By DAVID GREEN
Morenci second grader Evelyn Joughin grabs her iPad and heads down the school hallway. She and fellow reporter Jack Varga are walking to the principal's office to interview Mrs. Frey. They have senior Sam Cool along for the trip, too, since he serves as editor of their class newspaper, “Mrs. Barrett's School News!”
The trip to the office is actually just a re-enactment for the Observer photographer. They already know how long Mrs. Frey has worked as an educator. They know she likes to spend spare time in her boat with her husband, and they know about the cabin in Alabama. She will be a featured person in the January edition of the paper.
The students published their first paper in November, highlighting their own teacher, Mrs. Barrett, and the other second grade teacher, Mrs. Penrod. They introduced two new faces—music teacher Mrs. Lillefors and secretary Mrs. Pummell—and they paid a visit to Ms. Clark, the physical education teacher.
The paper staff chose Isaac Miller as the featured artist, and they celebrated the success of Evelyn as the artist of the week in Mr. Grime's art class.
There's a report on the Turkey Trot food drive, a few short essays on Thanksgiving, and a selection of jokes and riddles.
And now all efforts are focused on publication of the second edition.
As this school year got underway, Mrs. Barrett was disappointed that no school newspaper existed, so she decided to give it a try with her own class.
"I started to wonder if I bit off more than I could chew," she said, but Sam has made the project a success. "Sammy is great with the kids. He's very calm."
Sam spends about 40 minutes with the younger kids a few days a week, and it's going really well.
"I love working with them," he said. "They are very well behaved and extremely interested in what we are doing. I have a great time when I'm working with them and I hope they are having a great time, too."
Mrs. Barrett remembers a situation early on in the process when there was a matter of getting a photo from one iPad to another.
"'Just give me your phone,' Evelyn told me," Mrs. Barrett remembers.
Leave it to the kids for technological know-how.
The paper staff started out small with just one reading group—Jack, Evelyn, Danica Wilmoth and Landen Garland—and they were soon joined by Sam.
"He was just in the Observer that week with his skateboard story," Mrs. Barrett said.
That gave students the opportunity to examine what lay ahead: interviewing, creating a story, taking photographs, designing a page, and writing headlines and photo captions.
Mrs. Barrett is impressed with the number of skills involved: reading, writing, listening, oral communication, technology, typing, organizing—lots of Common Core skills.
Interviewing is done with an iPad and the text is transcribed from video.
"It's been neat to see their interviewing skills," Mrs. Barrett said.
The kids have discussed how they need to speak clearly and not just read the questions from their paper.
Story ideas arise from brainstorming sessions and possible features are recorded on a large sheet of paper.
"Their level of creativity is amazing," Sam said. "Some of their ideas are shocking."
He's helped the children learn to transfer their stories and photos into a PowerPoint page for layout and printing.
Most of the work is done during the period when Sam is present, but students also work on their own when they have a few minutes to spare.
Mrs. Barrett will hear someone say, "I need to finish my interview," and they'll be off down the hallway with an iPad or phone.
All stories go to Sam, the editor, before they make it onto the page.
The staff is slowly growing and now stands at 10. The eventual goal is to have the entire class involved.
"I've really enjoyed watching them teach the other kids," Mrs. Barrett said.
"You can't do that," she'll hear a veteran reporter say about the type of questions suggested.
Overall she's impressed with what her seven- and eight-year-olds are accomplishing and she's looking forward to seeing what's printed in the next edition of the News at the end of the month.