It's not often that students get excited to do more than the required classwork, but some fourth-grade students at East Elementary School are bucking that perception.
Two students, who were up for a challenge recently, started their own magazine causing fellow classmates to follow suit. By reporting on everything that moves at the elementary school and taking the initiative to delve into some controversial and touchy subjects, students are soaking up the rewards of seeing their work in print.
"We wanted to get news from all through the school because if something happened and nobody knew about it then people would say 'What are you talking about?'" said fourth-grade student Jane Spann.
Spann and classmate Kelly Ciesco decided to create a magazine as an extension of the reading and writing they practice in class.
November's first edition hit the classroom recently and spurred a number of other students to create their own versions. Collectively the class has produced eight magazines with topics that run the gamut from sports and profiles to recipes and jokes.
"We needed a challenge for reading and writing," Ciesco said. "You have to be very dedicated to do this. People say, 'Wow' when they seen what we've done. They can open it up and see what's happening this week."
Students get story ideas for the magazines by gathering information from the Internet or interviewing classmates or teachers. Many submissions are complete with pictures that students have cut and pasted onto the pages. The pages are photocopied, stapled and then distributed to students who sign up to receive them.
In one magazine, named "Sports of America" students Dustin Willey and Xavier Peed show their love of sports with an issue dedicated to sports stars.
In it they feature basketball professional Shaquille O'Neal, snowboarder, Mark Fawcatt and Seattle Mariner's Ichrio Suzuki.
"In Japan Ichrio is a legend to young children. He's one of the HOTTEST baseball stars ever," the students wrote. "He plays for the Seattle Mariners and is number 51 on his team. Ichiro has baseball fever."
But in addition to featuring the highly publicized professional players, Willey and Peed took advantage of an interview they could easily get.
Under the heading "Football Freak!" the duo interviewed classmate Mason Updike.
"Mason Updike is one of the most extreme football players at East Elementary School," they wrote. "Mason is one of the fastest kids at East. His favorite position is quarterback and favorite player is Michael Vick. Mason really loves football."
As students took to the task of gathering school news, they began to question a school policy that allowed girls but not boys to wear hats. Fourth-grade students posted petitions around school to gauge input on the issue and then delivered the results to school principal Diana Cook.
In another instance, students wrote a short, poignant column on divorce.
"Sometimes parents get a divorce because they grow apart or their love for each other has changed over the years or they fight too much," it states. "Most couples have different reasons to get a divorce. This is for sure, kids cannot cause a divorce. Kids can't cause a divorce because they didn't do anything to ruin their marriage or make them fight."
As the students catch onto the writing bug some said they wanted to be writers when they grew up.
"Once you start, you kind of get into a rhythm," Peed explained.
Fourth-grade teacher Judy Foster couldn't be prouder of her self-motivated students.
"We needed something to stretch our brains," she said. "This is something they've done totally on their own."
Soon the class hopes to get a digital camera to make the magazine-making process smoother, Foster said.
"These could be the future leaders," she said proudly. "You guys are going to be that type of adult."
The prospect of having motivated, inquisitive students in her school is twofold, said principal Diana Cook.
"They are trying to find the boundaries and find out the reasons behind them," said Cook. "We all want to raise independent thinkers now it's kind of scary."