“The South Coast Writing Project is a real life social network of people coming together around a common interest,” says the Gevirtz School’s Tim Dewar, director of the center.
Housed at UCSB, the South Coast Writing Project (SCWriP) brings together teachers in all subject areas from kindergarten through university to share best practices for teaching writing and using writing to teach other subjects. Dewar says that incorporating writing into math and science helps students better understand the concept they are learning, and at the same time strengthens their writing abilities.
UCSB is proud to house SCWriP and two other California Subject Matter Project sites, the South Coast Science Project and the UCSB Mathematics Project. “Some other campuses hold multiple subject matter project sites, but what makes us unique is having the leadership for all three projects here in the GGSE,” says Dewar. “Working with Chris Ograin, Darby Feldwinn, and Sue Johnson provides a great core, and we work across different schools on campus to make sure that all subject matter projects are fulfilling their potential.” Each is charged with doing three things: conducting an intensive summer institute, holding outreach programs, and offering continuity programs. “This is how we know that people have plenty of ways to stay connected after attending our institutes.”
Dewar’s broad goal for SCWriP is to improve teaching in the field. For those who cannot attend the Summer Institute, he has found that this is best accomplished through partnerships and open programs. One current partnership is with the Robert J. Frank School in Oxnard where SCWriP is running a 35-hour class about digital writing. Other activities conducted throughout the year include writing marathons (Teachers gather in one location and spend the day writing and exploring) and young writers’ camps for elementary and secondary students.
“While the program has a rich history, we also have a vibrant group of new leaders. We are a flat organization where everyone can lead, and in the past few years we’ve grown our group into a group of leaders,” says Dewar. “We develop teacher leaders who lead from inside the classroom, and I’m proud to say that many of the great teachers in the tri-county area are SCWriP people.”
Dewar not only runs the project, he’s also a GGSE graduate. After Dewar received his teaching credential at UCSB in the 1980s he taught in various high schools and junior high schools throughout California, including local San Marcos High. He left the high school classroom to pursue a doctorate at UCSB, where first-hand experiences in the language, literacy, and composition emphasis gave him the expertise to run SCWriP. “Learning to write empowers. It allows people to ‘author’ their own life,” says Dewar. “Seeing students succeed in writing, despite language barriers and personal struggles, gives me hope. I want more teachers to experience that – starting right here in Santa Barbara.”