BEYOND Insights is a community outreach program that teams up 6th graders from Lansing Public Schools with students, faculty, and volunteer staff from The College of Arts and Letters (CAL) at Michigan State University, offering a variety of workshops that involve creativity, global culture, and the arts and humanities, according to an article from CAL.
BEYOND Insights was made to bring the arts back to the students, since art programs have been cut from grade school curriculum in the Lansing school districts, The benefits of the program are twofold. While the kids get to experience not only the arts but also a college campus, the members of CAL who get to participate are rewarded as well. Two members of the WRAC Department-Danielle DeVoss (pictured right) and Heather Noel Turner -have been active members of the BEYOND Insight program, and have thoroughly enjoyed their involvement and have found the work worthwhile and fulfilling. As DeVoss said:
“I think and I really hope we planted some seeds that they can take. That’s so fulfilling.”
Heather Noel Turner is the outreach coordinator at The Writing Center, which means she facilitates, plans, reaches out to community partners and organizes pretty much anything that involves those who are not college students. Turner is also a PhD student with research interests in composition pedagogy, feminist methodologies, and visual as well as digital rhetoric.
“I get to kind of embody and live out my research interest. This is a really good avenue for me not to just analyze and research and write alone in my room about ‘what does community composing look like?’ and ‘what does visual thinking look like?’ I get to interact with a community that I care about a lot, a community I’m very dedicated to and involved in. I get to interact with them and I get to live the things I research and I get to practice the things that I say are important in my research,” she said.
Besides seeing her research at work in a real world setting, Turner (pictured left) is also able to work with kids whom she describes as “just brilliant.” Working with children is always rewarding because you’re getting the chance to see someone see the world through a fresher pair of eyes. Plus, they’re funny! In the Writing Center, the 6th graders are given the opportunity to write their own story. At each table, a staff member sits with the students to help facilitate the activity. The kids sometimes actually implemented their staff member into their stories!
For Danielle Devoss, a professor of the WRAC department, one of the most rewarding parts of working with BEYOND Insights was welcoming the students onto campus as college students. She said:
“One of my beliefs is that when they [the students] came onto campus and they got their lanyard and their nametags they were Spartans. They were MSU students. I hope, I want to believe, that treating them as such and inviting them on campus not as kids who are touring campus or kids that happen to be here on campus but as Spartans hopefully encouraged some of them who hadn’t or weren’t thinking of themselves as college students to think of themselves as college students. Like ‘I can do this, I’ve been here. This is part of my community.”
Additionally, Devoss recalls the rewarding aspect of seeing that the kids will take away something from their experiences, which is probably the most important aspect of these workshops. She said:
“One of the most memorable things to me was at the end of the day when we did a quick review and listening to them talk about what they had learned and what they were going to remember. One of the workshops I did was on typography and text and creating with letters, and listening to them just kind of talk about what they were going to take away was really, really awesome.”
Overall, BEYOND Insights not only gives 6th graders the opportunity to learn about creativity, but learn about themselves as well and what they’re capable of creating and where they’re capable of going. I think the volunteers from CAL also were able to learn more about themselves, too. After all, you never learn more about yourself than through what you create or through how you help someone else. If you’re interested in becoming involved, reach out to Danielle or Heather, and be sure to check out this video about the workshops from The Center for Language Teaching Advancement.
Images courtesy of The Creativity Exploratory and from the Center for Language Teaching Advancement.