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Chinook Trail Middle School (CTMS) eighth graders started their year with a mission to spot the truth. As part of their English and Language Arts class, students are challenged to watch, read, and deliver news stories with a focus on fact-finding.

Amy Rockenbach, CTMS Humanities and English Language Arts Teacher believes these skills will serve students long after they’ve completed the course.

“No matter what their post-secondary plans are, what careers they choose, our learners will be well-served if they can recognize ways language and data can be used to manipulate consumer,” Rockenbach said.

Before jumping into their reporting, the school invited KRDO News Anchor, Josh Helmuth to speak to all eighth graders about what it means to tell the truth, and how to spot someone’s opinion.

With dozens of examples of national news reports from around the country, Helmuth asked the crowd, “Who’s telling the truth?” The crowd of a few hundred eighth graders erupted with raised hands, replies and thoughtful questions. 

A students asked Helmuth, “how do journalists report without bias? Another raised the question, “How do I spot someone’s opinion during an interview?

Students then returned to their classroom eager and excited to begin their journey as reporters. Over the coming weeks, their assignments included news reports with video broadcasts, written reports, podcasts, and editorials published on the school’s “News Network.”

Rockenbach explained, “Students are required to do their research through interviews and write stories about members of our local community who are contributing to the progress of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

This new curriculum was born over the summer when Rockenbach partnered with her colleagues, Luke Anliker and Emma Olsen. They created and developed the assignments while taking a class on Project Based Learning through Academy District 20’s Summer Institute.

“We weren’t happy with our first unit from the 2021-22 school year for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it didn’t really give our students the opportunity to engage in a real-world and personally meaningful project,” she explained.

Through their work, students will, “learn to identify fact and opinion, to analyze exemplars of objective reporting, and to distinguish objective reporting from opinion.”

Students won’t just learn how to spot the truth, Rockenbach explains, they’ll put their newfound skills to the test. She said, “Students will be prototyping, developing, and critiquing the news stories they have been creating and uploading.”

When their assignments  were nearly complete, journalists from KRDO and the ASD20 Communication Team gave expert feedback on the student’s projects.

Each news site covers topics based on one of 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. After dozens of review and edits, three groups were selected as the top 3. Read the top three news sites here:

The FACTS

Lighthouse News

CHEEG News

Winners were awarded a trip to the KRDO Newsroom to watch a live newscast.