When my colleague Mike Fritz and I headed down to St. Petersburg, Fla., recently, we knew we were going to see young journalists at work. It’s not too hard to imagine that middle school students with a bit of training can write for a newspaper or even shoot video; plenty of kids have cellphones with cameras these days. But birthing journalists from first grade? I couldn’t imagine how it was done — until we arrived at Melrose Elementary, a journalism magnet school.
On a cool April morning the first graders from Teresa Scott’s class silently make their way into a multimedia classroom where they gather once a week. The question “What is a reporter?” was written on the white board in the front of the room. Most seemed already to have the answer.
First up on the agenda: a bit of review. Journalism teachers Carol Blair and Cynthia Vickers began by reinforcing an earlier lesson. In unison, as if they were reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the students and teachers said: “A good journalist uses their brain, eyes, ears, nose and mouth to ask the five W’s: who, what, when, where and why.”
FJP: The video is simultaneously adorable and an eerie sort of indoctrination but we’ll keep this light. Here are some delightful highlights from our archival exploration of the Manatee Messenger.
Omari Booker, a fifth- grader, is an unusually talented person. He can crack his wrist, wiggle his ears and rotate his eyeballs up inside his head, so all you can see is the white part. When asked about his talents, he said, “I don’t know how I do it. I guess I was just born this way.”
I think we should have a chocolate fountain in the cafeteria so we can dip food in it and use it for a decoration. It would look pretty. The other thing we should change is to build a bigger and different playground. We need more room to play. When we play games now, we have to stay inside the edge of the playground where there is no equipment and there isn’t enough room to run.
Check out this honest and striking video investigation, produced by eighth-grader De’Qonton Davis and his classmates at John Hopkins Middle School, on how neighborhood violence spills over to the classroom — a problem adults have been trying to deal with for years. More than 100 students were arrested in one year alone at John Hopkins, and these young journos decided to dig deep and investigate why. The video has already garnered local and national attention, but De’Qonton is still trying to get it to one person in particular…
I want the president to see what I could do and see what — what young kids can do, young black American kids. And I want them to know that somebody out there is trying to learn and trying to get their education right and be a good adult dad in a community when he grows up.