Hair-pulling, stress, and hysteria — all things you expect to find in a newspaper office on deadline day — were viewed by eight fourth-graders from Castleton Elementary school late last month for this edition of The Spartan. “I think it’s important for kids to learn this process because it helps future generations know what it’s like and maybe appreciate it more,” said Alicia Harrington, layout editor of The Spartan, in between putting stories and photographs into the computer.
As part of the Vermont Scholars Program, the students visited The Spartan’s Leavenworth Hall office to learn how the newspaper is put together. They came bearing clipboards, pencils, cameras, curiosity, and — as with all children — questions. They asked about everything from how much money reporters make to how many days it takes to make an edition of the paper.
The Vermont Scholars Program is designed to get Vermont children involved in leadership activities, setting goals and developing an early awareness about college and what options lie ahead of them, Castleton Village school principal Carole Pickett explained.
“Parents said their children are going home and talking about how they want to go to college,” said Jan Rousse, the college’s assistant director of the Robert T. Stafford Center for the Support and Study of the Community, who helped set up the visit. “They look forward to going to school. It’s all coming together.”
Before visiting, each student made up and wrote an article. The articles ranged from Big Foot attacking Castleton Elementary School to a girl version ‘Star Wars’ cartoon entitled ‘Cloud Wars.’ Those students who showed the most initiative in writing and correcting their stories were chosen for the fieldtrip according to Pickett.
“I kinda like doing comics,” said student Emmalee Smith, creater of ‘Star Clouds.’ “It’s really funny.”
The visit to The Spartan office comes at the beginning of a three-year program with the students and represents only one dimension. Other students from the college have been mentoring the students at the elementary school.
“The young children love coming here and being around college students,” Rousse said.
A teacher at the elementary school was informed that one of her students was interested in journalism and decided to contact Rousse, who then contacted Journalism Professor David Blow.
“I’m very thankful they took time to make this happen for the students,” Pickett said.
Newspaper advisor David Blow stood in The Spartan office showing off a recent edition of The Spartan explaining how stories are written and answering questions while Harrington sat in front of the computer trying to finalize the latest edition that was to be sent to the publisher in less than four hours. The children listened attentively and took notes as fast as they could.
Blow also explained how the work put into creating a newspaper was both tedious and fun and about the different roles which are needed.
Other Spartan staff members, including Matthew Linden, stood by ready to answer questions.
“It’s sort of exciting to learn about this stuff,” student Shannon Mandigo said.
As Blow talked and Harrington worked, the kids were passing around disposable cameras to allow everyone to take pictures. The notes and pictures were used by the students to write a news article for their own newsletter they are hoping to start according to Pickett.
“I learned it takes a lot of work to make a newspaper,” Grady McIntyre said. “I’d like to write the articles for sports.”
Visiting gave the students a chance to see how a newspaper is created and to dispel the television images of a newsroom with dozens of reporters typing away, Rousse said.
They also got the chance to ask college students questions about why they went to school, why they joined newspaper, and what they wanted to do after they were done with school?
A separate group of students who work on the Castleton Village School newspaper is scheduled to visit The Spartan next month.