBC. In addition to tutoring at LDS, she is a program leader for youth education programs.
Communications and Fundraising Manager Sierra Gemma brings 10 years of experience in communications and writing to LDS, in particular in support of grants and fundraising. She has a BA in History and Sociology and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.