Legacy Elementary students work with local columnist to produce school newspaper

Eight fourth grade girls at Legacy Elementary School launched the first edition of the school newspaper this spring with the help of a local journalist.

The newspaper, Legacy Lion Tales, was the result of a mentorship program with Longmont Times-Call columnist Betty Heath.

Two students from each fourth grade class were chosen by their teachers to participate in the program.

“The students we chose are our more proficient, advanced writers,” said Donna Weaver, a fourth grade teacher at Legacy. “Anytime they can work with a professional in the field, almost like an internship, it’s a good thing for the students. It helps grow their interest in the field.”

For the past 13 years, Heath, 80, has written the weekly column “As I See It” for The Longmont Times-Call newspaper. She also has written for Baptist Magazines and newspapers, and currently writes for the Carbon Valley Consumer Report.

The group met about three times a week during their morning writing block in February and March. Heath taught the girls about the dos-and-don'ts and how-to's of basic newspaper writing. They learned about publishing, interviewing and the five Ws (who, what, when, where, why) of writing.

Weaver said the students are already learning to write essays and research papers but Heath’s lessons built on their writing skills and taught them how to add personality to their pieces.

After deciding on a name for the school newspaper, Heath charged the students with interviewing and writing about someone who inspires them or a topic they want to learn more about.

The newspaper, which was printed and distributed at the school, featured articles about gymnastics, bugs and animals, police officers, teachers, a principal and a parent.

London Smith, 10, interviewed her music teacher, Jerry Sutton, because she likes music and is in the school choir, she said.

“What would life be like without music,” her article begins. “No jamming out in the car or no listening to music when you need to relax.”

London was introduced to some new musicians after Sutton told her he had performed with James Brown, Tina Turner and Buddy Rich.

“I haven’t ever heard of any of these people before but I bet all the parents at my school have,” London wrote in her article.

The students’ articles also appeared in the April and May editions of the Carbon Valley Consumer Report.

“That was cool,” London said. “My neighbors kept asking if I wanted to keep (their copies).”

Students were special guests at the district’s May 9 School Board meeting where they answered questions about their articles and talked about the school newspaper.

Weaver called the program intergenerational, and said it is important for kids to see that members of the community are invested in and care about local students.

“It was one of the most fun projects I've ever had the privilege of being a part of,” Heath said. “Volunteering to teach children how to write from their heart is one of the most rewarding things I've done.”

Heath is working with Legacy’s principal and teachers in hopes of continuing the newspaper next school year.