At Third Street Elementary School, some fourth and fifth grade students are taking on an endeavor that would be difficult for many adults: becoming journalists. Recently, they began researching, interviewing, writing, and printing their very own school newspaper, “The Third Street Panther Press.”
The idea for the 12-page newspaper, which is written “by the kids for the kids,” started out in the after-school Business Club, where the group decided that they wanted to pursue journalism as well. Third Street School parent volunteer Renee Ridgeley decided to help the students achieve their goal. “The kids come up with all of the ideas for their stories. They have great instincts for reporting,” she observes.
The newspaper includes art, food and fashion critics, sports beat, book review, surveys, and top news stories. as In the February 2013 issue, fifth grade student Luca Schreyer covered the effects of Proposition 30 on Third Street.
The U.S. Presidential election was also front-page news, which fifth grader Linsey Miyakawa and fourth grade student Cailey Beck tied into their own school election on the same day. “We wrote about the student council election for president and vice president. and how they campaigned.”
Prentice Jones, a fifth grader, found herself missing the school’s Olympics, an annual fundraiser, which was replaced by a Walk-a-thon, and decided to see if other students felt the same. She set up a booth and surveyed the students on campus, finding that 80 percent of the fifth graders preferred the school Olympics. “The Walk-a-thon makes more money, so now we do that. It makes sense,” she concludes.
In order to critique the school cafeteria lunches, food critic and fifth grader Hannah Barukh opted to eat in the cafeteria every day for two weeks, finding that although the food was good, sometimes the variety was lacking.
The 15 student journalists meet after school one day per week. At one of those meetings, the students were visited by Gavin Edwards, a freelance journalist who writes for many publications, including Rolling Stone magazine. “Gavin taught the students to identify the important and unique events that make a story newsworthy,” says Ridgeley.
Eight hundred copies of each issue are printed, and it’s available to all enrolled students and faculty. Students raised money to print the paper by selling candy-grams, working in the snack shop and other endeavors. The Young Business Club also received a $1,500 Citibank literacy grant that helped cover the printing costs.
Janelle Yiadom, a fifth grader, said, “my friends were surprised that we wrote the articles.” Hailey Adams said, “I’ve had five people say to me that they like the article I wrote and that’s really inspiring for me. Doing this paper has brought me closer to everyone in this room.”
Though no one knows what the future holds for these young students, diving into journalism has given them a new perspective on the world. “I know the students have learned how to gather information to write a better story,” says Ridgeley, “and I hope they’ve been inspired by the printed results of their teamwork.”
By Sondi Sepenuk, Guest columnist