Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sto-Rox Sixth-Graders Give 'Voice' to Student Newspaper Publication Reaches School, Community

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sto-Rox Sixth-Graders Give 'Voice' to Student Newspaper Publication Reaches School, Community

Article excerpt

The Viking Voice staff meets at 2:30 p.m. on the first Friday of each month, fueled by pies from Fox's Pizza Den and the enthusiasm of teacher Chris Scarnati. Fifteen sixth-graders at the Sto-Rox Upper Elementary School line up for cheese or pepperoni, grab a beverage and settle into their desks with copies of the latest edition.

"What can we do better next time?" asked Mr. Scarnati. This led to a discussion about typos - a missing "to," "off" for "of," a misspelled name. "We're getting better, folks," he said. "And how about these ads, huh? It looks like a real newspaper."

Never mind that they aren't paid ads or that the product is six pages of copy paper stapled together. What's real is that the newspaper produced by these sixth graders - guided by a pro in the principles of journalism - circulates through the school and into the real worlds of McKees Rocks and Stowe.

One of the paper's goals is to encourage students to interact with their communities.

"Think about your audience," Mr. Scarnati said at the meeting for the March edition. "We need to ask 'Why does this matter?' "

Before he went into teaching, he worked for a small daily newspaper in Louisiana and as a correspondent for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He has freelanced for ESPN Magazine and Sports Illustrated and remains a part-time freelancer.

A native of Wexford from a family of teachers, he said teaching has always been a calling.

Principal Lori Sims seized on his idea of a student newspaper when she interviewed him last summer for the social studies and reading job. The newspaper is an extracurricular club.

"Writing is a focus here, and who better to present those skills than someone who has written for a living?" said Ms. Sims.

Heather Johnston, the school's head teacher, said the paper also serves as a source of school news for parents.

"So it's more than a flyer the kids take home," said Mr. Scarnati, who arranges the articles on the pages. "Our students get to flex their creative muscles. …

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