CCMS teacher Jim Crouch debuted a new journalism curriculum in the fall of 2013

by: KEVIN SPERL - Shelby Reed, left, Brandon White, Rebecca Reed, Noah Chaney, Olivia Cooper, Casey Tunison and Hazel Hoffman work in Jim Crouch's seventh-grade yearbook class, that has expanded to include social media, newsletters and photography.

News of the death of journalism is greatly exaggerated, at least when it comes to Crook County Middle School.

What started out as a computer course in Jim Crouch's seventh-grade class has evolved into an exciting and engaging journalism curriculum that debuted in the fall of 2013.

“Two days before school started, I asked myself, ‘How am I going to put this together?’” said Crouch. “How am I going to keep 20 students busy all year?”

The answer was to include sections covering the production of the school yearbook and newsletter, video editing, photography, and social media.

“We were definitely the guinea pigs,” admitted student Rebecca Reed, currently working on photography and video editing. “And, we certainly broke a lot of stuff.”

During the first week of class, students were introduced to computers, produced fliers about each other, and designed press credentials. The balance of the school term is broken into two four-week sessions. Each student is assigned responsibility for one of the class components and then trades off with others for the second session.

Noah Chaney is currently working on video production, which includes a lot of searching on YouTube for suitable content.

“I look up music needed by the others, convert it to MP3 format, and edit it so that it is appropriate for middle school students” he explained.

In addition to teaching journalism skills, Crouch makes sure the students learn responsibility, explaining what will be expected of the students when KTVZ’s Meteorologist and Community Affairs Director Bob Shaw visits.

“The students will be coming out of their regular classrooms, grabbing cameras, and covering the event,” he explained. “They know that I trust them to do a good job and represent the school in the best way possible.”

Student Brandon White appreciates the freedom.

“Mr. Crouch does not follow us around. He trusts us, and we are allowed to roam the school to tell stories,” he said.

“When we are doing yearbook tasks,” added Shelby Reed, “we are in charge.”

“We have all brought cameras home with us,” added Rebecca Reed. “And, we know that our life depends on bringing them back in one piece.”

For all the freedom, the students understand that journalism can be a lot of hard work.

“We have to edit, and edit again,” said Hazel Hoffman, “And we have to decide what we want to use and what the reader wants.”

Social media also has a place in the class, as students are responsible for updating the school’s Facebook page.

“Facebook is really good,” said Rebecca Reed. “We get to post, in advance, information for events that take place at the school.”

“And,” piped in White, “if we get one thousand likes on the page, we get to have a hat day.”

The class takes on serious tasks as well and is producing a video about school bullying.

Shelby Reed explained that the class arranges skits about bullying, then films them in the halls.

“The goal is to build a library of content about bullying and other classroom behavior,” explained Crouch. “We will put the videos on the school's website so all classes can view them.”

“I thought this class was just going to be yearbook,” said White, “But, it has really begun to feel like journalism.”

“We are a production in motion,” admitted Crouch. “I expect by the end of the year, it will be a smooth class.”

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