Students discover newspapers during seminar course

6 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine — Thursday marked the first times many Caribou Middle School students had held a weekly newspaper, according to English Arts Education instructor Kim Barnes. 

“They were like archaeologists uncovering an artifact,” Barnes said. “It’s something old to them, which I find baffling.”

Barnes said the youths were participating in a three-week elective course that allows students who do not attend band and chorus to gain exposure to “ideas and concepts” that “we don’t necessarily have time for in the classroom.”

“We call our elective classes ‘seminars,’” she said. “Seminars are taught by teachers at Caribou Middle School for grades six to eight from 8:20 to 8:50 in a three week rotation.”

Barnes said she chose newspapers as a topic because she had so many fond memories of reading papers as a child, and recalled anticipating the thud of papers hitting the floor of her porch.

“Everyone would run to get the paper for breakfast, and we’d fight for our favorite sections,” she said, adding that this inspired her to dub her seminar the “breakfast club,” as students were able to eat breakfast while reading a newspaper.

Caribou Middle School teacher Kim Barnes hands out issues of the Aroostook Republican for a Jan. 11 class in which students learned about local newspapers. (Christopher Bouchard)

Barnes said her favorite section was the comics as a young child, but that she was later drawn to the sports pages as a teen, commending weekly sports reporter Kevin Sjoberg’s coverage.

“Kevin was instrumental when I was in high school,” she said. “I was on the cross country team and we were really successful, but we didn’t get any press. He changed everything, and gave the smaller teams more coverage. He does a really good job.”

Sjoberg still covers sports in the Caribou and Presque Isle region.

The Aroostook Republican donated 30 copies of the weekly newspaper for Barnes’ class on Thursday.

Barnes said there is “nothing like holding print in your hands,” and that she was thrilled to see her students “get excited about holding old technology.

“They have been reading stories online,” she said, “but I don’t see the same excitement for the news that I see when they have a newspaper in their hands and say, ‘Hey, read this story, it’s about the guy my aunt’s dating.’ They make connections while reading about the world around them.”

Sixth grader Brennan Guerrette said Thursday that he was surprised to see his father’s potato storage shed on the front page, adding that he was “really sad” when the building burned because “we lost a couple tractors and a lot of money.”

Guerrette said he likes the class, and that “it’s something different.”

Seventh grader Matthew Gregson said he’s “read a couple newspapers but mostly just the comic section,” and that he didn’t expect to read about Caribou High School being closed due to heating issues.

“I knew about it because my brother goes to the high school,” he said. “I thought it was just a couple water pipes that burst, but I didn’t know the oil burner went out.”

Before leaving class, students were asked to write a quick note about something they didn’t expect to see in the weekly newspaper.

The majority were surprised to see advertisements and coupons in the Aroostook Republican.

“I didn’t expect to see coupons and goods,” wrote Mason St. Peter.

Sierra St. Peter wrote that she didn’t expect to see “the nice things in the coupons.”

“I didn’t expect to see coupons in the back of a local newspaper,” wrote Evan Dickinson.

“I didn’t expect to see ads! I did not know ads were in newspapers,” Selena Savage wrote.

A couple students were surprised to see sports coverage in the paper, and Braydon Willette wrote that he “didn’t expect to see Caribou’s basketball team,” while Joe Schuler wrote that he “didn’t expect to see lots of Caribou sports.”

Barnes said her students read print and online newspapers every time they attend her seminar, and noted that they enjoy being able to flip through a printed newspaper.

“There is so much more to a newspaper than a headline and article,” she said.