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At literacy institute, Mill Creek cluster students polish writing skills

Norah Borges, left, reads a book she wrote to her father Drew and grandmother Joan, while Abbey Eison, far right, and her mother Mallory, discuss a book Abbey wrote. Norah Borges and Abbey Eison attended this week’s literacy institute at Duncan Creek Elementary, which had 200 students from first grade through ninth grade from the Mill Creek cluster. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

Norah Borges, left, reads a book she wrote to her father Drew and grandmother Joan, while Abbey Eison, far right, and her mother Mallory, discuss a book Abbey wrote. Norah Borges and Abbey Eison attended this week’s literacy institute at Duncan Creek Elementary, which had 200 students from first grade through ninth grade from the Mill Creek cluster. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

HOSCHTON — For Mallory Eison, the timing of this week’s literacy institute at Duncan Creek Elementary was perfect.

Her daughter Abbey, a fourth-grader at Puckett’s Mill Elementary, called it a great week spent learning language arts and writing skills, which culminated with a published book read to parents.

“We’re just trying to work on the love of writing,” Mallory Eison said. “We’ve got to get back in the swing of things.”

Less than two weeks before Gwinnett County Public Schools begin the school year, 200 students in the Mill Creek cluster entering first grade through ninth grade participated in the program, said literacy coach Melanie Mount. Mount organizes the four-day program, which ended on Thursday. In its 10th year, Mount said it’s grown from 35 children to full capacity.

This year, the institute also incorporated science and social studies, and featured a visit on Tuesday from children’s author Lola Schaefer.

“It gave the students a more broad understanding that reading and writing fits into every subject that they do, it’s not just something isolated for language arts,” fifth-grade teacher Jennifer Dietz said. “That’s been fantastic, and I think they’ve really seen those connections.”

Teachers represented all of the cluster’s elementary schools and middle schools.

“It’s a time that all the children can come together, it doesn’t matter what school you’re from, and can learn and have fun,” Mount said. “Read, and write and research and love learning, that’s the whole point of it.”

The students learned and wrote about a variety of subjects, from sea turtles to the Civil War, which made sense for fifth graders because that will be one of the first subjects they learn this school year.

One fifth grade class made lanterns to symbolize how they were used along the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, Dietz said.

As the institute finished on Thursday, parents arrived for an “author celebration” where the students read their work to their parents. Drew Borges’ daughter Norah, a fourth grader at Puckett’s Mill Elementary, wrote about personal life experiences, such as catching a turtle.

“It’s good to keep kids interested in school even though it’s the summer,” Borges said. “It gets them back in the mindset.”

While the program isn’t designed for remediation, it allows for collaboration and hands-on activities.

“The beauty of it is every child walks away with something,” Mount said. “Whether it’s, ‘I had fun this week while I was learning,’ or, ‘I like reading a little bit more,’ or ‘Hey, I like sea turtles,’ or, ‘I learned a little more about the Civil War.’ All of it is Common Core-correleated, according to what the next grade level is.”