CANANDAIGUA — Tracking news and current events isn’t an activity that has to wait until adulthood, as students at St. Mary School are demonstrating.
This school year, St. Mary’s fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders have been digging into articles about natural disasters, scientific discoveries and other recent happenings in this country and beyond.
Their social-studies teacher, Stacy Maslyn, noted that she had previously offered the current-events focus once per month. However, beginning in 2023-24, “I started doing it weekly because the kids love doing it,” she said.
Canandaigua students digest wide variety of news topics
According to Maslyn, students are assigned one article per week. They can choose from material provided by DOGONews.com, a youth-friendly news website; or Scholastic News, a similarly structured magazine. Or, they can find an article on their own via other media resources. For each article they select, youths are required to write down details about the five Ws — who, what, where, when and why — that describe the story.
During a class on Jan. 12, students broke up into small groups to share details about the stories they’d been researching that week. Among the topics were a deadly 7.6-magnitude earthquake that rocked Japan on Jan. 1; the world’s oldest living tortoise, who turned 191 years old in December; how different countries celebrate the holiday season; a rare Babe Ruth baseball card that recently sold for $7.2 million; the Geminid meteor showers that took place in November and December; and an archaeologist who this past June uncovered an ancient Mexican city.
Following the small-group discussions, Maslyn asked the students to place each story in such categories as business, technology, world, local or entertainment.
“If it’s a mysterious fish found in the Finger Lakes, would that be local?” Maslyn asked, receiving a bunch of “yeses.” Meanwhile, “How about an earthquake in Maui?” was greeted by a chorus of “nos.” Maslyn went on to point out that some articles can fit into multiple categories. For instance, the Babe Ruth article could fall under business, because a large financial transaction took place; or entertainment, since Ruth was a baseball star.
As class concluded that day, Maslyn told her students that since the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was coming up, she would award bonus points to anybody who, the following Tuesday, could share a fact about the civil-rights activist that had been gleaned from a news article.
Class at Finger Lakes Catholic school helps young people with research skills
However, Maslyn told the Catholic Courier, information collected by students can’t be from just any article plucked off the internet.
“They have to find the date, the author and the source it’s from. Is it a reputable source?” she said.
Maslyn added that to ensure internet safety, she instructs students to seek online articles with their parents’ assistance. Also due to their young ages, Maslyn said the current-events initiative typically doesn’t involve such subjects as wars and politics. However, she does expect to highlight this year’s presidential election come November.
Maslyn said that along with the classroom discussions, she encourages her young readers to share their knowledge of current events through conversations at home. Doing so can create an “us learning from them” effect, she said, remarking that many adults — herself included — don’t always keep up with the news as often as they should. She observed that regular efforts to follow the news help expand newspaper usage beyond reading comics and clipping coupons, and internet usage beyond playing games and connecting with friends.
Enthusiasm for current events was obvious during the Jan. 12 class, with raised hands and animated chatter filling the room. Rose Cox, a St. Mary fifth-grader, said she enjoys the initiative because “you can know what the world’s up to, what other countries and places are up to.”
Addison Mellor, also a fifth-grader, added that following the news helps expand her range of awareness in a grown-up way.
“It becomes like a hobby, and when you get older, you can use that (knowledge),” she said.Tags: Catholic Schools, Ontario County News