Northland News

Students' multilanguage newspaper earns national acclaim

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The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication heard them roar.

A collaboration between Nicole Kraft, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Communications at Ohio State University, and Diane Birckbichler of OSU's French department to enable students at Columbus North International High School, 100 Arcadia Ave., to create an online, multilanguage newspaper has received the 2014 Innovative Outreach to Scholastic Journalism Award.

Both Kraft and Birckbichler reside north Columbus.

Kraft is scheduled to pick up the award Aug. 7 in Montreal.

"Learning to Roar: World Languages Meet Scholastic Journalism at Columbus City Schools" was the title of the project.

The students at the school on Arcadia Avenue dubbed their newspaper The Roar.

Kraft and Birckbichler created an internship for OSU students from the school of communication's journalism program and the language department in French, Spanish and Chinese. They worked with 15 Columbus North International High School students in grades 7-12 to create an online newspaper with stories in English, French, Spanish and, initially, Chinese.

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication is a nonprofit organization of more than 3,700 educators and students from around the world, according to its website. Its Scholastic Journalism division presents the Innovative Outreach award.

"Basically, they're looking for people who are doing innovative things in scholastic journalism," Kraft said last week.

She said the idea for the project came to her because her son attended Columbus City Schools' French-immersion program at Ecole Kenwood on the Northwest Side. Kraft said she applied for a service learning project with a goal of focusing on Columbus North International.

"The school's a really interesting one and it's got a lot of challenges," Kraft said.

Chief among them, she added, is creating a "sense of community" among students and their parents who come from middle schools scattered throughout the district, not from a specific neighborhood.

"There wasn't a great deal of connectivity," Kraft said. "The students who came to the newspaper wanted to contribute to community."

Interviewing their peers and writing stories to be read by all the students helped with that, she said.

Initially, the students wrote stories for the paper in English, French, Spanish and Chinese, but the latter language eventually was dropped for the second semester because those few who had taken some courses in it were not fluent enough to write in Chinese, Kraft said.

"We were not as effective as I would have liked to have been," she said.

A print version, which enabled The Roar to be read by Columbus North International students who didn't have access to it online, "helped everyone see that need for community was great and really worked," Kraft said.

The Roar, the official newspaper of Columbus North International School, can be found at cnisnews.com.

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