Spreading the news Students at Aqsarniit learn about free press.
It’s deadline day, and the students buzzing around Carol Horn’s classroom at Iqaluit’s Aqsarniit Illinniarvik have a newspaper to put out.
Student council elections are looming and the budding journalists want to get the next issue of the Aqsarniit Ilinniarvik Newspaper out in time to hand it to parents who will visit the school the following week.
Ten students sit in a circle on the carpeted floor. In the middle is a large piece of paper listing the students’ names and the stories they’re working on. Each person has a folder with his or her information carefully stored inside.
“I also need puzzles and cartoons, so if you have free time, we need them in there to make the paper interesting,” Horn tells the students as they break away from the circle. Some position themselves at computer terminals while others grab digital cameras and head out into the hall with their notepads.
Horn sits at a table, papers strewn in front of her. “There is lots of news happening at this school,” she says.
The junior high school teacher started the paper as a way of spreading that news around the school, which had no newspaper or newsletter. It was also a way to teach students about publishing.
“The students really surprised me with their knowledge of newspapers. They can talk about newspapers and all the parts in them. Their opinions and thoughtful ideas about stories really surprised me.”
The newspaper is one of a variety of “rotations” offered at Aqsarniit. The students can choose which enrichment program, or rotation, they will attend two days a week. Two 50-minute sessions a week, however, is not enough time to produce a newspaper, so some students do extra work outside of school hours.
“They’ve learned a lot of computer skills,” Horn says, adding they’re also learning how to conduct interviews, take digital photos and meet deadlines.
The first edition, dated Oct. 24, was distributed around the school and to an Iqaluit District Education Authority meeting in November. The second issue was scheduled to hit desks the week of Dec. 13.
A student races in and hands Horn a list of questions she has been asking. Horn suggests she not interview only students in the newspaper rotation.
“Just get five people out in the hall,” she says.
Horn wants the students to have the paper nearly completed today so they will have time to photocopy and staple the pages.
Twelve-year-old Noah Genn has left his computer and is standing patiently, waiting for Horn. “Can I go take a picture now?” he asks.
“First, let’s put your story into two columns,” she suggests, looking at the computer screen. “Select all the text, then choose columns.”
Genn is writing about the Iqaluit Musical Society’s production of The Wizard of Oz earlier this month.
“I’m writing about the musical and how it’s coming to the high school and I’m introducing the characters,” he explains.
At a nearby table, Courtney White and Heather Michael-Graham, both 11, are cutting out headshots to go with each student council candidate’s typed election speech.
White explains that after cutting out the elements they will paste them onto another piece of paper, which will then be photocopied “over and over and over again.”
Across the table, Natasha Mablick is cutting out pictures she took at a craft fair the previous weekend. Mablick also translates some of the stories into Inuktitut.
“I translate certain things that the whole school needs to know,” she says, “because there are some students who do not speak English.”
Horn says the hardest part about producing a newspaper is getting computer time. She points out the 10 Macintosh computers the students have been working on.
“We had to beg, borrow and steal to get computer time,” she says, adding anyone looking to rid themselves of old printers or old Macintosh computers can bring them to the school.
Sapatie Stokes has paper propped up on her computer screen and intently types the responses to questions she has been asking about suspensions and discipline at the school.
She and her partner asked seven students who had been suspended about how they spent the time.
“Most of them slept in,” she says, smiling.
At a desk behind Stokes, Amanda Eegeesiak, 12, is typing “Choir News,” her interviews with people in the choir.
“I did two interviews today and I’ll do two tomorrow,” she says. Eegeesiak likes to interview people because, she says, it reveals a lot about a person. But she does get nervous.
“I don’t really ever get over (the nerves). I just smile a lot when I talk,” she says, grinning widely.
Seeing her name in big, bold type gives here even more reason to smile.