Listen up kids!

We want to hear from you


I get to see a lot of, shall I say, interesting things when I walk my dog, Nelson in our subdivision just west of Orange Park.

I see litter people carelessly fling from their vehicles. These days, I see piles and piles of storm debris awaiting pickup. I also see neighbors who speed without regard for the huge influx of little ones who now play outside in their families’ yards.

It’s great to see kids outside playing and screaming and using up their energy. I even get to see the occasional teen driving a bike while clutching onto a fishing rod heading to his secret hot spot.

And then, there are the morning walks when I’ll run in to the growing-in-numbers phenomenon of elementary school students whose heads are stuck down glued to a smartphone or other electronic device.

That’s always a bummer for Nelson. He knows that kid is not going to be a new friend to make because the kid’s head is bent downward with no hope of social interaction; not even a neighborly hello. Nelson is certain that he is the social director of our street.

It’s this convergence of smart devices and lack of going outdoors that has me constantly wondering. How can we engage today’s children who are inevitably growing up “on” electronic devices while I’m kicking and screaming against this phenomenon? I think I need an “if you can’t beat them, join them” type idea.

I’m always on the lookout for the next new idea despite the old adage that “There’s nothing new under the sun.”

Well, as it turns out, the idea I’m presenting here today is not new either – I’m simply duplicating it – with a twist – from another newspaper.

What if there was a way to create a student-led opportunity for today’s kids in K-12 education to publish – in the newspaper – what is going on in their schools? The goal is to connect today’s students with newspapers in a way that may not be going on in the modern home due to the proliferation of social media and screen time.

Introducing Student Dispatches.

Launching January 1, 2018, Student Dispatches will be written by students in grades three through 12 and printed with parents’ permission. Each student who submits a dispatch will also submit a permission form along with their writing. Student Dispatches will also be posted on our website so kids can then share their posts via social media, so their friends can see it on their device(s).

Here’s what we’re asking for. Students in grades 3-12 who attend public, private, charter, home or parochial school will write us and tell us what they are doing in school. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is.

It could be as simple as:

“On Monday, Oct. 23, my class took a tour of the Museum of Science and History where we got to see a presentation about the Milky Way in the museum’s planetarium. If you’ve never been to the planetarium before, I’d recommend a visit. It’s as if you’re outside looking at the stars but you’re learning because there is narration going on that teaches you a lesson. It also made me want to learn more about Astronomy.

Cindy Doe, 5th grader, Maple Street School

We’re also asking students to send us a photo to go along with their piece as well. The photo could be a group photo or a photo of kids doing stuff, in the case of this example, looking through a telescope.

Parents, here’s where you come in. We have developed a consent form for students under age 18 that parents must sign for the student. The form will be available for download on our website, Student Dispatches should be emailed to Managing Editor Eric Cravey at Photos should be high-resolution and in-focus. Be sure to include who, what, where, when and why in each Student Dispatch.

Please help us spread the word. We’re really excited and looking forward to getting kids in print! Who knows, maybe some students will grow up and want to be reporters one day or open a door to some other form of writing.

Regardless, we want to connect with you!


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