CINCINNATI, Ohio— First year English and Language Arts teacher Craig West, along with his class of six underclass students in Introduction to Journalism, is bringing the Deer Park student newspaper, The Deer Parker, into the digital age.
Dr. West and his students have revitalized The Deer Parker, turning to an online only publication that focuses on the unique stories throughout the Junior-Senior High School.
“What I really love the most is, not only how many of the ideas are coming from students in the class, but that the stories they are doing involve a lot of student input,” West said. “Being in a small school like Deer Park, I feel like we really get the voice of the student body in these articles. There are really interesting stories that can only happen in a place like Deer Park.”
Stories include features on Homecoming, new faculty members and student-athlete or artist spotlights. West said though he is providing the instruction, the class is completely student-driven.
“What’s been really cool about this class is it’s come mostly from the students,” he said. “From day one, I told them they are going to shape the class and we are going to learn by doing. We started out the first few weeks by looking at other school newspapers, seeing what kinds of stories were out there, coming up with story ideas and figuring out how we would work as a group.”
This student-directed approach has allowed the class—which is made up completely of freshmen and sophomores—to take on each edition of the paper on their own terms. The students are in charge of idea generation, writing, editing and publication.
Dr. West is in his first year at Deer Park following the completion of his doctorate in Education at the University of Cincinnati. His teaching experience includes a stint in New Hampshire, though he is a Cincinnati native. He said he is finding new challenges to conquer along with the class.
“I’m learning—along with the students—that a news story looks and sounds simple, but there is a lot of work that it takes to get it in that simple-to-read format,” West said. “Everything from figuring out how to introduce a quote or introduce an article to how to ask the right kind of questions to get the right answers are things I have been learning right along with them.”
The class is in its infant stages with Dr. West at the helm, however, he and the students have big ideas for the future of the class.
“We have talked about getting into things like podcasting and video journalism,” he said. “We haven’t gotten there yet in this first semester of the course. It’s a small group of six students who all have other classes. A lot of the work that we could do is really time intensive and resource intensive, so we’re not there yet. But, we have some really good ideas for it.”
Donning press passes, the students use the class time to investigate story ideas and travel throughout the school, interviewing and recording sources, taking photos and working together to write and edit new stories. Dr. West said he is very proud of what the young group has been able to accomplish thus far.
“It’s really impressive to me what a group of six freshmen and sophomores have been able to do,” he said. “There has been nothing that I have asked them to do that they have not been willing to go for. They have taken the initiative across the board, and they’ve really impressed me with their willingness to generate ideas and make it happen.”
You can read all of the stories from The Deer Parker online HERE.