First Graders Get Media Literacy Lesson at Kent State

Every day, Kent State’s Franklin Hall is buzzing with future journalists. Recently, an even younger crowd joined the usual group of 18-22-year-old journalism majors: 41 six- and seven-year-olds from St. Barnabas Elementary School in Northfield, Ohio.

The visiting first graders make up the staff of a digital and print newspaper called First Edition. They went on a field trip to Kent State to spend a day learning about media and journalism from professors and students in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC).

The students’ teachers, Shelly Travaglianti and Wendy Dragmen, created First Edition after receiving support from the GAR Foundation’s Educator Initiative Grant.

“First grade is when students start to focus on writing complete sentences. However, [Wendy and I] realized there was no focus on investigative writing, fact gathering or collaborative projects,” said Travaglianti. “The newspaper allowed for all of this and plenty more. Our school didn’t have a newspaper at the time either, so the need was there.”

Over the summer, Travaglianti and Dragmen reached out to Kent State Associate Professor Jacqueline Marino about providing the students with early professional development specific to journalism, and the idea of a field trip arose from that conversation.

“I think the more you talk about the world to kids, the more interested they will be,” Marino said.

As the field trip kicked off on March 20, the interest and enthusiasm from the students was palpable. Their day started with brief lessons on photojournalism and reporting from Kevin Dilley, Director of Student Media, and Professor Candace Perkins Bowen.

The students then broke into groups and visited Kent State Student Media outlets: the Kent Stater, The Burr Magazine, Black Squirrel Radio (BSR) and TV2. In the newsroom, the students created their own press passes. Meanwhile, staff at the Burr read stories to the first graders and asked them to choose which photo they would match to the story. BSR provided the students an opportunity to go live on air and TV2 encouraged the first graders to explore their studio and practice in front of a green screen.

Then, they joined a college class, Writing Across Platforms, taught by Associate Professor Jan Leach. With the help of a college student leader, groups of first graders were assigned to write a headline about their day at Kent. The headlines read, “St. Barnabas Kids Are Welcomed to Kent State” and “St. Barnabas Goes to the Children’s Library.” Some simply documented their day the best way a first grader knows how: “Someone Wrote in Cam’s Notebook.”

After lunch, the rejuvenated group made their way to the Reinberger Children’s Library Center for a story-time experience led by children's author and illustrator-in-residence Will Hillenbrand. Hillenbrand engaged the young writers by asking them to help him tell a story.

Hillenbrand carries a small backpack with him at all times and he had a student help him unpack. He used this exercise to teach the kids how he starts to draw a story. Multiple notebooks and sketchbooks came out of his bag and piled on the hands of one brave volunteer. His lesson here was he never wants to be caught without paper so he can write down all of his ideas.

He taught the first graders how he illustrates and makes a story and left them with one last piece of wisdom:

“Pick up your pencils and have fun. You all have a story only you can tell.”

Read First Edition here:

The GAR Foundation’s mission is “to help Akron become smarter, stronger, and more vibrant.” Each year, the foundation awards more than $6 million to organizations and programs in early education, K-16 education, and more. Read more about the foundation here:

POSTED: Tuesday, March 26, 2019 11:49 AM
UPDATED: Saturday, April 13, 2024 01:41 AM
Eunice Reyes, '19, and Audra Gormley, '19