The Rapidian

[VIDEO] GAAH Press Club cubs experiment with multimedia, learn to distinguish fact from opinion

Colored pencils in hand, with each stroke, the cubs determine and learn to justify snippets of a video interview left on the cutting room floor. "It makes them feel grown up to do something like that
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In the video

Instructor Lorena Slager explains to the Press Club cub reporters the difference between fact and opinion as they endeavor to write a lead sentence for their first piece, an interview with Miss Steffanie.

/All photos by Denise Cheng

Cub reporters hunker over drafts of their autobiographies.

Cub reporters hunker over drafts of their autobiographies.

Press Club progress sheet

Press Club progress sheet

On a gray afternoon, the Cook Arts Center (644 Grandville SW) is a beacon of color. In the lobby, kids sit around a table, each with beams of crayons radiating around them. One floor above, their peers are busy at work patching together video interviews, performance reviews and autobiographies.

"Put a star next to the questions you think are important," instructed Lorena Slager, a facilitator for the Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities' Press Club and owner of local business The Sparrows Coffee, Tea and Newsstand. The club is a partnership among The Rapidian, GAAH and Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center, which Slager heads up.

Every Wednesday afternoon, a few of the Press Club cub reporters make it in to Cook Arts Center to collaborate on their next pieces. Colored pencils in hand, with each stroke, the cubs determine and learn to justify snippets of a video interview left on the cutting room floor.

"I'm focusing constantly on making it real and exciting for them," Slager said. "It makes them feel grown up to do something like that and to act like real reporters."

Slager incorporates multimedia into the reporting, but one of her aims is to make the students into better writers. As the club works on each subsequent draft, she helps to smooth fragmented sentences into connected thoughts and distinguish the difference between fact and opinion.

"They thought that that's fact - that Miss Steffanie's awesome," Slager said of a recent Press Club interview with co-facilitator Steffanie Rosalez. "If I just completely upload whatever they say the first time, then it's not really teaching them anything, it's just a really nice experience."

Having already submitted one piece, the cubs are at work on their first review. Cook Arts Center was gifted tickets to Grease when the Broadway troupe made a stop at DeVos Performance Hall. The Press Club proceeded with no hiccups until then.

"Up until this review thing, there hadn't been any copying, which almost every class I've ever taught, somebody's copied somebody else," Slager said. "I've always thought it was lack of self-confidence; they either couldn't come up with their own idea or weren't confident in their own idea."

This does not worry Slager, who thinks the students were just stuck. Instead, she is fascinated by what stood out to the students about the performance.

"One of the things they had to think about is whether they would recommend it for kids because they are kids. They would say, 'I wouldn't recommend it for kids because there are bad words. Maybe kids 10 and up' because they are 10, so of course they're old enough. There is that aspect of 'from a kid to a kid.'"

Slager wants to increase the club's membership but has been challenged by the lack of transportation. Every week, the co-facilitators shuttle as many César Chavez and Burton Elementary students as can fit in their cars to Cook Arts Center. GAAH's mission is to serve its immediate neighborhood, and to keep the program free, participation is currently limited to those who live in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood.

"There are tons of kids who seem really interested ... We could get more, I think," Slager said.

Upcoming pieces include an interview with local artists during a visit to the Byrneboehm Gallery (959 Lake SE), a class interview with a journalist and a photo journalistic piece framed as a youth response to Newsweek's listing of Grand Rapids as a dying city.

"Something that's really fascinating to me was that they were just writing, they were just going for it and not concerned about what the other kids were thinking," Slager said. 

Juice stains in place of coffee stains, snack packs instead of takeout. This is what a youth news bureau looks like.

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