The development of the Rural Institute programs is a most important feature of the NeWP. The Rural Institutes adds to the NeWP principles a specific focus on rural contexts for writing. Sites have included North Platte, Albion, Syracuse, Henderson, Wayne, Wallace and are planned for Ogallala, Seward, and Cedar Bluffs. NeWP hopes to add two new communities per year.
The NeWP Rural Institute Program has the following mission:
- Revitalizing rural communities through improved school/community links
- Connecting education to a sympathetic and critical understanding of rural place and heritage
- Improving the possibility for rural livelihood and career, especially for young people, through attention to economic issues in rural communities (housing, entrepreneurship, etc.)
The NeWP Rural Institutes explore writing which celebrates and examines heritage and local place. Documentation, assessment, and communication of growth in writing shows communities what students are accomplishing. During the institutes, participants look to their own experience as writers and teachers for sources of authority. Participants draw on local culture, place, heritage and community as a necessary context for their teaching and writing.
Rural Institutes meet for three weeks, all day, Monday through Thursday, in June or early July. They are organized on the Summer Institute model, with daily writing and response time (an hour and a half) and EQUIP presentations by each participating teacher or community member as standard features. Participants in the Rural Institutes have been drawn primarily from the 18 Nebraska communities that make up the School at the Center program, with some participants coming from nearby communities.
The Rural Institutes have been funded through cooperation among NeWP Teacher Consultants, NeWP Rural Voices, Country Schools program, the Nebraska Humanities Council, the Nebraska State Department of Education, and the Annenberg-funded School at the Center. All of these agencies strive to foster the development of excellent rural teaching in the context of efforts to revitalize Nebraska's rural communities.
An integral part of NeWP Rural Institutes involves field trips investigating the local communities and surrounding areas that contribute to a sense of place. Field trips include:
- Marie Ratzlaff Memorial Prairie
- Farmers' Valley Cemetery
- Bess Streeter Aldrich Home and Museum in Elmwood
- Hartley Burr Alexander House in Syracuse
- Doeden Pioneer Family Farm
- Amy Sadle's Art Gallery
- Otoe Cemetery
- Dieken Prairie
For more information, contact:
Robert Brooke, Director