● The Young Artists and Writers Project (YAWP) is a collaboration with Stony Brook Southampton’s
MFA Program in Creative Writing and Film.
● The program is dedicated to mentoring middle and high school students in the development of creative expression and critical thinking through writing and the visual arts.
● Writing professionals from Stony Brook visit our 8th grade ELA classes in the spring, and engage students in a twoweek, innovative playwriting workshop.
● Students write, act in, produce, and perform original twocharacter, oneact plays. The
writing, workshopping, and acting exercises are the students’ favorites.
● Student plays are submitted to a panel of professional judges, and each year, one play is chosen per school.
● Professional directors work with student actors, a student director, student stage crew, as well as the playwright, to produce a professional play that is performed at Stony Brook’s Avram theater in Southampton, along with the plays of other schools. This collaboration with other skills is invaluable.
● The Shelter Island Educational Foundation has been sponsoring this program for many years. We feel this learning experience is an invaluable, educational rite of passage for our school’s eighth graders. We appreciate the value that this program brings to our youngsters immensely!
The YAWP cycle began this week in preparation for the performance at Shelter Island School on May 10, 2019 and at Stony Brook University in Southampton on May 11, 2019. The eighth graders who participated in the program were engaged and enthusiastic. The facilitators, Bill and Victor, had asked the students to come in with a theme from a previous day’s focus that they might want to develop. Other facets of writing such as conflict, character, setting, plot will become the focus of subsequent classes. The presenters engage the students in a way that is structured, yet empowering and entertaining. Students respond in kind and the learning environment is rich. Classes focus on a specific aspect of writing in a way that allows all students to participate and enjoy.
I was there for a class designed to address conflict. Beyond this day’s exercise, students will work on character, setting, plot, …. all necessary facets of writing a viable play. The students broke into groups of two…. A and B. B was to ask A to give him/her the remote. A was to refuse. They were to write this dialogue between them in an attempt to resolve the physical possession of said remote. The results were amazing. The language was honest: some were threatening (in a funny way); some used a fair and reasoned approach; others simply demanded their share of the remote. When the students shared their dialogues, I thought, “What a wonderful way to begin a lesson on a genre that relies almost universally on conversations between characters!” The facilitators brought the students to a place where they were comfortable and gave them a topic with which all were experienced. The adults validated and encouraged the students from the very beginning.
This program is an excellent way to have the students experience what it is to write a play and then to bring it to a performance level. The class flew by! Everyone participated on his/her own level and all seemed to enjoy creating, sharing and listening.
These funds are provided by a donor who has designated their use for development of writing. The experience is one of the more enduring that students carry with them to and beyond graduation. This is an authentic approach to learning that students embrace and “run with”. The donor should be applauded for offering the students of the Shelter Island School a platform such as this to enhance the learning and experience of the eighth grade ELA curriculum. I can’t wait to see how the program progresses.
SIEF Board Member
YAWP ~ The Beginning 2019