Writing in the park

BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – Oh, what an enjoyable feeling to see children playing in the park, twirling on the merry-go-round, and swaying from the chain bench swing set. There is something magical about children’s development when they grow up spending time at the neighborhood park. Youth learn people skills and foster coping aptitudes, which they will use throughout their lives.

Educator Natalie El Amrani added cleverness and writing to the park experience for her students. She used this past spring break to open the young minds of fourth-graders from Melrose Elementary to adventure, exploring foreign countries and cultures they have never experienced.

El Amrani teaches English and Language Arts to about 60 students between her three classes. She started at Melrose after graduating from St. Petersburg College in December of 2019.

“I was originally hired as the journalism teacher, running the magnet multi-media and journalism program at Melrose until spring 2020,” stated El Amrani. “In summer of 2020, I asked principal Donnika Jones if I could have my own classroom and teach language arts.”

El Amrani decided to make this change because of her passion for expressing herself through words. She wanted to bring this same love for literacy to her students. Upon taking the job last fall, she sought to instill a passion for creative writing in her scholars, promoting a message that writing is simply thoughts put down on paper.

“Nobody is a bad writer, and nobody is incapable of writing,” exclaimed El Amrani.

Through the months, she taught students how to write an opinion, narrative and informational essay. The writing is rigorous, but the scholars are rising to the occasion.

Students take the annual Florida Standards Assessment test, and El Amrani realized the pint-sized pupils could benefit from more practice. During this spring break, she decided to try out her own writing workshop.

The teacher invited fourth graders to meet at Campbell Park to engage in fun writing activities. The event had no affiliation with the school or the school board.

One scholar, David Gamble, expressed that he felt excited about the writing workshop. He stated the workshop was helpful and that he learned new transition words.

“I decided to come because I wanted to learn more. I love writing,” said David.

Zariah Tisdale said he feels smarter from the extra help, and Jah’mes Atibel expressed how the teacher made writing fun by explaining everything in a way that he can understand.

Zi’yana Ingram’s favorite part of the writing workshop was constructing her essay. She had a fantastic time and embraced the excitement.

“My motivation was showing students that true writers don’t only write during class time, but that real writers pen regardless if in a classroom, park or home. Parents immediately jumped on board in support of the workshop,” explained El Amrani.

With the help and support of coworker Delia Doss, Success Squad teacher at Melrose, eight students showed up for two days from noon until 3 p.m. El Amrani provided lunch, and parents donated water and snacks.

Writing in the park was a huge success, and El Amrani looks forward to doing more outreach in the future.

“Ms. E, can we please do this again next break?” asked Zariah, a pleased workshop participant.

To reach Dexter McCree, email dmccree@theweeklychallenger.com

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