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District 41 teacher, author holds writing camp at one-room schoolhouse

Published: Thursday, July 17, 2014 5:59 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo provided)
From July 8 to 10, a group of 12 students and their families traveled to Galena for the first Belden School writing camp, which was put on by a trio of Glen Ellyn School District 41 teachers. Students had three days to write and illustrate their own children's book.

GLEN ELLYN – Pat HarteNaus has been writing about a one-room schoolhouse for several years.

Now, she’s giving the opportunity to some of her students.

HarteNaus and two other teachers from Glen Ellyn School District 41 hosted a three-day writing class last week at the Belden School, a one-room schoolhouse near Galena about which HarteNaus has written two “Belden Boy” children’s stories.

HarteNaus teaches social studies and literacy at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School. She taught the recent class with fellow district teachers Kathleen Brennan and Kelley Vail.

This is the writing camp’s first year.

The idea behind the camp, HarteNaus said, was to provide students with a chance to do some creative writing.

“In a school district and a world where things are so advanced … you have to dive into research with writing,” she said. “But there’s no freedom.”

On July 8, students began writing their stories and developing characters. On July 9, they tightened and edited their stories and began working on illustrations. By July 10, they were putting the finishing touches on the illustrations and assembling a front cover.

The participants’ books will be bound and given to each student.

Everything grew out of one graduate school class, HarteNaus said. For an assignment, she had to do something for children outside the classroom. She said she found the old schoolhouse in Galena and had an opportunity to interview some of the survivors from the last class. The school opened in 1859 and closed in 1943.

After conducting her interviews and reading some of the journals from the students, she created a proposal of how to continue using the historic school. Things grew from there.

“It’s like the class that keeps on giving to me,” HarteNaus said.

District 41 auctions off a trip to the schoolhouse every year. And now, the writing class has come along.

Scott Hierbaum, whose 10-year-old daughter, Sydney, took the class, said his daughter enjoyed her time at the schoolhouse.

“My daughter had a great time and learned quite a bit,” he said.

Hierbaum said Sydney changed the concept of her book in the middle of the camp but has kept it a secret from him until it’s published.

He wanted to get his daughter involved because she enjoys creative writing.

“She genuinely likes to write,” he said.

He also felt it would be a good idea for her to get “away from wires and screens” for a bit.

HarteNaus called the experience “incredible” and said she hopes to grow the program next year.

“There’s not a camp around that’s like this,” she said.

Her goal is to someday purchase a farm with a one-room schoolhouse on it so she can hold week-long writing camps.

“This is my dream,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to do this.”

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