Friday, October 23, 2009

File Under "How Cool is THAT?"

My kids have to create a newsletter to satisfy some of their school requirements. It is the motivation for writing assignments of many different types, and an exercise in dealing with deadlines.

We didn't take the newsletter very seriously last year, because I let the kids come up with the idea and do it as their own thing. I thought the positive feedback they received from their first issue last year would be enough motivation to keep going, but it wasn't, and since I'd let them be in charge of it, I had to let it die. We finished out the year with only one and a half issues. Pathetic.

This year, I have taken over as editor-in-chief. I give the writing assignments; I set the deadlines; I put it together. My son is rightfully outraged. This was his job last year! I'm glad he feels upset, honestly. I want him to eventually take it over again, by next school year at the latest. I am only trying to raise the bar on quality and frequency, until they really get it.

So, I've been cracking the whip, at least lightly, to whip them into shape for putting out quality writing in a timely fashion. Please note: the whipping motif used here is figurative.

Now, rewind a few weeks. When we returned from Yellowstone, the kids were very excited about the national parks. They had completed the Junior Ranger program there, as well as the Young Scientist program, and were gung ho to tackle the Web Rangers program on the NPS website. Elli finished her Web Ranger requirements first, and NPS contacted me to get permission and a mailing address to mail her a patch as her reward. In my reply, I thanked the park service for putting so much time, effort and expense into these educational programs for kids. They really are excellent. I mentioned in my note how the kids would be writing articles about their experiences with these programs for their newsletter.

To my surprise, I received a note back immediately from Tom Davies, an NPS employee in Philadelphia who works on the Web Rangers program. His note included the following:

Thank you very much for your kind note about the Junior Ranger
programs. I am so glad that they are meeting your needs and are engaging
your kids as well.

Would you be willing to send me a copy of their newsletter? It is always
nice to have such things on hand when people ask about the importance of
these programs.

Needless to say, the kids were thrilled to find out that someone from NPS wanted to see their newsletter. It was a wonderful motivation to keep them on track with quality articles. Mr. Davies was going to read their work!

Last night, we finished the current issue of the newsletter, The Crooked Pine Chronicle. I sent out digital copies (PDFs)to friends and family members for whom I had email addresses. I also sent a copy to Mr. Davies, at the National Park Service.

Here is where the title of this post comes into play. When I got up this morning, I checked my email and found, among many kind responses to the kids' work, the following note from Mr. Davies:

Dear Sherry, Nathaniel and Elliana,

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful publication with me. I have
taken the liberty of sharing it with Wyndeth Davis, the National Park
Service's 's Servicewide Education Coordinator, who has overall
responsibility for the Junior Ranger and WebRanger programs. We'd like to
take a couple of copies to share at next week's NPS National Education
Council meeting in Washington. Materials like your Crooked Pine Chronicle
make a strong case for the value of the programs.

Please do keep me on your mailing list for future issues.

The kids are beside themselves with excitement. Their newsletter is headed to an important meeting in Washington, D.C. It could help determine funding for a program on a national level. Simply put, their writing assignments may have an impact on federal policy!

I really don't think I will have any problems getting their writing assignments from them when we start on our next issue, next week.


By the way, if you would like to be added to our mailing list, please send me your email address.


Cindee said...

"THAT" is way cool! Please add me to your list. mail AT cindee DOT net

Thanks a bunch!

alison said...

Yea! This is wonderful in so many ways. It's great the kids are excited about writing and that they got such immediate and positive feedback.

Would you please send one to me?

strider1971 said...

awesome! add me to the list as well looking forward

CML_Shearings said...

Way to go! Here's my e-mail for the newsletter: