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The living textbook: NIE program
The Yuma Sun is kicking off a series of stories about the Newspapers in Education program, which provides newspapers to local schools. This article is the second installment.
Kevin Weatherbee's fourth-graders hunch over the weather map, dotted with orange suns with fringey rays, and make notes with their pencils to rank the top five hottest cities in Arizona.
It's August, so there are plenty of contenders. Maybe Parker was the hottest, with a forecast high of 108 degrees.
Weatherbee asks one boy if he's sure: “You willing to bet your recess? Then you're not 100 percent positive.”
It was a good idea to keep looking, as the correct answer was Bullhead City at 110.
This weather map is one of the standing features in the Yuma Sun, and one of many ways to engage learners through the newspaper.
The rustling of 30 newspapers sounds like minds churning in Weatherbee's Otondo Elementary School classroom, where he's introducing his students to the Newspapers In Education, or NIE program. With NIE, newspapers are used at all grade levels to teach not just reading skills, but math, critical thinking and other classroom subjects like social studies, geography and science. It's a worldwide program, and the Yuma Sun is one of the many newspapers that has a local version.
Weatherbee has been participating in NIE for eight years as a creative way to teach academic standards.
“It gives me a resource that's real-world, in addition to the curriculum, that's not only teacher-friendly but kid-friendly,” he says.
The kids are up for it. On this day, his students practice newspaper vocabulary by pointing out headlines and bylines, then they flip back the front page and show where you can do math problems. (“It's easy, there's a Dillard's ad. There's a Macy's ad,” he says.) The class then goes to the sports section, where their teacher excitedly tells them the scoreboxes are a rich source of math fun — all those numbers will let the students practice with decimals, fractions and averages. The Home Depot ad insert is yet another place to do math. Weatherbee challenges the children to get as close as they can to spending $1,000 without going over (a dryer and an over-the-stove microwave at $499 each would be one way).
After all this, he tells them their time with the newspaper isn't over yet — their homework assignment is to read it for 20 minutes, then write up a summary.
This was a pretty standard sampler of NIE activities.
NIE provides newspapers and complementary educational materials and lesson plans to K-12 schools as well as colleges, adult literacy programs, youth detention centers and other learning programs. It's a worldwide program, and more than 700 newspapers across North America have an NIE program.
In the past, the Yuma Sun's NIE program has partnered with as many as 470 teachers in a school year and delivered more than 13,000 newspapers per week to schools at teacher request.
Teachers can come and go throughout the year. Last year, 182 teachers across the county took the Yuma Sun for NIE.
Right now, about 65 teachers are currently signed up, but awaiting a better picture of funding stability before they begin receiving their papers.
This year, the Yuma Sun is looking to raise about $41,000 to deliver a full-service NIE program as it has become accustomed to providing. Its services have an estimated value of more than $200,000.
Weatherbee's students themselves say why the newspaper is such a good resource to have in school.
“Newspapers are important things because they tell what's going on in Yuma,” says Natalia Corona. “I get to know what's going on.”
Izaac Herrera seems to like everything about the newspaper, “‘cause it has more details and stuff about it than a book.”
Similarly, “they have more items that would be important to know,” like a photo and caption on page 1 about a car crash, says Audrey Waldron.
And Joey Hatton makes a good point when she points out another appeal of the newspaper: Lots of articles start on one neatly designed page, allowing readers to pick their entry and path.
“You can go at your pace and read it how you want to read it,” she said.
Hillary Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6857.