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A nonfiction story: Hundreds of elementary students visit college campus to explore and develop advanced writing skills

Young Authors Conference at Bethel University(06/02/2023) Over 480 fourth- and fifth-grade students from elementary schools across the district turned a new page May 30 and 31, traveling to Bethel University in Arden Hills to attend a Young Authors Conference - along with students from 11 other schools in the Twin Cities. The event was a one-day field trip and provided students with a passion for reading and writing new opportunities to learn from and write with Minnesota authors. 

“The conference allows students to envision themselves as authors and foster their love and interest in writing for future learning opportunities,” explained Chad Libby, Anoka-Hennepin Teaching and Learning Specialist for Elementary Talent Development. Libby coordinated students attending the conference with chaperone teachers from each of the district’s 26 elementary schools. 

Students were able to choose from and participate in a variety of breakout sessions to learn new strategies, ideas and skills to become better writers. Sessions focused on a range of topics, including developing characters, turning stories into song or poetry, transforming personal narrative into fiction, bringing scenes to life, crafting surprise, burying treasure in a story, fantasy and science-fiction, making comics, conquering fear and basing writing off of a true story.

It was the 32nd conference held in its history and the first year that district students were able to attend since 2019. The conference is offered by SparkPath (formerly Success Beyond the Classroom). Students were welcomed with a steel drum performance and a keynote presentation from Anika Fajardo, an award-winning author living in Minneapolis, who may be most well-known by students for writing Encanto: A Tale of Three Sisters, the middle-grade tie-in novel for the Disney film, Encanto. Fajardo’s presentation aimed to encourage the young writers to use their own experiences as inspiration in their writing, as any moment or memory can become a story.

Before leaving for the day, an open mic gave students the chance to share what they experienced with the group or reflect on the day.

“The Young Authors Conference was a great experience to learn different strategies to improve our writing,” said Paige Peters, a fourth-grade student from Rum River Elementary School. “It was also very fun to see students from other schools that I know from sports and other activities. I love to write stories and poems and I’m going to fill up more notebooks this summer!” 

Other programs and academic competitions SparkPath coordinates for districts and schools in the Twin Cities metro area include a Creativity Festival, STEMLink, CreativeCon, the Knowledge Bowl and the Twin Cities Regional Spelling Bee.


Breakout sessions at Young Authors Conference 

Breakout sessions at Young Authors Conference