Neshobe students in the newspaper club explore creative writing, learn new skills

Hannah Fjeld works on the Neshobe newspaper with sixth grade editor Roni O’Brien
By RUSSELL JONES

Editor’s note: In our continuing effort to highlight new or exciting programs offered at local schools, this week we spotlight an effort at Neshobe Elementary School to allow students to express their creativity and explore topics they are interested in, while also developing diverse skillsets.

Neshobe Elementary School librarian Hannah Fjeld is preparing for the fourth year of one of her favorite school programs, the student-run newspaper club.

“It’s so much fun,” Fjeld said. “The kids get to put their heads together and work on things that really interest them.”

The club was founded in 2015 by former student Keenan Hogan and is open to grades three through six. Students meet after school and put out a monthly newspaper for their classmates.

“It’s a small newspaper that includes book reviews, comics and interviews with teachers, as well as things that are happening around Neshobe, like class projects,” Fjeld explained.

A sixth-grader acts as the newspaper’s editor and helps determine its content, which is 100-percent student-created. Then, before the end of the school year, the outgoing editor picks a fifth-grader to become the editor for the following year.

Roni O’Brien is this year’s editor.

“I like bossing people around and it seemed like a fun thing to do,” she said with a laugh. “I’m excited to be able to spend more time with my friends doing something we like.”

The club tends to attract students with a passion for writing, Fjeld said, and the paper gives them a chance to develop their talents.

“I like writing,” said O’Brien, whose mother is a fourth-grade teacher at Neshobe. “And my teachers say I’m good at it.”

Although O’Brien isn’t sure that a career in journalism is in the cards, some type of storytelling may be.

“It’s easier to tell stories when you can write them down on paper,” she said.

Or, in this case, on the screen. Students in the club write their stories in the computer lab.

“I don’t always get to type as much as I’d like at home,” O’Brien said. “I enjoy being able to type freely when we’re working.”

Student artists draw the comics that are included in the paper, with occasional guidance and facilitation from Neshobe art teacher John Brodowski, or Mr. B, as the students call him.

Though the club averages about 15 students, this year there are only three, so the co-editing duties that are usually performed by a sixth-grader will be handled by fifth-grader Arlo Cifoen.

O’Brien and Cifoen will start putting their first paper together at the beginning of next month.

Getting everyone focused and turning their work in on time will be the hardest part, O’Brien predicted.

The club allows students to gain skills in areas they normally may not get a chance to practice, such as leadership in O’Brien’s case, Fjeld said.

“They get to learn things that will help them out when they are older. How often do sixth graders get to be in charge of a project like this?”

The most important thing is that the students have something they are not only a part of, but have ownership in.

“The best part about the club is that students have total control of the whole thing from start to finish,” Fjeld said. “There are very few times in a school setting where you can say that. I try to just stay in the background, stay out of their way and let them do what they do.”

O’Brien has several topics of interest that she wants to write about, including sharks and fairies, but she is most looking forward to writing about an issue has been gathering international attention for some time.

“I’m really interested in writing about climate change,” she said. “It’s an important subject and my mom talks about it a lot.”

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