Laker Writing Camps bring young students to GVSU

Laker Writing Camps bring young students to GVSU

Kayla Foster

This summer, July 7 marks the start of the 11th year Grand Valley State University has hosted the Laker Writing Project. Throughout the next few weeks, children in grades 3-12 will gather together to write for fun.

“These camps give kids with an academic interest an option for the summer,” said Sue Spears, the Lake Michigan Writing Project office coordinator.

The Laker Writing Camps are part of the Lake Michigan Writing Project, one of over 200 sites of the National Writing Project.

“We work with K-12 grade teachers in the community trying to improve the teaching of writing,” Spears said.

While the LMWP is hard at work year-round, summer provides a chance for students to get involved. These camps offer opportunities for students and teachers alike. Teachers from local schools help run the camps and inspire creative thinking and writing in students.

“I knew I wanted to do more with writing for my third-graders,” Terri Fortmeyer said. Fortmeyer is a third grade teacher at North Muskegon Elementary who has been involved with the camps since 2011. “A voice was missing from my writers,” she said.

The LMWP staff consists of others like Fortmeyer who have been identified as outstanding teachers of writing and nurturing role models for the campers.

A typical camp day starts at 8:30 a.m. with a writing prompt for the students.

“Students usually have two prompt choices and an open choice to write about whatever they want,” Fortmeyer said.

To prompt writing, campers and facilitators may travel from their campsite to various age-appropriate places of interest, learning and inspiration. The camps are designed to be fun and informative.

“Campers travel to places like the Gerald Ford Museum, the Amway Grand Hotel and the Grand River,” Fortmeyer said.

Campers write a variety of pieces such as poems, autobiographical sketches, short stories and nature observations. Participants work on the writing process of drafting, revising, responding and editing. The children also get to share their works with other writers throughout the camp, something they might not get to do during the school year.

“They love to write,” Fortmeyer said. “It’s an outlet for them to get together with other writers. We try to do the kind of writing they don’t get to do in school.”

Students write all week, and on Friday each camper chooses a piece of his or her writing for publication in the camp anthology.

“It’s writing with a purpose,” Spears said.

The camps attempt to create a safe place for children to come and explore their interest in writing. It gives them a chance to get the instruction they need to further develop their skills while doing writing that is different from school.

“As a teacher, I’m dealing with the platinum of writers…they’re there because they want to be there,” Fortmeyer said. “It’s energizing.”

More information on the Laker Writing Camps can be found on their website,, or by telephone at 616-331-2994. For those interested in attending, the deadline to register is 10 days before the start of each camp.

[email protected]