The Californian: A Publication That’s Gone Back to the Future 3

Sitting in the school’s archives for decades, the long-forgotten 1936 issue of California Middle School’s newspaper, The Californian, was recently remembered, stirring up not only a sense of nostalgia but renewed excitement amongst students and staff.

According to Cal Middle School’s publications teacher Alesandra Sinistro, The Californian had a long run until the 1960s, but no one knows why the publication stopped. Regardless of the mysterious cease in production, upon her principal’s request Sinistro helped to create a publications elective class and is leading her group of middle school students through the process of resurrecting the paper for its student body readership.

One of the exciting things about this class is that it is a great example of what the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) movement is striving for in the classroom. “Teaching students to be inquisitive, to search out stories and accurately report on them, to write creatively in a manner that will engage readers…all ties perfectly with CCSS,” Sinistro explains.

Not only are the students enthusiastic about the newspaper project, but as Sinistro reveals, “They are developing their strengths as writers, (as) writing is the primary focus of the class.”

However, the students don’t stop there. “They are also using math skills to format pages and they use problem-solving skills,” Sinistro adds. Since CCSS requires students to dig deeper in strengthening their critical thinking skills, collaboration and support in writing, this class’s content spurs the students to apply their fact finding lessons and more.

“I really like to write and I like being able to inform students about what’s going on around campus,” says Benjamin Silva, 12. “I’m learning to be a better writer and how to write correctly. My favorite part is being able to bond with other students and work with classmates on articles. In the future if I decide to become a writer, this (class) can make a huge impact.”

In this day and age of digital publications, The Californian is sticking to its paper roots — for now. Sinistro says she has aspirations of going online and also combining with a broadcast class. But for the moment, she is simply thrilled with the students’ excitement to work on the paper.

Student Wilson Urkov, 12, says, “We’re learning skills on how to get things done. It’s not that easy, so (the class is) teaching us how to complete (articles) with independence and on time.”

“I like learning about how to write an article to catch people’s attention and learning more about computers, which is a life skill. And I like the responsibility (the class) gives me,” interjects Bessa Miller, 13. She continues that she believes the class will help her build skills that she can use in the future. “Technology is a big part of daily life, so maybe I could get a job in computers,” Miller adds.

In all, the Cal Middle School Publications students see the full potential of what this class offers. As Colby Tell, 13, sums up, “(We) apply writing skills for rigor. We’re working and collaborating with others in class to actually make the newspaper something that can happen at this school.”