This spring the Middle School Newspaper Club published its inaugural edition of The Zesty Press. English Teacher Miriam Murtuza, Ph.D., the student club sponsor, shared details of how the new Middle School newspaper was conceived and created.
Two years ago some 8th graders decided to start a Middle School newspaper. No one continued the paper the following year. However, this year 8th graders Rebecca Cole and Lainey Leslie talked about restarting it. Rebecca and another 8th grader, Zoe Dorrance, write book reviews for a local independent book store, Book People, that are now included in our paper. Rebecca and Zoe brainstormed, created a sample newspaper and informational flyer, and asked Middle School Dean Eileen Wilson to share both in an email to students. They also asked me if I would be their sponsor, and I said I would be happy to do that.
There are 15 students in the club, and they are pretty evenly split among the three Middle School grades. Rebecca and Zoe are co-editors. The club meets weekly on Wednesdays during recess. We meet simultaneously in my classroom and on Zoom.
At our club first meeting on Feb. 10, we decided to follow what the previous Middle School newspaper group had done, which was to use Google Classroom. I set it up for them and posted a document where students could indicate what sorts of articles or art they might want to contribute to the newspaper. Rebecca then posted a sign-up document for the first issue, and students signed up for whatever they wanted to write or create. At the next meeting, we talked about the proposed articles and decided we had enough. As students completed their pieces over spring break or right afterward, they posted them to our Google Classroom.
The editors thought it would be best if I were the one to email reminders to students who were behind on their articles, so I did that. Rebecca and 8th grader Alina Bunch edited all the pieces on their own. At our meeting the day before the first issue came out, club members selected a font and decided to order the pieces based on their date of completion. Contributors inserted their pieces into a Google document and adjusted the format and layout of their pages. Seventh grader Annie Ehrlich proposed and then created a table of contents, and Rebecca and Alina checked over everything. Rebecca let me know when the paper was finished, and I read it all. I only made limited and minor changes.
I have done very little to make the newspaper happen — it is all the kids! I do provide some structure and guidance during the meetings, but not that much. I encourage the editors to take charge, and I offer questions to get them thinking about what they might want to consider, such as if they wanted hard copies or a standardized font, how many articles would be sufficient, and how they wanted to organize the paper. I am really impressed with how diligently and cooperatively they have worked and how little adult guidance they have needed.
The name of the paper, The Zesty Press, comes from Victoria Woodruff's English 6 book project. Each class chooses a name for their imaginary publishing company, and when Lainey was in 6th grade, she had suggested this name and it was selected by her class.
The newspaper gives students, especially in this unusual year, a chance to interact with each other, even across grade levels. It also offers them an avenue to explore their interests and voices. Rebecca is interested in journalism and likes writing. She believes the Middle School does not have much of a voice on campus and that this is a way to amplify it. Annie likes that club members can all write about whatever they are interested in so the paper has a range of articles, from politics to book reviews to theater to economics. Sixth grader Josh Goldenberg is considering a career in journalism and thought it would be a good experience to participate. Sixth grader Emma Ton believes working on the paper gives her an opportunity to publish her work and have others read it.
The April 1 issue of the new Middle School newspaper can be found here. The next issue of The Zesty Press should come out on April 15. Students then plan to publish one or two more issues before the end of the academic year.