River Grove fifth-graders learn how to interview, write, edit and publish their stories in a 'really fun' partnership

REVIEW PHOTO: CLAIRE HOLLEY - Conner Stickney (left) Ethan Chin and other fifth-graders work on their stories during a journalism class at River Grove Elementary School.Two classes of fifth-graders at River Grove Elementary School are on their way to becoming future journalists.

Through a partnership with the Journalistic Learning Initiative (JLI), Wanda Mallett and Mike McCarroll's fifth-grade English classes are learning the basics of journalism, conducting their own interviews and research, and writing their own stories.

The students' work has been published on their class website, and can be viewed at Their coverage includes science, sports, food, design, education and animals.

There are stories about Kyra's Bake Shop owner Kyra Bussanich, for example, by Sydney Smith, Sarai Carpenter and Tyler Trunnell. Richard Chen, Emma Doyle and Sienna Heath wrote about the nonprofit Kenya Keys. Former American Idol contestant Haley Johnson sat for interviews with Koyume O'Doherty, Anna Kimsey, Ethan Chin and Avery Betz

The students recently started their final project of the year. McCarroll's class interviewed a survivor of a Japanese internment camp. Mallett's class interviewed a graduate of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication class of 2014, who became paralyzed due to an accident after graduation.

In the coming weeks, students will decide what aspect of the interviews they want to focus on in their stories, select quotes, do individual research into the topics and begin writing.

Students also had the choice to conduct an independent interview with a subject of their choice. Avery Betz decided to interview family friend and LOHS senior Kaitlyn Coder.

"She is interested in music, and is going to college to study music," says Betz. "I'm more interested in music than I am in history, so I decided to do my own interview."

Betz says she has thoroughly enjoyed getting to be a part of JLI.

"The program is really different than anything else in school. It's really fun," she says. "I like how I've gotten to meet new people and learn new things."

JLI was initially developed in Palo Alto by high school teacher Esther Wojcicki. University of Oregon professor and CNN founding producer Ed Madison adapted the model in Oregon for his dissertation, and the program — which was piloted in Eugene in 2016 — has since expanded to the Portland area. (It's now in Los Angeles, too.)

Riley Stevenson, a University of Oregon graduate and one of Madison's former students, was approached by the professor to be the Portland program manager for JLI. Stevenson, who has a background in journalism and teaching, has helped 42 River Grove students develop and write stories in six self-selected beats.

"JLI is based on the simple concept of using the tools of journalism to support student writing, editing and self-directed education," says Stevenson. "Every student had the support and opportunity to complete their own story. That included original research, arranging interviews with experts, writing, editing and publishing."

Stevenson says JLI not only helps students learn about journalism, but also helps them grow as people.

"In addition to their own experience with the basics of journalism — research, editing and writing — this opportunity has allowed River Grove students to grow in their own sense of agency, self-advocacy and confidence," says Stevenson. "I see it in their writing, in their interactions with teachers, and in their public speaking."

Stevenson says she has been impressed not only by the students' work, but also by the River Grove teachers she works with.

"My partner teachers have been enthusiastic supporters of the students and program since day one," says Stevenson, "and I'm always inspired by their leadership, calm demeanor and passion for teaching."

Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Claire Holley at 503-636-1281 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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