Magazine Feature / People

Education student helps elementary students create newspaper

When readers picked up a copy of Highline Academy’s new student newspaper they found articles about administrators, staff and faculty, a look into the debate over school uniforms and original artwork — all created by third, fourth and fifth graders in six weeks.

Besides writing, the students took the photographs and planned the page layout in Highline Academy News, explains Heather Danforth, a master’s candidate in DU’s Morgridge College of Education.

This spring, Danforth worked with about 20 students as they created the newspaper at Highline, a charter school in southeast Denver. The project was for an urban education course taught by education Associate Professor Nick Cutforth.

Danforth first jumped into the deep end of challenging teaching situations when she joined Teach for America after graduating from Brigham Young University with a journalism degree. She fulfilled her two-year commitment to the program in the Mississippi Delta.

Cutforth describes her as a student who “clearly has a yearning for connection and relevance.”

For Danforth, the newspaper provided an opportunity for students to connect to their education — something she says is a necessity in urban environments. When students are faced with violence or difficult lives outside of school, she says if education doesn’t connect with life outside school, it quickly loses significance.

“It’s important for their curriculum to be relevant to them so that school is a priority,” she says.

With the newspaper, the students chose the story topics that were important to them while they also learned verbal and written communication skills, Danforth explains.

After this year, the students unanimously asked to continue the paper next fall. Danforth says she plans to continue working with the students at Highline.


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