Helman Elementary students published their first school-wide newspaper last week as part of the Friday exploratory classes begun last year.

"I've tried making newspapers before by myself, and they weren't very successful," said Chris Curtis, a fifth-grade student at Helman. "It's just a lot more fun to work on a newspaper with a lot of other people."

The Friday classes are meant to give students like Curtis a chance to study new subjects with kids of all ages, said Susan Hollandsworth, principal at Helman.

"It gives kids a chance to go into something that's really interest-based and explore new interests they didn't think they had," she said.

The school ran a six-week pilot of the program last year, and the classes were so popular that they continued this year. Two additional six-week sessions will be held later this year.

In addition to learning about newspapers, students could attend classes on claymation, sewing, weaving, hip hop, paper airplanes and puzzles, science experiments and yoga.

Students in the newspaper class, run by reading specialist Nancy Daniels, reported on the activities of the other exploratory classes, as well as the upcoming construction project and recent changes in the school cafeteria.

For example, the student reporters discovered that syrup is no longer served because it is

too sticky and unhealthy, while peanut butter disappeared because of the high cost.

The articles, pictures, puzzles and games, all produced by students in grades two through five, were distributed to the entire school in the five-page "Charred Journal" on the last Friday of the session.

"I've always wanted to be in the school newspaper," said third grader River Bradley. "It's all worth it because we know we get to read all that stuff in the end."

The students were impressed with the end result, and spent the last day of class proudly delivering their paper, reading their classmates' articles and solving the word scrambles and mazes. As they looked back over the process of creating the paper, students recalled a variety of favorite memories.

"My favorite part about newspapers is I like to go around and see what other people are doing and ask questions," said second grader Kipling Parowski.

Third grader Dale Fulton pointed out his comic strip about a fisherman catching a pair of pants, and fifth graders Anne Kim and Maya Timmons said they just liked writing the articles.

The process wasn't without its challenges, however.

"It was easy at some times and hard at other times," Chris Curtis said. "Sometimes there are no jobs for you to do, and it gets kind of frustrating."

When asked about his favorite part, fourth grader Aaron Valle took the most basic approach.

"I think just making a replica of a normal newspaper and to explore what the people who make newspapers do," he said.

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