Dateline: AuSable Forks
Elementary school writing club launches newsletter
AuSABLE FORKS — Nine students sat in an AuSable Forks Elementary School classroom after school Monday, Oct. 23, facing a smart board where teacher Liz Donahue was typing ideas for a Halloween-inspired poll. They were writing a poll — brainstorm style — to be included in their first issue of the AFES News.
“What should be the title of this poll?” Donahue asked.
“Which Halloween candy is better,” Juliette said.
“Which Halloween candy is best? Is better? What do you think? I like that,” Donahue said.
“Best,” one student said. “Best,” others echoed. “Best.”
Donahue’s son, Rainer, chimed in.
“Better,” he said.
After 20 minutes of creating a title for the poll — “Which Halloween candy is better?” — and deliberating on a list of a dozen brands of candy for students to choose, the poll was finished. The list included Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Sour Patch Kids, Twix, M&Ms, candy corn, Skittles, Three Musketeers, Smarties, Snickers and Kit Kat.
On Oct. 11, Donahue and Kim Chamberlain launched an after-school writing club for students in grades 4 through 6. Chamberlain is a special education teacher in grades 4 to 6, and Donahue is a special education consultant teacher in grades 3 and 4. They received grant funding for the club from the Adirondack 21st Century Program, which paid for staff and student supplies.
“We feel that there are a lack of opportunities for creative writing during the school day,” Donahue said. “This club provides an outlet for students who are interested in writing while improving their writing skills. Hopefully we will inspire some students to become writers!”
In all, there are 11 students in the club, which meets from 2 to 3 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays until Nov. 20 — a total of six weeks.
The students in the writing club are fourth graders Bennett, Grace, Juliette and Morgan; fifth graders Azlyn, Emery, Ezmae, Gerrid, Lyla and Rainer; and sixth grader Lainee.
“Students have a chance to interact with students from other grades while being provided with an enrichment opportunity in reading and writing,” Donahue said.
Students have already been introduced to the elements of journalism, including interviewing basics, interviewing etiquette, writing emails and other various topics of interest to students and their families.
“Within this, students are practicing different styles of writing while editing and evaluating what they are producing,” Donahue said.
Donahue is laying out the newsletter with the Canva program, which is well known for its social media graphic design templates but also has templates for newsletters and newspapers. AFES News will be a letter-sized sheet, and the first issue was two pages. Students were still working on their Halloween issue when the Lake Placid News visited the club on Oct. 23.
“This newsletter will be a print edition, but we will also send it out through Parent Square, our online parent portal,” Donahue said. “Each student in the school will receive a copy to bring home in their personal ‘school’ mail.”
So far, Donahue said, the students are excited about the opportunity to create their own newsletter.
“The ‘office’ is very busy with students working on their stories, taking pictures and interviewing others,” she said. “It actually seems like a ‘real’ newsroom, abuzz with activity and ideas! We are very excited to share our first edition (Halloween!) with others.”
The first issue features an interview with AFES Principal Chris Fey. Grace and Morgan, who conducted the interview, are posing with Principal Fey in a photo for page 1.
(Editor’s note: Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn visited the AFES writing club as part of the Next Generation Newsroom initiative, which creates educational pathways for students in the Tri-Lakes Region of the to become professional journalists. The program includes outreach, recruitment and training for students to gain experience that will launch their journalism careers. Teachers: Learn how your students can participate in the Next Generation Newsroom by visiting https://tinyurl.com/5epehswy or emailing Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.)