Last summer, the Dunes Center piloted our first ever creative writing program in various elementary and middle schools around the Central Coast. The goal of this course was to teach students to analyze and appreciate nature through their writing and artwork. Each week, the Dunes Center’s education intern, Hanna Navarro, taught students a lesson about the local dunes ecosystem. Students would then write poems and stories about what inspired them in the lesson. They also took a field trip to Oso Flaco Lake, where they were given hands-on experience with the nature and wildlife in the dunes. Students who had a more difficult time writing stories, such as English Language Learners, drew photos until their writing skills progressed. It has been exciting to see students process each lesson, and then translate it onto paper.
Because of the success of the creative writing program, the Fund for Santa Barbara granted the Dunes Center funds to compile and publish the works of the students. A Book Title Contest was held, where third grader Renato Camacho came up with the title, “The Dune Forum: Nature is full of Children and Animals, and Don’t Forget the Plants, too.”
To celebrate the accomplishments of our young authors, the Dunes Center held a book release party on Saturday, January 25th. Over seventy people came to the Dunes Center in support of the authors, who excitedly signed copies of their book.
The Dunes Center hopes that this project will raise student’s esteem in their writing abilities, as well as encourage them to continue on with their writing and education. In fact, sixth grader, Matthew Taczala, suggested that his mom donate a copy of the book to his school’s library to show students that if he can do it, others can too.
Authors Denise Gaxiola, Mariann Andrade and Abigail sign copies of their published work at Saturday's event (above). Jan Schmidt, Dunes Center member, gets her copy of the book signed by Samuel Medina and Hayley Mendez (right).