Students at the Abington Heights Middle School are getting the chance to explore what it is like to write for a newspaper, thanks to a popular after-school program.
“What’s New in White and Blue,” the school’s newspaper, started six years ago, when now retired English teacher Anne Armezzani saw the opportunity to incorporate the school’s layout into a way to encourage students to develop their writing skills.
“That school is such a unique design with the 10 separate teams so I felt we needed a school-wide paper to let everyone see what other parts of the building were doing,” she said. “There also was a need for an outlet for students who liked to write or investigate or take pictures. I loved the after-school newspaper club because the kids were all so enthusiastic, just waiting to be sent out in the building to find the facts.”
The program is now run by eighth-grade teacher Sandra Spangler and seventh-grade teacher Rae Rudzinski. Both teachers readily admit that the program teaches the students that there is a world outside the school while preparing them to enter it.
“We try to tell the kids to pretend that someone reading it doesn’t go to the Abington Heights Middle School because they assume that everyone knows what is going on because this is their world, but not everyone knows how things work here,” Spangler said. “We try to get the kids to give them to everybody. We tell them to mail it to their aunts, uncles, grandparents, wherever they are, so they can see what happens here.”
Student articles range from the recent school play, “Into the Woods,” the annual Clarks Summit Festival of Ice and even movie reviews, contests and games.
“They love interviewing people, such as teachers or other students, and they love taking pictures for their articles,” Rudzinski said. “That’s their favorite part. They get the gamut of what we imagine journalism to be, we want to keep it fun for them and still teach them the process.”
The process includes an editorial meeting where students pick their topics, followed by a deadline six weeks later, giving them time to interview, write and research their subjects. Spangler and Rudzinski work with the students to edit their grammar, if needed, and they also lay out and print each edition.
“Some would write the whole thing on their own if we let them, they just love to write that much,” Spangler said. “We are always amazed by how much they enjoy this.”