With the various endeavors and new initiatives happening on Maclay’s campus, many people are unaware that the love for journalism goes deeper than just The Andalusian. What initially started as a dream project became a reality this year when 30 seventh and eighth grade students had the chance to enroll in what is known as the “Discover Humanities” class. Similar to The Andalusian and Yearbook, the course is designed to teach students about elements of journalism and how to appropriately use design elements to create a layout appealing to the reader. The team of students are taught by sixth grade world geography teacher Martha Kutter, who teaches design, seventh grade language arts teacher Rikki Overstreet who teaches writing and middle school art teacher Kim Daniel who teaches photography and graphic art. The class was brought to life this year where the goal of their course is to design and print a middle school magazine as well as an online publication.
Last semester in December, the middle school students printed their first magazine called “Maclay In the Middle” that centered around the theme of being “better together.” As the second semester progresses, they will be producing one more magazine for everyone to enjoy.
“One thing that was on all our minds was to do something that is community focused,” Kutter said. “One thing that brings joy but also a quality of life is to have a group of people that you can meet with in high school or have a class that you can take. For a lot of very creative and bright kids, this publication is such a great thing.”
The primary focus of the class is art, humanities and community. After COVID made it hard for students to network with people, a majority of this past year was spent slowly easing students back into clubs. This was the first year they were all able to meet and collaborate as a team. The teachers of the course wanted their students to find a group that they belonged to on campus. After the theme of “better together” was born, each student designed a double page spread that included informative writing, graphic arts and photography.
“Better together” was a theme she picked out for us hoping to connect with our class and the community,” eighth grade Discover Humanities student Sadie Bowersox said. “It was something she really wanted to have in our publication and I think it was really important because it gave us boundaries and gave students a direction to go with what they were making.”
As many of the students in the course are new to InDesign, designing their double page spreads is a learning curve as they were exposed to some of the new tools and software for the first time.
“Designing was difficult at the start because we were using brand new softwares and tools that we had never used before,” Bowersox said. “It was definitely odd but it kind of created a bonding for all of us as a group to just learn together.”
When asking another student how they felt using the software InDesign for the first time, she responded with a similar answer.
“Learning InDesign was really difficult at the start and I will say that at the beginning I was really nervous because I didn’t know what any of the tools meant,” eighth grade Discover Humanities student Lauren Ferraro said. “As it went on, Mrs. Kutter, Mrs. Daniel and Dr. Overstreet really helped me out to the point where if we did another project two weeks ago, I could do it flawlessly.”
Along with the primary focus of arts, humanities and community, a major reason the Discover Humanities course was created was to get students exposure to the world of journalism at a young age. Each teacher wanted students to have the necessary tools required so that when they emerge into high school, they can easily feed into the journalism track without limitations.
“If you look at any other news print, there is always an art piece to it,” Daniel said. “[ whether it’s ] InDesign or Canva, when they get to high school, I’m hoping it will be a bridge for them to want to be involved and engrossed in whatever club or class they can.”
Learning a lot from the first semester, Kutter explained that they are doing things a little differently for their upcoming magazine. This semester, they have decided to focus on the theme of arts and humanities here at Maclay, but with a focus on spreading kindness. One project they are currently participating in is with a nonprofit organization known as Blankets of Hope that helps students practice empathy and kindness. Whatever they decide to dive into and cover, they will design a single page spread for the magazine.
Whether the students in the course are learning about journalistic writing, conducting interviews, collaborating on photo techniques or tackling new objectives in InDesign, the Discover Humanities course is teaching students how to promote communication through different cultures, initiatives and communities bigger than just their own. This collaborative course will prepare students to engross themselves within the world of journalism and hopefully continue their passion for the arts and humanities.
“Writing is a skill that you are going to use no matter where you go in life,” Overstreet said. “I feel like what’s really important for the kids is helping them see that, and then helping them figure out that whatever their passion is in life, writing can help them get there. I am a big believer that writing helps our personal growth, and even if you never have to use writing in your life, writing is a way of learning, reflecting and growing.”