Every other week at E. Rivers Elementary School, there is a new edition of “4th Grade News” posted outside the school’s media center and throughout the school.
A multi-page newspaper that features the main story of the week, upcoming events, student and teacher spotlights, a comic and even a scavenger hunt is put together by a team of fourth-grade ace reporters that make up the E. Rivers News Club.
Jocey Smolar, Olivia Lorinc, Delle Hargather and Marian McKellar are the star reporters behind “The 4th Grade News.”
The News Club started after former E. Rivers teacher Jeff Diggs read “The Landry News” to his third-grade class. Smolar was so inspired by the story of a young girl making a school newspaper, that she asked Diggs if she could make a school newspaper for E. Rivers.
Diggs, who now serves as an induction teacher mentor for Atlanta Public Schools (APS), encouraged Smolar to pursue this idea and form a team that could help her achieve her goal.
“I’m very big on just really making sure that my students have the best experience that they ever had,” Diggs said. “Teaching is about tapping into the minds of students and allowing them to flourish. It could have been they had a teacher that said, ‘We’re not doing that’ or ‘that’s not a part of the curriculum’ or ‘that’s not the standard that we’re working on,’ and crushed their ideas and their dreams.”
Smolar took off with her idea and recruited Lorinc, McKellar and Hagather to join her cause. They interviewed students and teachers. They held editorial meetings outside of school and over Zoom calls. They published 19 weekly editions of “The 3rd Grade News,” in their first year, and were just as excited to continue as fourth graders.
“I wanted to share the news with my classmates so they could know everything that’s going on in the school,” Smolar said. “It could help other people get to know other kids and teachers if you don’t know them to well.”
Working on the newspaper is more than just a passionate hobby for the news team. It also serves as an alternate teaching tool for developing their writing and literacy skills.
“It was a big deal,” Diggs said. “It was just great to see kids wanting to take ownership of learning and just go for it. Not only are you improving your writing skills, but also your social skills.”
“Jocey was a very shy student at first,” he added. “And she just blossomed into this wonderful, outgoing person through the newspaper. It was just amazing to watch the transformation from the very first newspaper to the last edition they had toward the end of the school year.”
The News Club isn’t associated with any particular class, but their fourth-grade teacher Erica Pease and school media specialist Paula Boston, allow the young reporters time before and after class to conduct their interviews, write articles and design the paper.
“There’s a lot of responsibility to it,” McKellar said. “We need to make sure that everything is spelled correctly, and the punctuation is right. It’s really overwhelming sometimes, but it’s really fun in the end.”
This year, the News Club is publishing a new edition every other week, and they look forward to sharing the school news with their teachers and classmates. E. Rivers principal John Waller gets a copy turned into his office each time a new issue comes out.
“As an I.B. school we want to push our students to be risk-takers, innovative and global-minded thinkers,” Pease said. “What they’ve really shown me with this newspaper is how well they can communicate and really take important news that’s important to them.”
The E. Rivers News Team
Olivia Lorinc, 4th grade
“My parents were very proud and thought that maybe this could be a future job or hobby or something like that. I was really proud of the fall picnic article because it was coming up and if there were new students they wouldn’t know what the fall picnic is. I remember when it was one of my first years, I didn’t know what the fall picnic was. But now, when there are new students, they can actually know what it is and see if they can come or stuff like that.”
Jocey Smolar, 4th grade
“I usually write the big stories and I do some of the graphics and the trivia questions. I was really proud of the Peace Day post. It’s very full of information and it tells people what Peace Day is and how people celebrate it.”
Delle Hargather, 4th grade
“I sometimes do the student interview or the teacher interview. Then, I’m usually the “What’s Going On,” person and then I also sometimes do scavenger hunts with Olivia. I thought about how if you do the student interview and the teacher spotlight, you get to know them better.”
“My mom and dad thought it was a good opportunity for me to write about what’s going on and all that stuff.”
Marian McKellar, 4th grade
“I usually would do some of the “What’s Going On,” teacher spotlights and sometimes the comic. I also thought Staff Appreciation Day was really good because everybody should appreciate their teacher and make sure that they feel good.”
“My parents were also very excited. They thought this was a good opportunity to start something.”