October 26, 2021

Press rolls in Homer

Fifth graders join Fourth Estate at intermediate school

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Homer Intermediate School fifth-graders, from left, Camryn Wehje, Emma Effinger and Isabelle Brown, show their January issue of “The 26 Fix” to their homeroom class Thursday. It is the third issue of a student-run news and entertainment publication.

The top story is on the ski club, an entertainment reporter writes that last year’s favorite song was Happier by Marshmello, and favorite movie was Black Panther, and cafeteria workers would appreciate more pleases and thank yous.

It’s fifth grade journalism but it shows just the kind of initiative that Homer School District is looking for in its pupils, say district officials.

Emma Effinger, Mallory Kline, Isabelle Brown and Camryn Wethje started a monthly newspaper last fall for their fifth grade class at Homer Intermediate School, called “The 26 Fix.”

“I like writing and I was really bored one day so decided to write a newspaper,” said Effinger, who wants to one day be a college astronomy professor.

But there’s more to it than that, said Superintendent Tom Turck.

Effinger and the other students approached their homeroom teacher Ellen Beck about starting the paper and Turck says this initiative is just the type of student-led learning the district wants to see more of.

Beck, Principal Stephanie Falls and the students all discussed the idea, said Turck, and because the school fosters an environment where kids can come forward with their ideas, it was embraced and took off.

“More and more we’d like to have kids take ownership over their learning and this is a perfect example,” Turck said. “Instead of the adults saying let’s have a school newspaper, kids are coming forward really excited about this, saying, ‘Can we do it’ and it’s totally different.”

By taking that initiative, said Turck, students learn to advocate for themselves and it results in deeper learning.

Copies of the January 2019 issue of “The 26 Fix” were distributed at homeroom Thursday in Homer Intermediate School.

“We want kids to be able to learn to explore their interests and passions personally and professionally and from that comes a greater level of learning and ownership of it,” he said.

Beck said she helps the students when she can and sees the final copy of each edition, but she said the newspaper is really the voice of the students.

Twenty-six refers to 2026, the year the fifth grade class will graduate, and the fix refers to “getting your fix,” said Effinger’s mother, Heidi Effinger who has watched her daughter take on the project and tackle the hurdles that come with it.

Emma Effinger is the editor and during the homeroom with Beck, the founders all brainstorm ideas.

One article was on the importance of respecting staff, another on not marking up the building, and sometimes they assign interviews with fellow or new students.

The club has 20 members, the founders said. They were going to require participants to submit essays and then they select members from those essays, but decided they wanted everyone who desired to take part, Heidi Effinger said.

So Emma Effinger assigns the stories and sets deadlines, the students compile the submissions and then a parent — usually Heidi Effinger — prints them at home for distribution to the class.

Heidi Effinger said her daughter has always enjoyed writing and storytelling, so the role of leading a newspaper is a natural fit.

“She’s always been very creative and she’s been telling stories since she could talk,” Effinger said.

The role has made her learn to handle challenges, however, like making students meet deadlines, and learning how to work with others on story ideas or leadership.

The students are working on their next issue, coming out in February, and as a new topic it will feature interviews with teachers, called Teacher Talk.