Greenville Daily News 09/28/2016, Page A01



Belding Middle School adds newspaper writing, service learning classes



Daily News staff writer

BELDING — Belding Middle School students have been given the chance to try out some different classes this academic year.

In an effort to expose students to a variety of options, some new classes have been added to the curriculum. Two of these classes are newspaper writing and service learning, which are both taught by Jennifer Dispirito.

Middle School Principal Joe Barron is a new addition to the district this year after having been principal of a middle school in Whitehall. He said he is excited to watch the “great staff construct and deliver these new classes.”

“ It’s been fun to observe the increased student engagement in courses like newspaper, WEB ( a mentoring program with eighth-graders and sixth- graders) and guitar,” he said. “ I think it’s a great way to move forward in creating a student centered culture where their voices and choices are being heard.”

Dispirito said she’s been excited and challenged by the new classes being offered. Giving students the chance to learn about something new and departing from the traditional curriculum is an unique opportunity that Dispirito has enjoyed.

“ I know students were able to pick what they wanted to be in so we have a much wider variety of ( offerings) this year,” she said. “ They’re doing some different things with PE. Just some things to give students a chance to do things outside of their regular core classes.”

In the newspaper class, Dispirito has been working with students on how to put together a news article, what components are most important and how to structure those components. Some of the students in the class are taking turns interviewing each other to write profile stories



Ally Carew, 12, and Devin Toman, right, 13, work on making cards for a child at Helen Devos Children’s Hospital during a service learning class at Belding Middle School on Tuesday afternoon.

Daily News/Emilee Nielsen


Anaca Laarman, an eighth-grader at Belding Middle School, reads a newspaper during the beginning of her newspaper writing class on Tuesday afternoon. The class is part of an addition to the curriculum to branch out into different subject matter to maximize student learning.


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on each other. Other students are going out into the school to write about different newsworthy topics happening around the building. Dispirito invited Daily News staff writer Emilee Nielsen to speak to the class and to have Hailey Fowler, 14, interview Nielsen to write a profile story.

Heather Morineau, 13, said she’s been enjoying the newspaper class immensely.

“ I’m more of a fictional writer, but there are some things about fiction writing that can intertwine with journalism,” she said. “ I want to be a game designer and computer animator so it kind of ties in to ( storytelling).”

Morineau has been working with Amber Leech, 13, to write a story about the new classes offered, the way that sixth and seventh grade classes are separating into “teams” and the new WEB mentoring program. She and Leech have also interviewed Barron to write a story about his first few months as the new middle school principal.

“ I have been learning a lot more about our school than I ever thought,” she said.

Morineau said that she’s liked having to interview people to go along with her story because she has “a major case of stage fright” and so talking with people that she’s already familiar with is helping to ease that fear.

One of the other classes Dispirito teaches, service learning, is giving students the tools to improve the lives of people in the community. Some of the projects the students are working on so far have been to decorate paper bags for the Kids’ Food Basket in Grand Rapids to put meals in. Students also donated food to the organization to put in the bags.

Service learning students have also been working on making cards to send to children at Helen Devos Children’s Hospital and decorations for rooms in the children’s hospital as well as Metron of Greenville and Metron of Belding.

“ Having these bags decorated for them will kind of help them feel special and brighten their day,” Dispirito said.

Alayna “Ally” Carew, 12, was one of the students working on making cards for chil-dren at Devos Children’s Hospital. She said it makes her feel good to know that her cards are going to kids who need to be cheered up.

“( I’ve been writing) ‘stay strong’ and ‘ you’re beautiful’… things kids would like,” she said. “ It feels good to know the cards are going to kids who don’t get a lot from other people and are going through hard times.”

Austin Reed, 12, came up with a project of his own without any help from Dispirito: He decided to use some of his class time to go through the school and pick up trash littering the hallways.

“ I’ve been noticing lately that there’s been a lot of trash. I just wanted to help out the principal and the janitors especially. I don’t want people like them to have to clean all this up by themselves,” he said. “ I thought about it and wanted to do a good deed.”

Reed says it takes him about 10 to 20 minutes to go through the school and make sure he’s gotten everything.

The service learning and newspaper classes are typically the length of a marking period, which is nine weeks long. ( 616) 548- 8289