Diane Quail’s classroom at Huber Street School doesn’t look or sound like a traditional newsroom. No telephones ring. The staff does not rush from place to place to get the paper in on deadline. Yet the students, working to put out the first issue of the school’s new newspaper, seemed to have caught onto the excitement of publication.
Quail, who served as the advisor the award winning Metamorphosis literary magazine at the high school for 10 years, has taken the lead in the newspaper project, along with teacher, Lucille Wright.
The Hu-Bear News is a take off on the school name of Huber and the fact that the school mascot is a bear.
The newspaper started in December and the members of the staff started organizing. Quail is hoping to put out five issues a year. The first issue is expected to be released on Feb. 14, covering issues such as St. Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day and Martin Luther King. The newspaper also has a crossword puzzle.
“The newspaper is designed to be appropriate to all grade levels and will be distributed to the entire student body,” Quail said. “The students are writing story and creating poetry and trying to get the whole school involved.”
While the staff has asked for submissions, few have yet come in. Quail believes that once the other students actually see the newspaper in print, they will be more excited about getting involved. She is hoping to get more input from the lower grades. Right now, most of what comes in is from the older kids. The school educates children in grades K through 6.
Leeann Weiner and Reabel Calubayan are copy editors. Lorenza Larissa Impreveduto, a reporter, recently interviewed the school nurse. The paper even has a travel section with Kaefer Garcia reporting on a recent trip he took with his family. For more local news, Jamila Aboushaca covered the science fair in school, and Sarah Phemisint reviewed the Plaza Diner for her restaurant review.
“We were looking for a family oriented restaurant where parents could take their children,” Quail said.
One student even did an investigative piece on where the ice cream came from at a recent party put on by the Patents-Teachers Association.
While the paper is currently using clip art for its pictures, Quail said she hoped to incorporate digitized photographs in the newspaper.
Quail said the project helps students in numerous study areas.
“By using the computers to write and lay out the newspaper, students develop skills needed in various areas when they get into the upper grades in middle and high school,” she said. “By writing the stories, they learn those communicating skills.” Students also use editing and other skills associated with the craft. Yet perhaps even more important, Quail said, students learn to work each other on a common project, and learn to interact with people outside their classrooms, such as when they seek to interview people for the paper.
As with all newsrooms, Quail tells her reporting staff to back up their copy, asking for paper copies of stories after these have been put into the computer
“You never throw away the hard copy,” she informed one young reporter. “You never know when you might need it.”
Television news will be aired on Channel 34
The newspaper is only part of the story, as sixth graders in Huber Street School are also participating in a program that will bring the TV news to the community via the school’s cable television channel.
Wright and Linda Chervenal are in charge of this aspect and act as the directors for the TV news. Wright said it evolved out of a program introduced in the schools by Panasonic.
Under teacher supervision, students research, write, act in, produce, direct and edit a variety of videos which bring to life subjects they are learning about in school.
Panasonic started Kid Witness News in 1983 in conjunction with Weehawken High School. In 1989, Panasonic opened the program up to schools across the nation, donating thousands of dollars in equipment and providing guidelines and assistance to schools to develop the program. Huber Street School has been involved for three years.
But Kid Witness news only involved about 10 kids, leaving many other six graders out. The sixth grade in Huber Street has 46 kids.
“There was so much student interest in getting involved in the TV production we had to expand the program to include more children,” Wright said.
Those kids left out of the Kid Witness TV get involved with one of the two news programs. Ten of the remaining students are involved with the newspaper, leaving the remaining 26 to take up functions in the new TV news broadcast over cable. This includes news anchors and web reporters as well as reporters covering entertainment, school news, national news, help desk, sports and weather. Students are involved in every aspect of the news, from research to writing the stores to handling technical equipment. While teachers direct the operations, all the photographers are students, and the program is largely handled by students.
“We’ve been setting up the program for about two months, but not yet done anything good enough to put on the air,” Wright said, noting that the program has two complete news crews, one backing the other up. As with the newspaper, the TV news program helps kids develop a variety of skills such as public speaking and Internet research.
Wright said students will be filming twice. They will film, then look at their performance, work out the problems, and then film again.
“There are just too many little mistakes to go on the air with first filming,” Wright said.
The goal is to air a program twice a month
Panasonic has given another grant of $2,000 allowing the school to purchase an Adobe premiere video editor. The school also obtained a iMac computer and better sound equipment. As part of the Panasonic package, students get sent to Columbia University for a day to learn some television production skills.
Andrew Scamporino and Chris Bann, who were engaged in dubbing music for a rap video about the school, said they had a lot of fun at Columbia, learning the process through role playing.
Christopher Bernett and Melissa Crotty manipulated the Adobe video editor, saying they had learned some of the techniques while at Columbia.
Bernett said he and Crotty were inserting images into a video sequence, a kind of cut and paste of film clips into the narrative filmed by the students.
“We’re trying to get it in the right order,” he said. “We also change the shading, change color, [and] look at the images in black or white or color. If that doesn’t work, we try another clip.”