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Sniffing Out the News is Elementary


Gladiola Elementary School students sat around a table and discussed what lead — that’s journalistic jargon for introduction — would be best for this School News Network article about their new student newspaper, Gladiola Wolf Tracks.

“Meet all the students that made the first Gladiola Wolf Tracks newspaper,” said third-grader Megan Sivins.

“This is four out of 16 of the kids that came up with the Wyoming newspaper called Gladiola Wolf Tracks,” suggested fourth-grader Quinton Gebben.

And, “Meet the Gladiola Elementary students who came out on top and made the first Gladiola newspaper in the whole Gladiola school history,” said fourth-grader Brady Flint.

Fourth-grader Maddy Lee considered the best possible lead. She decided Brady had already nailed it.

Sixteen students in the after-school enrichment program at the Wyoming Public Schools building recently launched the newspaper after learning the basics of journalism from fourth-grade teacher Lysa Stockwell and by interviewing teachers, peers, staff members and even community officials, such as Wyoming Mayor Jack Poll.

They’ve covered events and school programs, with cameras and notepads in hand, learning to get details centered around the who, what, when, where and why questions for their stories. They use technology, including Google Docs, and keep current on what’s going on in the building

“They’ve interviewed all the staff members in the building, from teachers to custodians to parent volunteers. It’s been really, really exciting because the more they do the more excited they get,” said Principal David Lyon.

Elile Silvestre and Madeline Pauline interview Wyoming Police Officer Rory Allen cr. Lysa Stockwell
Elile Silvestre and Madeline Pauline interview Wyoming Police Officer Rory Allen cr. Lysa Stockwell

Wolves or News Hounds?

The ace cub reporters recently completed the second edition of their newspaper, with plans for another and monthly publications next school year. Lyon said the almost entirely student-written newspaper will incorporate the school’s newsletter.

Parents can donate $5 to have a message to their child published in the newspaper, supporting the costs of publication.

In class, students studied examples of journalism, heard from a local reporter who shared tips and experiences, and learned about interviewing skills, bias and plagiarism.

They also learned the fun they can have with journalism, Stockwell said.

“Generally, kids don’t have the chance to have their writing published and for them to have that opportunity has really been exciting for them,” Stockwell said.

“Writing has become really authentic for them,” Lyon added. “Plus, they are far more alert now to things going on in the building.”

When a story presents itself, Wolf Tracks reporters have jumped at the chance to grab a notepad. For example, they took the initiative to cover a sneak-peek performance of the Wyoming High School musical.
Brady said he enjoyed writing a story about teacher Kimberly Swiger called “Mrs. Swiger: The Inside Story.” In it she talks about her favorite books, and that she’s spent 25 years teaching, has 10 nieces and nephews and attended Gladiola herself.

“Mrs. Swiger told the best stories,” Brady said. “I really liked being an interviewer and reporter and writing the articles. I am a social butterfly.”

Pinky Nguyen and Dion Idizi are busy with the news cr. Lysa Stockwell
Pinky Nguyen and Dion Idizi are busy with the news cr. Lysa Stockwell

Back to the Headlines

Discussion around the table continued after the students had found their lede. They talked about their favorite interviews with the art and music teacher and other staff members.

“I like when I interviewed Mr. Lyon. He can ride a unicycle,” Quinton said.

Further conversation led to the fact that Lyon can also juggle, prompting a follow-up question from Brady: “Can he juggle while riding a unicycle?”

Now, there’s a nose for news.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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