Middlebrook launches student-run newspaper

Want to know what’s going on at Middlebrook School from a student’s perspective? Look no further than The Middlebrook Times, the middle school’s new student-run newspaper.

The online newspaper launched this year, includes news, entertainment, opinion, sports, and student life sections, with articles written by sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

The website also has polls with questions like "Are you traveling during the winter break?" and events will be added to its calendar.

The newspaper articles are written by members of the newspaper staff, which meets as a club after school on Tuesdays from 3:15 to 4:15.

“As a writing teacher, I am always looking to find or create places where students can write to an authentic audience about topics that matter to them,” Suzana Prata, sixth grade writing workshop teacher and Middlebrook Times staff adviser, told The Bulletin.

Prata said the online newspaper platform has the potential to give Middlebrook students a place to publish their work, “which is something teachers are always looking for.”

“We have a lot of sixth graders and I think a part of that is because I’m a sixth grade teacher, so it’s easy for me to advertise to them,” Prata told the Board of Education during its Dec. 3 meeting.

The club has a “good group” of seventh graders, said Prata, and although “eighth grade has been light,” she has been talking to her former students who are now in eighth grade and trying to bring them in to join the club.

“I have, right now, about four eighth graders that attended the last meeting,” she said.

When a student has an article published in the paper, Prata said, his or her profile is added to the site’s staff section, along with a list of his or her published articles.

“The excitement of having something published for a real audience truly motivates them,” Prata told The Bulletin. “The kids are so proud of their work, and so am I.”

Prata has students write their articles on Google Drive, which, she said, is “much more conducive to the work that we’re doing in the process of writing.”

“The students get really excited and want to publish their first draft right away, and so having them work on Google Drive slows them down a little bit and we can focus on the process first,” she said.

Once an article is proofread and edited, Prata said, it is then published on the website.

Prata said the newspaper is looking forward to adding classroom-generated content and building a readership base.

“I’ve been reaching out to teachers already to find out what’s going on in their classrooms that we can bring in,” she said, “and if we write, we need an audience, so I’ve been trying to advertise.”

Prata said some of the teachers have been asking about opening the comments on the newspaper site.

“There is the possibility of allowing people to comment on the stories, and I can moderate that,” she said. “Right now, it’s closed because this is still a baby and we’re still trying to learn all the possibilities of it, so once I have, we’ll see about that.”

Middlebrook Principal Maria Coleman said she has noticed students out “on assignment” in the building during the school day and at events.

“When we had the Private First Class Nick Maderas Food Drive, we did have students with their notebooks and they were interviewing other students who were participating in the food drive,” said Coleman, “and just yesterday, students were covering the book fair, so it’s really exciting to see them so enthusiastic.”

To read the students’ reports, visit middlebrooktimes.com.