Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Cub reporters at Monocacy get the scoop

Elementary school gets student-run newspaper

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From student government election results to what’s going on in math class, there’s only one place at Monocacy Elementary School for students to get all the breaking news.

A group of nine fourth- and fifth-graders at the Dickerson school are behind Monocacy’s new student newspaper, The Pawprint, named after the school’s mascot, the bobcat, debuted in November with a four-page issue. The cub reporters meet once a week to write, illustrate and lay out the paper.

‘‘Everyone’s really independent. They do a good job,” said Kristy Martin, Pawprint editor and a speech pathologist at the school. ‘‘...All of these kids are pretty motivated.”

Monocacy had a student-run newspaper many years ago, she said. Several parents suggested that the school start the project again. Last month, Martin was doing final edits to The Pawprint’s second installment while the students started writing the third. They hope to publish the May edition online and in print so their peers can take it home.

The newspaper club began in the fall with discussions on what is considered news and properly sourcing information. Students then began to pursue topics of interest. The second edition features a section on MRSA, a strain of the staph bacteria resistant to certain antibiotics that has cropped up at schools around the country. An article dedicated to disco is in the works for the third edition.

The first edition included a comic strip, an article on good sportsmanship and a story on the class of the month, a regular feature.

‘‘We wanted to work with the classes and with the kids,” said fifth-grader Megan Fedders of Barnesville, who selects and writes about the month’s chosen class with fifth-grader Corinne Wallace of Dickerson.

One young reporter wanted to write an article about his favorite presidential candidate, Martin said, but the club decided to keep the paper non-partisan.

It’s not all about the news, though. The Pawprint features cartoons, sports, word finds and, most recently, an art contest. There are also recurring features, such as a fiction section.

‘‘I like to write fictional stories,” said fourth-grader Sirisha Ashley of Dickerson, who pens a serialized story about a mysterious village in the middle of the woods. ‘‘You don’t have to look up anything in books.”

The students also learn to balance their preferences with the needs of their audience. When one emerging music critic wanted to review hip-hop, Martin suggested he write about the rappers’ lives so he wouldn’t have to include song titles that might be too blue for elementary school.

‘‘If you think it’s inappropriate, it’s probably inappropriate,” advised Martin. ‘‘Remember, we have kindergarteners reading this, too.”

All the writers have found their voices in the club, Martin said.

‘‘They all have a really nice knack for what they do,” she said.