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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

November 6, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Students performing their own stories find relevance in school

Students from Scriber Lake High School will perform their own stories in "Behind Closed Doors."

Students from Scriber Lake High School will perform their own stories in “Behind Closed Doors.”

In the search for ways to make schoolwork relevant to students, Marjie Bowker, who teaches English at Edmonds’ Scriber Lake High School, may have hit the jackpot.

Her students — many of them credit-deficient, involved in gangs or otherwise difficult to reach — are now clamoring to participate in Bowker’s “Write to Right” program.

The curriculum, which Bowker created with memoirist Ingrid Ricks after reading her book “Hippie Boy,” teaches ninth graders how to excavate their personal stories, structure them for publication and perform these works for the public. On Friday, at 1 p.m., they will present “Behind Closed Doors: Stories from the Inside Out” at the Seattle Public Theater, located in Bathhouse Theater on Green Lake.

Much of the work covers tough material, including struggles with sexual identity, addiction, self-harm, depression, assault and parents in prison.

“These are edgy stories, as edgy as it gets,” said Bowker, who was searching for a way to teach Common Core standards — in this case, nonfiction narrative — to students who’d previously found little about school that interested them.

“It was very hard to make things relevant to kids who were dealing with so many issues at home — poverty, abuse and gang related activities,” she said. “I knew I had to do something different to connect. Otherwise, I’d have to get out of the profession. I’m not against Common Core standards. I just think we need a different way to enter into meaning.”

Other schools around the region have begun to take note.

Over the next three months, Meadowdale, Edmonds-Woodway and Lynnwood high schools — all in the Edmonds School District — will begin working with Ricks to create their own Write to Right programs, as will the New Start School in Highline.

While test scores at Scriber Lake don’t reflect the enthusiasm Bowker sees in her students — more than half of whom have special needs or are low-income — she says their confidence about taking state exams has notably increased.

“This population generally is not much for test-taking, but after they write their stories, they are so much more invested when moving on to other writers, other literature and poetry. It’s like all of a sudden, they’re participants. They’re writers with something to say.”

Friday’s performance, directed  by Samara Lerman, will be the second collaboration between Scriber Lake and Seattle Public Theater. The 30-minute performance will be followed by a short Q&A with the student performers.

The event is free and open to the public.

Comments | More in News | Topics: common core, Scriber Lake High

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