Amidst midterm studying and bizarre Indiana weather patterns fourteen middle and high school students from TEAM Schools in Newark, New Jersey came to visit Indiana University to begin creating a story to send to Rwanda and form lasting bonds with their IU writing partner. The weekend started off with the kickoff event at Max’s Place: delicious pizza, good company and a wonderful array of speakers made the night a bright beginning to the rest of the TEAM visit.
The next blustery day in Bloomington, the TEAM students started off bright and early with a tour of the IU Stadium, Assembly Hall and Cook Hall before walking across campus to the Atkins LLC to tour a different living-learning center. Following this, they went on a tour of the Indiana Memorial Union, the IU Theatre and the art museum before heading back to the GV for some down time and a writing workshop led by Ali Nagle, a teacher at TEAM Academy. She taught valuable lessons to the writing partners about language usage and the appropriate level to use in writing their stories. For dinner, the students split into groups and traveled to different ethnic restaurants like Delicious Thai Kitchen, Chow Bar, and the delightful Turkuaz Café. Many of the TEAM students had never had an opportunity to try a wide variety of ethnic foods before this and came back from dinner with taste buds tingling. That night the writing partners were able to spend quality time with each other, catch up and form meaningful relationships that are essential to the project.
Saturday was another busy day for the Books & Beyond team, with a writing workshop led by James Kigamwa, a doctoral student in IU’s Literacy, Culture, and Language Education Department, who gave the writing partners some insight into Rwandan culture. Following lunch, there was a Skype and Microsoft Publisher information session that helped writing partners understand how the collaborators would be involved in the making of these stories. For the rest of the afternoon, the writing teams holed themselves up in the Foster Formal lounge brainstorming and drafting their stories, taking breaks to share what work they had accomplished. Professional illustrators came in to help look over the drafts and give pointers. Right afterwards, at the evaluation and reflection program the writing partners expressed their feelings about the weekend and the job they had done. After a long day of work, the TEAM students were able to unwind with different activities such as playing football and basketball, the Jai Ho dance workshop on the third floor lounge (led by the intrepid Sidney and Jennifer) and bowling at the IMU gallery.
All too soon, this visit came to an end early on a sleepy Sunday morning with the TEAM kids’ departure to the airport. However, everyone seemed to be in agreement that the Books & Beyond journey is off to a great start thanks to this weekend.