Young Journalists Create Third Grade Lockdown News

Allison Petek, Online Editor

On a Thursday afternoon, a group of third graders from Glorietta Elementary School eagerly join their weekly Zoom call for their Third Grade Lockdown News brainstorm session. The third graders go around and pitch article ideas for the upcoming edition of the paper. When one of the writers struggles to find an idea, their peers excitedly jump in with suggestions.

At the beginning of quarantine, third grader Lucy Targonski and her mother, Jenny Poree, were inspired to start their own newspaper after reading “The Missing Diary,” a Thea Stilton Mouseford Academy book about mice starting a school newspaper.  

Targonski recruited some of her third grade classmates for the editorial staff, and they got to work publishing weekly editions of the Third Grade Lockdown News. The number of writers participating each week fluctuates, averaging around ten students who each contribute one article.

The students write and edit their articles all by themselves and then their parents assist by compiling the articles together in a Google Doc. Once finished, the writers print out copies of the papers and distribute them to their family, friends, and neighbors and email it to their Glorietta classmates and teachers. “[Our teachers] think it’s cool that we can do that and that it’s not an assignment, and it’s just that we thought of that without actually being asked,” Targonski said.

Third Grade Lockdown News

Recently, one of the parents created a website for the journalists to publish their articles on. “It’s morphed in the last eight weeks time from very very raw and basic to being now hopefully a website that is a lot more automated and easier for everybody, and the kids can hopefully manage it themselves,” Mindy Carrington, one of the parents, said. 

The journalists have fun choosing interesting topics to write about. “I like that you can do any topic and have fun with it. For example, I interviewed my cat—her name is Shivers—so I made up her answers,” third grader Vanessa Carrington said. “I like to do [articles] about activities for lockdown or what I’m doing at home for lockdown.” Vanessa has also written articles about baking, art, and a movie review of “Onward.”  

“I mainly do current events. Once I did a current event that happened in our family, and another time I did a current event that happened for famous people. One was about how Rob Gronkowski was moved to the Buccaneers. I also did one about a man who ran a marathon on just his balcony,” third grader Duncan Glynn said.  

The articles often showcase different aspects of life in Orinda during quarantine. “Normally something happens during my life, and I think ‘oh I can write about that’,” third grader Madeline Stout said. “For example, once I was sitting outside and my grandpa came and was giving us toilet paper, so then I decided to write about that.” 

The journalists are enjoying the creative freedom they have with this project. “I like that I can write whatever sounds good, and I’m not getting graded on it or anything,” Targonski said. “Usually it’s what recently happened to me. This week there was a bee that kept flying into the pool and so my mom and I had to save it, and we learned about how bees can eat and that they don’t have as great of vision.” 

The paper has even featured advertisements for another local third grade entrepreneurship: Chalk Talk With Benny and Gray, which offers personalized chalk art and messages for people’s driveways. “My neighbors down the street do this business, but they haven’t had too many customers, so they asked if they could be in the paper, so I asked them some questions, and they told me, so I put that into the newspaper,” Targonski said. 

The newspaper helps to keep the third graders connected with each other during the shelter-in-place order. “My favorite part about making the paper is that we have Zoom calls every week and so I like seeing all of my friends,” Duncan Glynn said. 

“It’s been a really good opportunity for them to get to see each other every week and talk about what’s going on in the community and be encouraging and share their stories. Lucy always says that she feels like she is learning about different things that her friends are doing, and I think it’s been a way to keep some closeness for them,” Poree said. 

“I am hopeful that all of these editions of Lockdown News will help provide them with some sort of memory or way to look back, because—if you’ve seen some of the editions—there are some real current event articles sprinkled in with [ones about] the teddy bear treasure hunt that’s going on in the neighborhood. It’s a cute cross-section of life in Orinda, life in individual homes, and then also life beyond California and even the U.S. sometimes,” Kendall Glynn, Duncan’s mother, said. “I also think it’s a really neat way for the kids to learn a little bit about journalism, and also writing in this way is very different from what they are writing right now as part of third grade curriculum. I think it’s a different type of writing skill and I am hopeful that that’s something they’ll carry on with them.”

The newspaper serves as an engaging way for the students to continue learning about the world and developing their researching and writing skills as Glorietta practices distance learning.

“It has enabled them to be really creative, and it has been fun for them to see their friends once a week online. I think it has been a little challenging because they have done a little research and learned a lot about things they never knew about before,” Alison Stout, Madeline’s mother, said. “I think they’re [the kids] hoping to keep it going, even after quarantine is over.” 

All of the writers expressed interest in continuing with the newspaper after quarantine ends. Targonski hopes to bring the paper to Glorietta next year and expand the operation. “I want as many people to be able to learn and contribute to it. It’s not only fun for everyone to see your work, it’s also just fun to write stuff because I love writing,” Targonski explained. 

As the Zoom brainstorm wraps  up, the group decides to play a lively game of Two Truths and a Lie to end the meeting on a fun note. Then, with deadlines hanging over their heads, the young journalists, like all reporters seeking the next breaking story, set off to research and conduct interviews for their upcoming articles.