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Using an iPad for filming and recording, Hawthorne Elementary’s student reporters roam their school, finding and telling the important stories happening in their hallways.

On a recent afternoon, the group of 10 fourth- and fifth-grade reporters met to discuss the stories they’ve been working on and to plan for the upcoming week. The reporters typically make three video reports a week, and do all the filming and editing themselves.

Becky Sorenson, principal at Hawthorne and the student reporters’ adviser, encouraged the students to work on catchy beginnings and clear endings that leave the viewer with something to think about. When they first started meeting at the beginning of the semester, Sorenson introduced them to the essential elements of a news report: the "lede" or hook, time, date, place, key facts, and a thoughtful conclusion.

The students ate their lunch and watched their most recent report on the iPad, looking for where it could be improved. It was about Teacher Appreciation Day, and reporters asked several students what they like about their teachers.

“She is inspiring and she helps me read better,” one student said to the camera.

The report ended with another student saying, “When I am stuck on a problem or something and I can’t do it, they help me out. And if I’m in a fight with my friends they help me. So they're super-kind, and I love them.”

“Listen to that at the end,” Sorenson said to the reporters. “I’m wondering do we need a different ending? Did you hear the end? ‘And I love them.’ Do you think that teachers would feel good when they hear that?”

The students all agreed that ending sends a good message to teachers, and leaves them with something to think about. Sorenson also praised the reporters for getting variety in their answers from students, highlighting different perspectives and ways teachers are appreciated.

Sorenson started the student reporter program last school year, teaching students to use iMovie to edit videos, add voiceovers and include images in their reports. Sorenson said she began by using her own iPad to make morning reports, and then raised money to get an iPad for the students to make their own.

“I just thought it would be a great way, because kids are so visual, a great way to showcase some of the things that are going on in classes across the school,” Sorenson said. “I really hope to develop their speaking and listening skills. Also, to develop confidence in the ability to ask questions and ask thoughtful questions.”

As a Title 1 school, Hawthorne serves a large population of economically disadvantaged students. Sorenson hopes to be able to increase the amount of technology the reporters have at their disposal, but for now they share one iPad among the 10 of them.

The reporters focus on cool events, speakers, and activities at their school. They recently made a segment on the Missoula Art Museum during a field trip, where students interviewed one of the museum’s artists. One of last year’s student reporters was Kyiyo Pow Wow royalty, and her fellow reporters attended the powwow to make a report on it.

“It was really fun to be with the reporters as they were there and experiencing the powwow, and they gained so much respect for what was happening,” Sorenson said.

Fourth-grader Richard Allen Morris, one of this semester’s reporters, said he loves all the opportunities to be on camera. He also feels like a role model for other students.

“I thought it would be a fun job, and it’s giving me more responsibility,” he said. “I like to work with computers and the tablets because it helps me learn technology. And I signed up because I knew we would be doing all these things and I thought it would be really cool and fun.”

Nova Gulli, also a fourth-grade reporter, said they choose what to report on carefully, taking into consideration their fellow students.

They’ll report on something only “if it’s really fun and other students and teachers would want to watch and learn about it,” she said.

After their lunch meeting, two student reporters, Payton Campbell and Ismerai Gomez, ran out to the playground to make a report about Nathan Wright, a "noon" aide who supervises children during lunch and recess, who was working his last day at Hawthorne.

While Ismerai held the iPad and filmed, Payton stood beside Wright and began her report.

“I’m sad to inform you,” she said, looking toward the iPad, “but tomorrow is Nathan’s last day.”

She asked him questions about where he’d be going next (a data recovery job), and then a follow-up question (what is data recovery?). The students then found other kids on the playground who talked about how much they’ll miss Wright, and what they liked about him as a noon aide.

“Reporting from Hawthorne Elementary,” the report ended, “this is Payton Campbell.”

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