How does the Passion for Learning Program (P4L) hook kids?

by Sandy Moore

j11MaryAmato_CyntihiaRubenstein.jpgPHOTO: Author Mary Amato and Cynthia Rubenstein
photo by Julie Wiatt

Visiting teacher Pam Jackson held up Frankie the Fish (from the McDonald’s ad), and her students lit up.  They know the jingle by heart. Then Jackson helped them analyze the ad, and asked them to write a slogan to describe their personal selling points. “Passion for Fashion” said one.  “Cool Like a Chicken McNugget” offered another.

Passion for Learning’s after-school programs bolster kids’ writing skills and get them excited about learning.  Their signature program, the Young Writer’s Academy, is held twice weekly at five area schools: Oakview, Pinecrest and Strathmore Elementary ­– plus Eastern and Argyle Middle schools. Writing teachers like Pam Jackson jump start kids’ writing engines. Guest teachers like D.C. Slam poet Isaac Colon provide poetic inspiration and creative writing skills (see poem by Eastern Middle School writer below).

P4L also recognizes the important role parents play in their kids’ learning: it offers “Family Writing Nights” at Long Branch Community Center in Silver Spring.  In December nearly 100 families showed up to meet author Mary Amato and practice writing together.  Kenia Villatoro, a fifth grader, brought her mom to the event and translated Amato’s writing instructions so Maria Canales — an immigrant from El Salvador — could take part in the writing exercises too.

The family of fifth grader Alexander Amaya is also big fans of Passion or Learning. “Alex’s writing has improved so much after being in the program,” said his mom, Rosa Palacios.  “I want the same for my son Abraham, who’s in the second grade.” This is the kind of response Silver Spring resident and P4L founder Alan Gregerman loves to hear.

P4L hopes to make lifelong learners out of kids like Kenia and Alex, through programs like the Writer’s Academy and Family Writing Nights.  They also sponsor GRRL Tech, a program that encourages girls’ interest in science and technology.  Executive Director Cynthia Rubenstein says she wants kids to “find their passion”, whether it’s writing poetry or creating websites.  Adds Rubenstein:  “Our after-school programs are irresistable to kids.”

I am fromI am from Holy Cross Hospital on October 4th, 1996
I am from 1970s disco beats and Stevie Wonder’s Motown music
I am from all the chicken, crab, shrimp, and fish – soul food wonderlands.
I am from the glimmer in the ocean’s ripple.
I am from the slippery dew on wet morning grass.

Isabella Louis, 6th grade
Eastern Middle SchoolParticipant in Passion for Learning’s Young Writer’s Academy


About the Author

Sandy Moore, the Kids' Voice columnist, writes for young readers and is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Sandy is also a past contributor to Washington Parent magazine, a Board member of Lumina Studio Theatre, and resident of Silver Spring.