Lutherville Laboratory Writer’s Workshop pairs pros with promising pupils - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Lutherville Laboratory Writer’s Workshop pairs pros with promising pupils

It’s interesting; the things you learn when you talk with people. For example, everyone in Ms. Levy’s kindergarten class knows that Cameron loves the Baltimore Orioles. His favorite player is power-hitting first baseman Chris Davis. Cameron would really like to meet Chris someday. You know – to just sit down and talk about baseball.

Nick, on the other hand, is fascinated by gorillas. He knows they are strong and exist mostly on a vegetable diet, though they do occasionally eat meat. Nick read all about gorillas in an encyclopedia, but he’d like to learn more. A trip to Africa may be out of the question, but if he ever goes to a big zoo, Nick would have lots of questions for the zookeeper.

Baseball players and zookeepers are both fairly accessible, but if you want to learn about a lot of different subjects, and you have plenty of questions, a great way to get answers is by being a reporter. That was one of the lessons this reporter hopefully imparted to a group of absorbing adolescents during last week’s Lutherville Laboratory Writer’s Workshop.

(Anthony C. Hayes)

“Zebra” (Anthony C. Hayes)

Lutherville Laboratory is a magnet school specializing in Science, Mathematics and Communications. It is also home to an Early Childhood Learning Support Program for three, four and five year olds. The Writer’s Workshop is geared to provide students in grades K-5 with a chance to pair their burgeoning writing skills with an exposure to real world experiences. The experiences range from public relations correspondence, real estate sales, commercial writing and television and print reporting, to areas as seemingly mundane – but no less important – as insurance underwriting. Eighteen professionals shared their personal stories and used an assortment of media in presenting the myriad ways writing is used in all aspects of our lives.

“This program, with the volunteers sharing about their writing experiences is unique to Lutherville,” said Matt Corner – a veteran educator who is in his first year as principal of Lutherville Lab. “Coming in, what I had heard was that it is very engaging and that the kids enjoy getting to hear from others. Getting to see it first hand is just exciting to me. Everyone always asks, ‘Why do I have to learn this?’ and so here’s the real world answer for writing and applying it and a chance to practice with someone who is using it authentically.”

Corner added, “We implemented an additional writers workshop this year specifically to focus on the writing process; going even deeper than what is in the curriculum.”

Stacey Lynn Munsell – Senior Account Executive at Baltimore magazine – is the Chairperson for the Writer’s Workshop. This is the second year Munsell has captained the helm.

“I got involved some years ago, even before my child was in elementary school, when a neighbor of mine asked me to be a presenter. I started by speaking, and then a couple of years later, they asked me to take charge. I knew the drill already. Here I am – second year!”

Munsell said the feedback she has gotten from the PTA has always been positive, and the school is very satisfied with the program. “The parents love it, because the kids come home with projects and talk about what they learned.”

Cindy Carson and Stacey Munsell. (Anthony C. Hayes)

Lutherville Laboratory Writer’s Workshop volunteers Cindy Carson & Stacey Munsell. (Anthony C. Hayes)

We asked Munsell how hard is it to get a large group of professionals in at 9am on a workday to speak with so many classes?

“It’s not that hard, because I have a wide range of contacts and so many great colleagues and clients in my industry. Sometimes it’s hard to get everyone on the same page simply because of time constraints, but everyone who does it seems to love it and they keep coming back.”

Munsell said she will likely continue in her role as coordinator as long as her child is a student at Lutherville Lab. After that? “I’m sure I’ll mentor the next group of presenters.”

Cindy Carson – President of the Health Division at Enradius – is just one of many returning presenters.

“I had second graders today. The kids are great. They can be a little wild, but they are enthusiastic. The insights they have and the questions; they are just very creative.

“We looked at online video commercials; YouTube oriented stuff. We looked at a Ninja Turtles movie trailer, a Disney Cruise ad and the Cats anti-smoking campaign. A bunch of 15 and 30 second commercials. Then we talked about the ones which didn’t use any speaking – just a lot of music and imagery – and we looked at ones which used a lot of speaking and talked about how writers have to script these things. Some were funny, some were mysterious. The kids got it and had some great responses. It was pretty neat.

“For our exercise we broke into groups and created commercials. We didn’t have time for a story board, so the students picked a topic, made a music selection, created characters and then described how they would end it.”

Principal Matt Corner and presenter Al Forman. (Anthony C. Hayes)

Principal Matt Corner and presenter Al Forman. (Anthony C. Hayes)

Will Carson come back next year?

“Absolutely!”

“I’ve been doing this workshop since 2010 and always had older kids – 4th or 5th graders”, said Voice of Baltimore Managing Editor Al Forman. “This is the first time I’ve had kids this young, and I was stunned at how aware the first graders are. One knew that Barak Obama was one of the youngest men ever elected to the office of President. I wasn’t sure of that myself, so we looked it up, and the student was absolutely right. Another recognized the name Helen Delich Bentley from the Port of Baltimore sign which hangs over I-83. I mentioned Helen, because I’d written a story about her for Voice of Baltimore. She was a big proponent of education and represented this district when she was in Congress. I also shared a story about the use of images in presidential campaigns and a student knew that Nancy Davis was married to Ronald Reagan. Reagan left office close to twenty years ago. What seven year old knows about Nancy Reagan? I was just very impressed with these students and things their teacher has taught them.”

In Forman’s lesson, he said, “I taught that a reporter tells us something that we did not already know. He or she is our eyes and ears out in the world.”

Forman also stressed the Five-W’s (Who, What, When, Where and Why) and was gratified to see a poster of that timeless principle on the classroom wall.

This reporter had a similar experience presenting journalism to Ms. Levy’s kindergarten class. Surveying the class, I discovered that:

  • Cameron knew that super sentences start with upper case letters.
  • Brayden explained that sentences end with either a period, a question mark or an exclamation point.
  • Landon was particularly interested in sharpening his note-taking style.
  • Zach, Ava, and Caitlin all were anxious to try their hands at a little photo journalism.
"Could you spell that, please?" (Anthony C. Hayes)

“Could you spell that, please?” (Anthony C. Hayes)

With the help of Mr. Potato Head, we talked about how important it is to use all of our senses – along with our heads – when covering a story. A quick game of Telephone demonstrated the importance of checking the facts and obtaining reliable sources.

Getting down to the business of doing interviews, each student was given a nifty notepad and pencil – courtesy of Chris Rothe and Write Notepads & Co. of Baltimore.

With notepads in hand, the young students could be heard asking such penetrating questions as, “What is your house number?” or “What is your favorite toy?”

“Star Wars” was the answer to one “favorite movie?” query, and “Zebra” emerged as a popular favorite animal. But other questions presented the interviewees with multiple choices, for instance, “What is your favorite color?” or “What do you like to eat?”

The enthusiasm was infectious, and it was delightful to see the kids dig into their assignments and come away with one scoop after another. It was also encouraging to hear the refrain, “Could you spell that, please?” numerous times.

Clearly, these young reporters wanted to get their stories right.

At the end of the workshop, Stacey Munsell asked if I would like to return for the next school year. Like Cindy Carson, I replied, “Absolutely!”

Not only to present journalism to another class, mind you. I also want to hear about Cameron’s interview with Chris Davis, and Nick’s trip to the zoo.

Ms. Levy's class of aspiring reporters. (Anthony C. Hayes.

Conducting interviews – Ms. Levy’s class of aspiring reporters. (Anthony C. Hayes)

The teachers and presenters for this year’s workshop:

Kindergarten
Brenda Weikert ~
> Kendall Ludwig: President & Principal Designer Curly Red
Gretchen McGee ~
> Gregg Wilhelm: Executive Director CityLit Project
Tara Levy ~
> Anthony C. Hayes: Reporter Baltimore Post-Examiner

First Grade
Rachael Meyers ~
> Al Forman: Managing Editor/Content Director Voice of Baltimore
Lynne Schmaus ~
> William Huff: Development Athletics Towson State University
Karen Jenkins ~
> Anna M. Sutherland: Junior Graphics Arts Major Salisbury University

Second Grade
Sara Mullan ~
> Cindy Carson: President Health Division Enradius; Executive Consultant
Dorothy Scott ~
> Kathleen Beadell: GRI Realtor Long and Foster
Laurie Schattall ~
> Marisol Renner: Publications &Public Relations Specialist The Baltimore Ravens

Third Grade
Amy Feltman ~
> Caroline Weisser: Executive Area Manager Independent Consultant Arbonne
Suzanne Baker ~
> Sonrisa Medina: Owner Hunt Valley Orangetheory
Carolyn Smith ~
> Ron Snyder: Digital Editor WBAL-TV

Fourth Grade
Lynne Kellner ~
> Sara Cordi: Development Manager Susan G. Komen
Kim Zagurski ~
> Sharon Nevins: Director of New Business Development/Events & Specialty Publications Baltimore Sun
David Paul ~
> Kieffer Rittenhouse: Vice President Integrated Insurance Solutions

Fifth Grade
Jamie Nicholson ~
> Judi DiGioia: Corporate Event Planner at SAGE Dining Services
Stephanie Miller ~
> Tim Kenney: Realtor The Tim Kenney Group
Sheila Voelker ~
> Dave Seel: Founder & Owner Blue Fork Marketing

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About the author

Anthony C. Hayes

Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A former reporter at the Washington Herald, and Voice of Baltimore, Tony's poetry, photography, humor, and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!, SmartCEO, Magic Octopus Magazine, Destination Maryland, Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Alvarez Fiction, and Tales of Blood and Roses. Contact the author.
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