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Junior journalists

The quirks, pet peeves, and triumphs of newspaper life are alive and well in a fifth-grade classroom at Helman Elementary.

Trish Dorr's students and the school's other fifth graders Friday delivered the second issue of their school newspaper.

The Dragon's Roar rolled off the press Thursday night and was delivered door-to-door around the school the next morning.

"It's really fun," said student Rosie Dean. "It's like taking a break from everything else we have to do in writing."

The newspaper isn't a weekly publication, said Dorr. Her students, along with those of fifth-grade teacher Mark Sherbow's, are writing and arranging it as a part of their writing class, which Dorr teaches to all the fifth graders.

"I think it's the best unit we do in our writing class," said student Ronnie Burns, intently inserting sections of the newspaper together in preparation for delivery.

"It's the best unit, because everyone is working together to forge one thing," he said. "It entertains the whole school."

The students do all of the writing, drawing of comics, and editing for the eight-page publication. Circulation: 350.

Dorr gives it a final read-through and completes the page layout on her computer, she said.

The first edition took about two and a half weeks to finish, she said, and about a week of work went into the second one.

The students begin with a brainstorming session for story ideas, said Hannah Weinberg, who compiled a list and wrote a short review of favorite books from around the school for the second issue.

"There was a lot of back-and-forth emailing," she said, about getting the information for her story.

Chase Tiffany, who was a part of a team of students in charge of rounding up comics from classes around the school for the newspaper, said it was a tough job.

"We only picked up the ones that made the most sense, and were funny," he said. "A lot of the comics wouldn't even show up when we put it in the paper. "… I told them specifically 'write it in marker!' "

Though stressful, he said, he liked the job.

Bobby Hodgins and Joseph Wallnersemtle teamed up to write a story about the history of the Watermelon Olympics at the elementary school.

"A year before we fifth graders came to this school in Kindergarten, the Watermelon Olympics as we know it today was different. It was called "… Drum roll please "… The Jelly Bean Olympics!," their story reads. "They switched to the Watermelon Olympics because of too much sugar in jellybeans, as well as the potential choking hazard."

The newspaper's pages are full of similarly interesting information.

There is a survey about what each grade's favorite recess activity is, the fifth-grade classes' canoe-building project, how to be field trip ready, the weather, and the school's buddy program, where older students pair up with younger students for special activities.

There's also a story about the last day of school, "probably one of the most highly anticipated days of the year!" the story says.

Students Lauren Croyle and Maya Risser delivered the first round of newspapers, freshly bundled together with string, to Tia Mclean's Kindergarten class.

The youngsters gave Croyle and Risser a thumbs up, having read the first publication.

"My favorite part is seeing people's faces when they read it," said Croyle.

Dorr said she initially thought up the idea to be a digital online newspaper, and presented it to the kids.

"They're like 'no way, we want a real live newspaper,'" she said. "So, we went for it."

Dorr said not everybody's story made the cut, because of missed deadlines and limited space.

"We thought we had the front page," said Traber Burns, who paired up with another student to write about the fifth-grade graduation. "That's a big thing, but, actually, we didn't even make it in the newspaper."

"We kept on having to do editing," he said, smiling and shrugging his shoulders happily preparing the publication for delivery.

Dorr, who has been teaching for 12 years, four at Helman, said she plans on doing the project with next year's class.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.