Guidelines for Civic Journalism Camp Sponsors and Youth Journalists

For Civic Journalism Camp Sponsors

Thank you for participating in Civic Journalism for Rural Youth. Like all projects of the Writing Our Future initiative, the Civic Journalism for Rural Youth project was designed by educators for educators as a way to provide teachers and youth mentors with a content-rich pathway for publishing youth writing and media within the context of a national conversation.

How Writing Our Future Projects Work

At the National Writing Project, we believe there is nothing like the opportunity to share and publish for a real audience as a way of improving writing and media-making. Social media and personal blogging have dramatically expanded the opportunities that young people have to publish their work, but these often come with challenges for use in classrooms or other settings. Writing Our Future projects were created to provide educators with a safe, COPPA compliant pathway for real publication to diverse national audiences within an educator-managed environment.

All Writing Our Future project websites feature a common theme or prompt/s to spark youth conversation through writing and
media such as video, audio, and images.

Educators sign up to provide publishing accounts for the youth they work with and then plan learning opportunities to support those youth in creating and publishing their work. Youth compose, revise, and edit to create their piece, and when satisfied, they submit it to you for a final review and publication, giving you a place to converse with, coach, and support writers before they go public.

Educators who participate in Writing Our Future projects are free to design and adapt curriculum and instruction around the themes or prompt/s in whatever way makes the most sense for their youth and larger goals. Every project includes an associated Educators Community where teachers and partners can share resources they have found useful and connect with others engaged in the project. All educator resources are open for your use and adaptation.

Getting Started with Civic Journalism for Rural Youth

At every Site where youth are writing, one educator will start the process by setting up and registering the Site and serving as Site Administrator. Site Administrators can invite other adults into the Site to serve as Group Administrators and can also manage their own Groups.

How to Sign Up and Administer a Site

At the website, click on Register in the upper right-hand corner and read the instructions. Then do the following:

  1. Fill out the form. Your email address will be your username for logging into the website.
  2. Check the “I’m Over 18 Years Old” checkbox and click “Sign Up Now”.
  3. Our support staff will review your request and approve it as soon as possible. You will receive an email once your Site has been approved.

Once your Site has been approved by Writing Our Future staff, you can Log In to the website and manage your Site. You must create a Group at your Site by clicking on the “New Group” button to generate the registration code for your participants. (Groups are usually a classroom or another activity that has a number of youth involved.)

You can also add other teacher administrator to your Site so they can add their own Groups. In the right column, enter the email address of anyone else (18+) you want to invite to be a Group Administrator and click “Send”.

To invite youth to join a Group, you will see instructions and a code in the right column after you log in. You can share this code in the right column with any youth you want to register to this Group. Each Group has a unique code. We encourage youth to register themselves so they become familiar with logging in and are responsible for their own username and password; they don’t need an email address and can just create and use a username.

Planning for Your Role in the Publishing Process

All Writing Our Future projects feature important elements of educator management. As the educator, it is you who sets up the Site and Group(s) for the writers, allowing you to manage who is on the website, and it is you who finally publishes the writer’s work. In other words, writers can draft and revise privately as much as they wish on the website, but you are the ‘editor’ that finally approves the piece for publication. This role gives you the opportunity to review the piece and, if necessary, return it to the writer for revision. In reviewing a response for final publication, we recommend paying special attention to the following elements:

  • Relevance and appropriateness of posts terms of the purposes of this project and its diverse national audience.
  • Tags that capture the gist of the post so others can sort and search by them.
  • Appropriate use of all media elements and citation of sources.

Display name as per privacy concerns and permissions within your particular school district for student publishing (default is first name, last initial; this can be edited).

For Youth Journalists

Publishing accounts are provided to writers (13+) through teachers, librarians, or other educators who create group accounts for their students or youth participants. If you are a youth who wishes to participate but has come here unaffiliated to an 18+ educator or participating site/organization, email us at writingourfuture@nwp.org.

Getting Started

Civic Journalism for Youth was created to provide youth, like you, across the country with an opportunity to participate in civic journalism—to add your voice and the stories of rural communities to the mix.

You may begin to draft your response using any tools you would like (Google Docs, iMovie, Soundcloud, etc.). However, when you are ready to work within the Civic Journalism youth publishing site, you must first Sign Up and then Log In with a code provided by a registered 18+ teacher/librarian/educator.

Sign Up and Log In

When you are ready to work on your response, you must first Sign Up with the code you receive from your registered teacher/librarian. Once you Sign Up you can then come back and Log In when needed.

Your response will be created upon logging in. Click on "Edit Response" to start to work on it. You can Save/Leave as Draft as you go.

If you have more than one response, click the "Add Your Response" button in the right-hand navigation to start a second one.

Composing and Editing

Writers are welcome to compose their responses using text, images, sound, and video. The site also supports embedded video and most things in an iframe, and you can upload a range of multimedia within each post.

Each post begins with a Title and a Summary (280 character maximum). The summary will show up on the map and homepage along with any images you include.

Upon publishing, Tags are required. Tags that are already in the system will display as you type and can choose from those, or suggest your own. Your Display Name is also required and your first name and last initial will be the default.

Post fields you add can be reordered by dragging/dropping so that your post can appear in the order you decide.

Whether you are working on a piece of writing and/or composing with multimedia, it helps to work through a process of feedback, revision, and editing. Civic Journalism for Youth allows you to save a draft before submitting your piece for publishing. You can even unpublish a post, edit it, and then re-publish the piece if you want to make changes after publishing.

As you draft, ask for feedback on your work-in-progress from a diverse range of people. Feedback from others is key, as your published post will be read by a diverse national and even international audience. Citing sources and providing links to research will help your readers learn more about the issues that you are writing about and build credibility for your arguments. Attributing the sources of any graphics, music, or other digital assets that you use honors the creative work of others while helping your readers learn about your sources.

Publishing and Sharing

Once your piece is finished, you will follow 4 steps to publish it.

  1. Click the "Submit for Review" button. You will be asked, “Ready to publish your post?”
  2. If so, select Tags for your post.
  3. Next, enter your public Display Name.
  4. Click "Submit for Review."

Your post will be submitted to your registered teacher/educator who will do a final review and then publish your post to the public map and website.

We encourage you to share your writing beyond Civic Journalism for Youth, and social media share links are included on the website to make it easy for you to do so. As you prepare to publish and share, give some thought to the privacy considerations of peers and others in your community. See our Privacy Policy.

Finally, educators and writers should review our Terms of Use. In order to provide writers with a positive and inclusive platform, violations such as hate speech will not be tolerated and will be removed by administrators. Community members and readers should report problems or concerns to administrators by flagging content on the site using the Report a Problem feature or emailing us at writingourfuture@nwp.org.

Civic Journalism for Rural Youth is part of the National Writing Project’s family of youth publishing projects, all gathered under the Writing Our Future initiative.

Writing Our Future projects are designed by educators for educators and the young people they work with. Intended for use in schools, libraries, and other educational settings. All projects are COPPA compliant and educator-managed. NWP is committed to supporting young people’s writing and civic participation by providing a safe and supportive environment for youth writing, media creation, sharing, and publishing.