April 2017 … Healthy NewsWorks “opens up a whole new world that students don’t normally get to see,” said Phil Leddy, editor of the Marshall Street Healthy Bulletin.
Mr. Leddy became involved with the program when he started teaching at Marshall Street Elementary School in the Norristown Area School District three years ago. “I wanted to engage students in a different way and find a way for them to enjoy writing,” he said.
Students in the program spend the first part of the school year in training. They learn about how to find quality information, practice interview skills and organize their information into a well-written news story. After that, Mr. Leddy lets students volunteer for the tasks they most enjoy, including conducting research and interviews, writing and illustrating stories, and distributing newspapers throughout the school. “Writing is far and away the best skill” students gain from the program, Mr. Leddy said. Writing in a non-graded environment, working as a group, and pursuing topics of interest alleviate the fear and criticism that make it difficult for students to improve as writers. Students are excited about their work and want to share it with their teachers, families, and peers.
The health information in the newspaper benefits readers throughout the school. Student reporters have the opportunity to engage in research, interviews, taste tests, and other activities firsthand, and then share that experience with their peers. For example, a field trip to the hospital allowed students to address common concerns about hospitals. “Spreading information peer to peer is very beneficial to kids in the school,” Mr. Leddy said.
Mr. Leddy said he appreciates the guidance he has received from Marian Uhlman, executive director of Healthy NewsWorks, as well as the framework the program provides. He hopes to build on this in the future and integrate the material more into class. “I’m looking forward to 10 more years with the program because I can see how much it benefits students.”
—By Adele Thornton, Volunteer