On a quest for the news
Third and fourth grade students at Steins Pillar Elementary are learning what it means to be a journalist.
This is part of an education model called a quest. With a quest, they search out a problem, then solve the problem. Instructors in the third and fourth grade include third and fourth grade blend instructor Karl Topper; third grade instructor Conner Lysne; and fourth grade instructor Janelle Deedon.
"We are looking at how do we truly solve that problem," explained Deedon. "I know the beginning part of where I wanted to start the quest, and I know where we are going to end, but everything in between varies – depending on what the kids are interested in and what problems they foresee."
She explained that they began with the problem of so many people having to stay home with COVID-19. Included is the issue of distance learning, as well as getting information out to the community and what information people need to know.
"That brought up the idea of news, and a lot of students had never even had their hands on a physical newspaper."
She went on to say that she discussed with her students the importance of accurate information, how to ensure that the correct information was getting out to the community, and what the difference was between facts and opinions.
Deedon had her students brainstorm the qualities of a good journalist, and they began researching the education background required to be a journalist. They also did observations about the local paper by reading the Central Oregonian.
"Now we are learning how to write like a journalist, so we dissected the newspaper," she said.
The students then cut apart newspapers to learn about the different sections and parts of the newspaper. In this part of the process, the class chose to contact the Central Oregonian and partner with the staff to begin learning more about journalism.
"One of the things with the quest is to also bring community involvement in," added Deedon.
Central Oregonian Managing Editor Jason Chaney conducted a Zoom meeting with the class the first week of the quest. He answered questions, made recommendations and discussed his job at the paper office.
"It was a lot of fun to reach out to the kids and help them learn about journalism," commented Chaney. "Perhaps it will spark an interest in some of them and lead to new reporters someday."
The ultimate goal of their journalism quest is to write articles and create their own newspaper. They are currently doing science with fall leaves, which will be a source for some of the articles for their newspaper. Deedon added that the quest can carry into other subjects, such as math, science and English.
"We can incorporate the entire day with it," Deedon noted.
She went on to explain that they can include topics such as the cost of creating a newspaper into their math curriculum. The flow of their quest is very fluid and is driven by the students.
"We don't necessarily know what all the articles are going to be because it depends on where the kids want to take it."
Upon reading a storybook in their reading curriculum about setting up habitat for birds, a student had the idea of creating a habitat for one of the birds in their adventure park. Deedon encouraged the students to consider the idea.
"We did it. We are going to build birdhouses," she pointed out. "They came up with idea, so now that is spearheading our next activity."
She indicated that they are reaching out to community members who can help with birdhouse kits for their local birds at the adventure park.
"I love watching the kids and how they think through all of their reasonings for things and the questions they come up with, and how do we solve the questions," said Deedon of why she likes the education model so much. "If I stand back and just let them brainstorm, it's fun to see what they come up with on their own."
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