Dr. Blotch's Writing Challenges Volunteers!

June 10, 2020 | Volunteer of the Month

When we entered this virtual season, we at 826michigan, like many others, had to think quickly. While we surveyed families, students, teachers, and volunteers behind the scenes to understand what they’d like to see from 826michigan during this time, we quickly produced a brand-new program to keep students writing in the meantime.

Enter Dr. Blotch: a cranky, slimy, nefarious, and misguided editor known to interrupt our field trips programs and offer some kind of challenge to students. No one has ever seen Dr. Blotch in person (that’s for the best), and no one knows of Dr. Blotch’s wherabouts.

Until now, that is. We were contacted by Dr. Blotch when this socially distant season first began in March. Dr. Blotch was feeling a bit under the weather, maintaining social distancing from their mansion in Antarctica. Unfortunately, Dr. Blotch forgot to go to the library before they all closed, and needed some stories to keep themself entertained. Enter  826michigan students, who rose to the occasion and created stories each week for a new member of the Blotch family (there are dozens of Drs. Blotch in Dr. Blotch’s family).

For our June 2020 Volunteer of the Month, we’d like to recognize the individuals who supported Dr. Blotch’s Writing Challenge behind the scenes.

Our most heartfelt thank you to Robyn Charles, who designed the beautiful supplemental materials for the writing challenge each week, making simple idea sheets and graphic organizers come to life with Blotch’s spooky and gross style (Blotch would never say thank you, but did agree that Robyn’s materials looked “surprisingly good.”). Check out one example from Week 3 HERE.

A giant banner of appreciation to Travis Blake, who brought his professional video-creation skills and  worked behind the scenes with Dr. Blotch to create our Friday story review videos starting in Week 2. Each week, Travis received recordings from a reluctant Dr. Blotch (despite a massive time difference between Michigan and Antarctica), and quickly turned them into high-quality videos that celebrated our students’ work and creativity, and matched the look and feel of our current website. Check out one of the videos that he made to highlight student writing HERE.

A medal of honor for amazing work to intern Lauren Morrow, who created a fantastic curriculum for several weeks of the writing challenge to match the whims of Dr. Blotch’s story ideas (like the wacky weather challenge, or the how-to guides for at-home vacations challenge). She also typed up any student writing that was submitted for the challenge (Dr. Blotch refuses to read the handwriting of young people), and made sure that all of the students’ writing was in one place for Dr. Blotch to review. This helped us quickly get the writing to Dr. Blotch so we could have Blotch’s review videos ready by Friday. Occasionally, she also would coordinate the carrier pigeons to send the writing down to Dr. Blotch’s Antarctica mansion.

And extra gratitude to Lucy Huber, Devin Rocco, Brandan Pierce, Ryan Beatty, Cecilia Latiolais, Holly Painter, Charlotte Moore, and Sarah Mills for offering additional miscellaneous video support during this unusual virtual season. Dr. Blotch would never want to express gratitude (I once heard her saying that it was an unnecessary emotion), but the staff at 826michigan is so thankful for your time and support in making this program come to life and celebrating the power of student stories.

Thank you to all of the above volunteers for bringing Dr. Blotch, and all of us at 826michigan, some laughter* and joy during this season. We may have been physically apart, but we were never disconnected from our students’ brilliance and creativity.

*We’re not sure if Dr. Blotch knows how to laugh properly, but once I heard them making fast-paced breathing sounds that I assumed was something akin to laughter.


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