School & Community News

Fast start to the year with ‘shoe-leather camp’
September 25, 2016

September 2016…September is a big month for Healthy NewsWorks schools as they assemble their newspaper staffs and start planning their stories.

Some 350 reporters will be covering health-related events and topics in 15 Philadelphia, Norristown, and Upper Darby elementary and middle schools this year. That’s a record number of reporters for our program!

Most of the schools kick off their program with “shoe-leather camp,” which typically involves four to six lessons over a week or two. These lessons focus on journalism basics, including an understanding of what makes a story newsworthy, how to request an interview, who is a source, and what is paraphrasing.

Each participating student receives a reporter kit with Healthy NewsWorks-created educational materials, a yellow journal, and a professional reporter’s notebook—the same type that I used when I worked in a newsroom. Invariably, someone blurts out, “When do we get to interview? Can we do it today?”

Among the first newspaper teams to start “boot camp” this year was the fourth grade class at St. Frances Cabrini Regional Catholic School in West Philadelphia. It’s the first year that St. Frances, part of the Independence Mission Schools, will participate in the Healthy NewsWorks network.

Fourth graders at Marshall Street Elementary School and Whitehall Elementary School, both in the Norristown Area School District, also got a jump-start on their newspaper programs by scheduling shoe-leather camps during the first full week of school. Marshall Street and Whitehall are among our oldest programs and are entering their 10th and 9th years, respectively.

Our reporters will focus on a new special topic this year, “Play Well! Preparing for a healthy life.” The topic will enable them to write articles about aerobic and weight-bearing exercises, healthy snacks, sportsmanship, and sleep. They already are coming up with plans for school-specific stories such as the arrival of a new nurse at Whitehall and a change in the location for lunchtime recess at St. Frances Cabrini.

We’re also in the midst of narrowing down an amazing slate of candidates for our 2017 health leaders. Our thanks to everyone who suggested names!

Several of our reporters and teachers will help us select the final dozen leaders who will be profiled by student journalists in our sixth book, Leading Healthy Change In Our Communities 2017. We’re already making plans for a celebration on May 31. Plan ahead and mark your calendar now!

—By Marian Uhlman, Director of Healthy NewsWorks

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Since 2003, Healthy NewsWorks has been empowering elementary and middle school students to become researchers, writers, and confident communicators who advance health understanding and literacy through their factual publications and digital media.