Forsyth County residents have a new source for local news — an Otwell Middle School sixth grade class.
Alashia Cody’s five advanced English language arts classes recently competed for the title of winning class in the teacher’s third newspaper contest, a project she began in the fall of 2015.
The top paper, The Forsyth County Bounty, was announced in December, with the students’ final project containing sports, interviews, horoscopes, local news and technology sections, among others.
“Overall, the articles [in the winning project] were just better quality — not as many grammar mistakes,” Cody said. “Aesthetically, it was very easy on the eyes and not overwhelming. Most students this age have a tendency to put in a bunch of pictures on top of neon colors, which makes your eyes bleed.
“They just did a really good job of trying to keep this professional.”
With news becoming increasingly digitalized, Cody said the goal of the project was to get her students writing while also familiarizing them with print materials.
“I want to reacquaint them with print because everything’s pretty much digital, and they know very little about a newspaper,” she said. “We first start with a newspaper scavenger hunt, and the very basic question of, ‘Where is an index?’ they don’t know.
“They’ve lost that concept of physical print, so I want to reintroduce that while also hitting the standards [of writing] in a more engaging way.”
The project was customizable, Cody said, with students creating the paper based on their collective interests.
“There are only three people in a group, and I draw numbers and that group gets to choose the section of their choice,” she said. “They typically have to have two backups in case someone else takes their section.”
Once the group has its section, the students decide what they want to research and write about, and virtually any topic is allowed.
Dylanne Rodriguez, whose group chose the sports section, said she wrote about equestrian jumping based on personal experience.
“I’m an equestrian and many people say it’s not a sport so when I got sports, I really wanted to put it in the newspaper so people know that it actually is a sport,” she said. “And it’s even in the Olympics.”
Rodriguez said the project gave her the opportunity to research a passion of hers while producing an informative story.
“I’ve learned how [equestrian jumping] started – from fox hunting and needing the horses to be able to jump fences,” she said. “It’s very scary [being a winning class.] I’m excited and scared and happy all at the same time.”