Kids report on the presidential race
The Scholastic Kids Press Corps has 80-plus members ages 10 to 14 from all over the United States.
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His classmate Zachary Speigel recalls asking McCain about the rising cost of college: "I asked this huge, five-minute question about education, and he was just stunned and said, 'How old are you?' " Zachary says with a wide-eyed laugh.Skip to next paragraph
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McCain went on to answer "that we definitely need to at least try to put the prices down, because kids like us need a good education," he says.
Many student reporters have told Ms. Freeman that they're disappointed the candidates aren't talking more about education. "They say to me, 'They must think NCLB [the federal No Child Left Behind law] is working,' " she says.
Freeman selects kid reporters based on the originality of essays they write about their communities.
"I look for the kids that go beyond [descriptions of] tourist attractions," she says. One student stood out by writing about Portland, Ore., as a bicycle city, with all the issues that raises, such as bike safety and environmental benefits.
Freeman gives them a run-down on how media events work and the basics of interviewing. Some of the key lessons: Look people in the eye. Never ask a question that can be answered with just a "yes" or a "no." Report the facts, not your opinion or emotions after hearing a charismatic speaker.
True to their training as objective journalists, the kids in New Hampshire wouldn't let on if they had any favorites in the race for president.
The idea of having kids do the reporting for Scholastic came to Freeman during the presidential race in 2000. The first kid reporters were from Beaver Meadow, where principal Roger Brooks had already trained some students to do local reporting.
Now the Scholastic Kids Press Corps reports on other news, too, not just elections. "They're really now like the bureau chiefs for Scholastic News and Junior Scholastic magazine," Freeman says. "They've interviewed [Supreme Court] Chief Justice John Roberts and Tom Cruise – the whole gamut."
As music pumped up the crowd at the Obama event, the red-shirted foursome scanned the crowds for good photos. They barely took notice as a snowman walked by – they'd seen him at other election events, trying to draw attention to global warming.
Principal Brooks, a tall man wearing an American flag tie, occasionally helped with equipment, but otherwise he stood back and watched.
"When they think back at the Beaver Meadow experience, I want them to think of days like this and ... kind of crystallize their whole experience of being an elementary school student," Brooks says. "The most important thing we teach in elementary school is communication skills.... Being an actor on stage, giving a speech, coming out and asking a question ... [in those situations] the learning stays with the kids a lot longer."
Kids' questions for the candidates
These questions were prepared by Scholastic Kid Reporters for Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a few days before the primaries in New Hampshire:
1. Why should my parents vote for you?
2. What is your plan for renewable energy, not including nuclear power?
3. How would you make sure that all children get a good education?
4. Where do you think you received most of your education: in a classroom or real life?
5. If you could go back to any grade, what would it be and why?
6. What inspired you to run for president?
7. I'm really worried about the war in Iraq and the threat from Iran. What are your plans for keeping America safe?
8. What cause do you feel is the main focus of your campaign?