ORINDA (KPIX) – With schools out for weeks during the coronavirus shelter in place, some elementary students in Orinda are circulating their own newspaper.

Third graders from Glorietta Elementary are hiking, backyard camping, and even trimming their parents’ hair while sheltering in place.

But twice a week a dozen students pitch story ideas in a videoconference call.

One by one, Lucy Targonski asks each of her classmates, “What are you doing?”

“Activities you can do at home,” said one.

“How to celebrate your birthday during lockdown,” said another.

“My article is about how car companies are teaming up to make as many ventilators as they can to help coronavirus patients breathe,” a third chimed in.

The students are reporters for Third Grade Lockdown News.

It is a bi-weekly newspaper that the 8-to-10-year-old students launched after the COVID-19 pandemic closed all Bay Area schools.

Many articles illuminate the new shelter in place reality, from the “Chalk Your Walk” trend to recipes for keeping busy.

Targonski started the 2-to-4 page publication.

“I like learning from my friends because they teach me new stuff,” she said. “It’s like a writing exercise that me and my friends can do, and it’s a good way to keep in touch with each other.”

The students often come up with their own story ideas.

Fellow reporter Madeline Stout recently wrote about pollution, and now, she’s trying to get to the bottom of the run on toilet paper.

It’s so bad her grandfather had to deliver some to her family home.

He kept six feet of physical distance, of course. She shows a photo of him extending the toilet paper to her with a pole.

“My dad went to the store and they were empty where toilet paper normally is. It was like, just empty,” Stout said.

So what does she think caused the shortage?

“I’m still researching that,” she said.

Madeline’s mom, Alison Stout, says the newspaper is a fun way to keep students and families connected.

“It’s almost like a newsroom where they get together and share their ideas,” Stout said. “And I think they’ve been able to have a lot of creative juices flowing with these ideas.”

And Lucy’s mom, Jenny Poree, says the paper fosters curiosity and creativity.

“We miss having the teachers. They’re fantastic, and some of the homeschooling is so incredibly new to the parents that this is a way for us to get the kids engaged,” Poree said.

While the students write the articles, parents take turns designing the layout.

They say the principal emails the newspaper to the 350-member student body.

Many of the young reporters indicate they would like to continue the newspaper even after the shelter-in-place is over.

And one day, perhaps they will remember how they used this pet project to turn some bad news into a good news experience.

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