Top of The Mitt Spartan Writing Camps

April 3, 2018

Although it doesn’t feel like it, Summer is fast approaching and will be here before we know it. School is out in June and many parents I know struggle with what to do with the kids during the summer months and most parents I know are always on the look out early on for summer activities for their kids. Thankfully, we have a variety of day camps, classes and other activities for children to participate in. Every spring I do a write up on local summer camps but this year I am focusing on one day camp in particular Top of The Mitt Spartan Writing Camps.

If you haven’t heard of Top of The Mitt Spartan Writing Camps, let me give you a little background. It takes place once a year over the course of several weeks, during the summer months at North Central Michigan College and focuses on you guess it, writing! Run by local first grade teacher, Suzanne Nayback, the writing camp is a popular alternative to your usual day camp.

Mrs. Nayback is my youngest daughter’s first grade teacher at Central Elementary here in Petoskey and I couldn’t imagine having a more caring teacher. Knowing that she loves what she does and runs the Top of The Mitt Spartan Writing Camps during her months off from teaching just goes to show how much she cares for kids and her love of writing. I had the opportunity to ask Mrs. Nayback a few questions regarding the camp last week.

Top of The Mitt Spartan Writing Camps

(Photo Courtesy of Top of The Mitt Spartan Writing Camps

Top of The Mitt Spartan Writing Camps

Q: How did u get involved with the camp? What is your background?

A: In the summer of 2007 I completed a month long class through MSU at NCMC. Upon completion, I became a Teacher Consultant (TC) of the National Writing Project (NWP) It was the second year the class for teachers was offered in Northern Michigan and the first year of the student camp, which for that first time was taught by two of the TC’s who completed the class in 2006.

After that first year, the director of the National Writing Project here in Northern Michigan, Toby Kahn-Loftus, asked me to take over the camp as a director. I grew the camp that year (2008) to two sessions of students from grades 3-5. In 2013 I added two sessions of a primary camp to service K-3 and one session of middle school, grades 6-8.

Q: Tell me about the camp itself, how is it structured, what are the hours and cost? 

A: To be eligible to teach the camp, the teachers need to have completed the NWP class, having TC status.

Two teachers work with the students, with a cap of 20 students per session. I seek out and hire the teachers for the sessions, as well as student assistants who are often middle or high school students interested in writing and assisting children.

The primary camps are half day, from 9-12. It has primarily been a science/nature based class. The mentor texts (picture books) shared with students lead the way for the writing, art, and projects. All supplies are paid for with the cost of the program, which is currently $85 for the week.

The elementary programs have changed over the years. For many years, we offered two “traditional” type of writing classes, using mentor texts to guide the writing. There was not necessarily a theme, but a focus, such as poetry, graphic novels, etc. There is always a community component for the traditional session. I have worked with businesses downtown that allow students to come in asking interview questions with a focus (history of the building, a how-to for something they are known for, etc) then the students use the computer lab at NCMC to compile the information. Within the last couple of years we have kept one session of this traditional type, but added another session that was more themed. Writing with a Twist offered students the chance to learn calligraphy and write in cursive, as well as more artistic writing. This year we are offering Writing With Photography. The 3-5 grade sessions are a full day, 9-3, with a cost of $135. They bring a lunch, receive a writing journal and a snack, plus use of camp supplies.

The middle school camp is similar to the elementary camp, with no community component.

Each session ends with a sharing hour where families come in the last hour on Friday to hear readings or see projects created during the week. All students receive a camp t-shirt.

Q: Is the camp open to all area children?

A: Flyers are printed and sent to local districts: Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Boyne City, Boyne Falls, Alanson, Harbor Light, and Montessori.

Each grade level listed, for example K-2, means the grade they are leaving in June.

Q: This year is Harry Potter themed, is there a theme every year?

A: The Harry Potter camp is directed towards middle school students and will be the only offering for that grade level. Due to popular demand, we are allowing those leaving fifth grade to register for this one as well.

This is the first year it is being offered. The teachers involved with this camp came up with the idea as they are passionate about the topic.

Due to the materials needed for this class, the cost will be $160.

Q: Do you work the writing camp on your own?

A: I do teach the K-2 camp each year because I enjoy it. Sue Ortlieb, a former Petoskey teacher now teaching Kindergarten at Harbor Light, is my partner. We look forward to team teaching each year! Many of the other teachers return year after year for the same reasons. They have said it’s one of their favorite weeks all summer. The teachers meet with me before the sessions start so we can plan the week together.

Q: Is there any other information you would like to share? 

A: We have a lot of repeat students and siblings. Each year the mentor texts, writing assignments, projects, etc. change to accommodate returning campers.

Several students sign up for multiple sessions each summer, especially since we offer different opportunities each week.

The fees for the camps pay for snacks, t-shirts, journals, supplies like pencils, markers, art materials, etc, and teacher stipends.

Interested in learning more about Top of The Mitt Spartan Writing camp? Here are some helpful links: 

Top of the Mitt-Spartan Writing Camps Facebook Page


Email: [email protected]

Avatar for Jill Schultz