A third grade newspaper? How cool is that!

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By Shannon Brock

Katie Birdwhistell is a girl after my own heart, and her classmates aren’t half bad either.

What started as a lack of an idea for Katie, turned out to be a great one — for her and the rest of Jennifer Sea’s third grade class at Robert B. Turner Elementary School.

Katie and a couple of her friends were having trouble coming up with an idea of something to write about during “buddy writing” one Friday. Out of desperation, they chose a current event. Apparently in the recent past, a power outage coincided with a lockdown at the school making for a pretty interesting day, so the girls decided to turn it into a news story.

Before they knew it, that news story turned into a newspaper, and the Sea Monkey Times was born.

I met the class on Monday, less than a full workday after Ms. Sea e-mailed asking me to come be a guest speaker. She said her class had started a newspaper and was really interested in learning about the profession.

Last Friday afternoon, my face lit up with glee as I read her request. If there’s one thing I love more than my job, it’s getting to tell people about it — and when those people are students, it just makes it that much better.

I’ve been a guest speaker in Mrs. Winfrey’s classes at the middle school a few times, and I can’t wait to go back.

I’d go to every class in the school system if that were really feasible.

Each time, including this past Monday, I go into these “speaking engagements” with the understanding that the students are supposed to learn something from me. I’m a professional with a real career that they want to gather information about.

But each time I leave the classrooms, I walk out with the feeling that they’ve taught me so much more.

Ms. Sea’s third-graders are really something special and so is she for seeing their interest in an idea and letting them run with it, learning all the while.

I won’t say their newspaper is exactly like a “real” one, but the similarities are there.

The Sea Monkey Times, named after the class’s theme this year, is produced on a weekly basis. They cover local events, i.e. stuff that happens in their classroom. They have an editor, they have a sports writer, they have staff members who write every week and they have some who only write on occasion.

They also have ongoing sections. One is called “Monkey Me,” which profiles a different student each week.

What’s really eerie is that they have even covered some of the same stories we did.

Remember that first story Katie and her friends came up with? The one about the power outage and the lockdown? Well, I did stories on both of those events.

Hannah Drury put together a story about pizza and which pizza place is preferred in town. Have you seen today’s front page? It’s the same topic, but less opinionated.

Ann McDannold wrote a piece persuading fellow classmates to adopt pets. We have guest columns to that effect in our paper frequently as well.

Janet Harvey wrote a column about her dog dying, and sadly our creative director, Mary Garrison, wrote a similar column just a couple months ago.

I’m sorry I don’t have space to mention all the wonderful articles I heard about Monday, but I will say that every student in that class makes me proud to be a journalist and proud to work in Anderson County.

I didn’t get the chance to work on a newspaper until I was a sophomore in college. My high school didn’t have a newspaper, let alone my middle and elementary schools. These children are so blessed.

After I answered all the questions they had for me, Ms. Sea asked the class how many of them would consider being a real reporter when they grew up. I’d say about two-thirds of the students raised their hands. Realistically, I know that’s probably not going to happen, but a couple of them might follow through and that’s really exciting.

Ms. Sea and I exchanged a few e-mails Monday afternoon after I left her classroom. In one of them, she told me the students hadn’t stopped talking about my visit since I left.

“They thought you were the coolest person they had ever met,” she wrote.

God bless their hearts for being so sweet, but I’m not even half as cool as they are.

E-mail Shannon Mason Brock at sbrock@theandersonnews.com.