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

Anoka-Hennepin students attend Young Authors Conference(05/30/2024) Over 450 fourth- and fifth-grade students and just over 200 sixth through eighth graders from elementary and middle schools across the district turned a new page May 28-30, traveling to Bethel University in Arden Hills to attend a Young Authors Conference - along with students from 50 other schools in the Twin Cities. The event was a one-day field trip and gave students with a passion for reading and writing the unique opportunity 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 25 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 surprises, burying treasure in a story, fantasy and science-fiction, making comics, conquering fear and basing writing off of a true story.

It was the 33rd conference held in its history, offered by SparkPath (formerly Success Beyond the Classroom). Students were welcomed with a theme of celebrating imagination and kicked off the day by hearing from a panel of authors from Minnesota, including Abby Cooper, Peter Pearson, Maya Washington, Anthony Walsh, Sarah Warren and Douglas Wood. The panel was moderated by popular author of young adult novels, J. M. Lee, who is most known for the book “The Nightland Express,” and “The Dark Crystal” books - which inspired an Emmy-award winning series on Netflix.

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.

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.