Jared Vergara Santana writes down research questions for his newspaper article in the Hoover Elementary School library on Oct. 29, 2019 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

A dozen fourth-grade students at Hoover Elementary School bent over papers, brainstorming questions they wanted to research for future news articles.

They’re the youngest journalists in Salem, putting out a new biweekly newspaper, The Hoover Journal, which chronicles the latest happenings at their school.

“Remember your question marks, people!” one girl called out as the students wrote their questions.

Led by teacher Katie Lawyer, Tuesday morning’s lesson focused on the importance of research and information-gathering.

“Instead of making up facts, we’re going to get facts that are actually correct,” she said as students took diligent notes.

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The front page of the inaugural edition of The Hoover Journal (Courtesy/Hoover Journal)

Their first edition came out Monday with sections for news, health, sports, entertainment, opinion and a special Halloween page.

Halloween at Hoover is a quiet affair, David Aldava reported.

“The principal doesn't allow costumes because some student don’t celebrate Halloween. Also teachers don't want their student to get distracted by their costumes. Finally, scary costumes can make the kinders cry. Save your costumes for trick-or-treating on Halloween night,” he wrote.

A second article included safety tips for students. Other articles covered the Hoover soccer team, the school’s fruit and vegetable program and a kindergarten field trip to EZ Orchards.

An opinion piece by student Abel Najera-Banuelos Jr. complaining about the quality of Hoover’s toilet paper has been the talk of the school, Lawyer said.

“This is very cheap toilet paper. At least get napkins or if you pay attention you will actually get toilet paper that is soft and comfy like this toilet paper,” Najera-Banuelos Jr. wrote, next to a photo of Charmin Ultra Soft. “You should get it because it is comfy and you should contact the school board about this because it is urgent.”

Teacher Katie Lawyer explains the importance of research in journalism to the Hoover Journal staff in the school library (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Third-grade classes are now using the paper as part of their English lessons, having students write their own opinions about the school’s single-ply toilet paper, Lawyer said. (She confirmed staff agree with his take, though she suspected it may not be a pressing issue for the school board.)

Lawyer started the newspaper this fall to give fourth-grade students who were excelling in reading something to do during the time many of their classmates are getting help in small groups.

She’s an instructional mentor, a teacher who coaches other teachers and helps them improve, so the newspaper class is a return to her roots teaching writing.

“It gives them so much purpose. It’s exciting to see them get so excited,” she said.

She planned to have a weekly paper, but said the first issue took enough time to put together that they’ve scaled that back.

Students have “media” passes that allow them to roam the halls for reporting and taking photos during their newspaper time, though they’re expected to stay on task and not disrupt other classes.

An article in The Hoover Journal about the school's fresh fruit and vegetables program. (Courtesy/The Hoover Journal)

On Tuesday, Lawyer walked them through the process of gathering information for an article, asking them to think about what they needed to learn and whether they should get that information from online research, a book or interviewing someone in person.

The finished product is all online, made with a Google template and distributed inside Hoover. The template included a motto: “The World’s Favorite Newspaper,” which Lawyer decided to keep.

Lawyer said she enjoys helping kids develop their writing skills in a way that’s fun and lets them express their opinions.

“You find out so much from kids,” she said.

Reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.