Trinity High School's history teacher Amy Grinsteinner wanted to provide additional writing help for her students who are writing a research paper about the 1960s in her class, so she reached out to Dickinson State University for volunteers in creating a writing lab.
"I was really inspired by the writing center that I had at my college," she said. "You learn the mechanics of how to write in an English class, but sometimes it's a little bit different to actually transfer those to writing in a different subject, so it was always really nice for me to be able to go to the writing center and be able to get that one-on-one help from someone who is very knowledgeable on how to write and how to research."
Grinsteinner initially reached out to DSU education instructor Darla Hoffman who referred her to English Education Head of Department Kevin Moberg. He found students who would be willing to volunteer their time at the lab.
"Being English Education majors, they really know how to balance between helping and not doing it for the students and how to guide them," Grinsteinner said. "They're involved in the editing process, but (they're) making sure that they're an aid to the students and not taking over the writing process for them."
DSU student Colton Damjanovich, who volunteers at the lab, said he wishes he had something like it when he was in school.
"I know that really would have helped out, getting input from older students, when I was in high school," he said.
Damjanovich is in elementary education at DSU, and he said although he won't be teaching high schoolers, the experience will help him in his career.
"Helping any younger kids, no matter what you're doing, is going to make yourself a better teacher in the long-run," he said.
The lab is currently bi-weekly and is open to any student at Trinity, though so far only juniors have participated.
"I would envision it being focused toward more 9-12, with maybe some 7th and 8th graders sprinkled in there," she said. "Some of those more intense research projects and papers are geared toward the high school, and those are the things we're seeing (students) needing help with."
Dean of Students Kregg Hochhalter would like to see more participation among the younger students.
"Although they're not writing 5 or 6 or 7 page research papers, our 7th and 8th graders are writing article summaries, they are writing notes, they are writing narratives or autobiographies ... and writing is a lifelong skill," he said.
When Grinsteinner first pitched the idea Hochhalter, he was somewhat hesitant because he felt that Trinity has a strong English Department, and he thought there would be a lack of interest among students.
"You hear about this at the college level, and it's usually for those students who either are very very good so they want to excel their writing or for those that are many remedial, maybe below the line when it comes to writing skills," he said.
As he spoke with Grinsteinner, he came around to the idea. It wouldn't necessarily be a redundancy or diminish the English department; rather, it could help expand writing across the curriculum.
"We're a school where we endorse writing across the curriculum - whether it's math, science, English or social studies, then this is I think a zone where they can do that," Hochhalter said. "You're not gonna bring your research paper on global warming from physics to an English class ... but you are going to bring that paper to a writing lab. My support came from a school-wide endorsement of writing across the curriculum and writing that bridges content areas."
His concern about student interest was soon also dismissed. The first day of the writing lab, eight students participated.
"My concern was the lack of interest due to the age level, but that was proven wrong," he said. "Both junior and senior levels have pretty intensive writing - have research papers, scholarship applications ... and it's not 100 word paragraph. It's intensive. They need that help, and the writing lab (gives) them that help."