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Tiger Times teaches with news

Some of the Tiger Times' student staff members pose with their first issue.(From left) Chris Ingerson, Summer Williams, Olivia Barber, Cam LaMotte and Chris Natcharian.
By Danielle Paine

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM - Hot off the press, The Tiger Times has officially hit the newsstands of Stony Hill Elementary School.

Thirty one roving student reporters in grades first through fifth were led by parent volunteer Lisa Natcharian in creating the first two issues of their new school publication.

"It is important so people can get caught up on the school news and the events that are going to happen," explained fifth-grader Chris Ingerson, who wrote pieces on an upcoming school carnival and the start of the lacrosse season.

The journey of The Tiger Times began at the start of the school year when Natcharian approached the school's staff about getting her son, Chris Natcharian, involved in an after-school program that nourished his love of reading and writing. After learning that the school's newspaper was no longer being published, Natcharian worked with various committees to begin the club, which met for the first time in March.

Two children from each classroom were chosen to meet after school, for one hour per week. In eight weeks they produced two issues of a paper they can surely be proud of.

"My favorite thing I did in the newspaper was writing interviews because it's good to know about somebody's life out of school," said second-grader Chris Natcharian. "It helps you to get to know that person better."

Each student wrote at least one article while learning how to edit, interview and understand basic journalism grammar and principals. Their finished product was packed with copy including analytical pieces on school lunches, hard news reports on contaminated milk, poetry sidebars, advances for events, surveys, reviews, sports coverage including a fantasy baseball column, staff profiles, editorials and cartoons.

"They thought they were getting the inside scoop on something that only grown-ups know about," Lisa Natcharian said about teaching students some basic journalistic style.

Natcharian is not only a parent of a Stony Hill student but a long-time freelance writer for the Diocese of the Armenian Church magazine, the Boston Globe and several local newspapers. She was also the editor of The Wedding Day Source Book.

"A lot of people think that they're only one person so what can they really do," Natcharian said. "Well, I benefitted 31 kids and other people can do that too. It would be wonderful to see other parents step up. It's only an hour per week and it was fun for me and it was fun for them."

Second grader Summer Williams especially had fun, she said, writing her restaurant review of Pizzeria Uno's Chicago Grill. Williams interviewed the restaurant manager, ate dinner there with her parents and even helped the staff with some hostessing duties.

Ingerson chose to investigate the effects of chewing gum on MCAS scores.

"Well, I found out that chewing gum helps relieve stress. I was freaking out one day over the MCAS and my mom said 'why don't you bring your chewing gum,'" Ingerson explained about getting the idea for his story. "So I did and I wasn't freaking out as much."

To the delight of both staff and students, Natcharian hopes to continue the program next fall and to include even more children.

"They all tried so hard and did such a good job, it was amazing to me," Natcharian said. "When you enjoy writing, it just flows out of you, it's not hard and not like homework."