Since the 1930s, when New York City school teachers requested delivery of The New York Times to their classrooms, newspapers have served as a tool for instruction in everything from reading, history, and government, to math and economics.

By Janet Scherberger

How a powerful partnership between newspapers and educators ignites learning

Today, there are more than 950 Newspaper in Education programs in cities throughout the United States, serving nearly 40 percent of the nation’s public school students. The program promotes literacy by providing teachers with lesson plans, activities, and ideas for classroom instruction built around newspaper articles and other resources.

Florida Humanities has partnered regularly with the Tampa Bay Times to produce Newspaper in Education (NIE) materials, including programs on equality, Florida maps and the Korean War.

Most recently, an $11,000 grant from Florida Humanities supported a 16-page broadsheet called “Democracy Reignited” to supplement the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street traveling exhibition, “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America,” that toured Florida in 2021.

“The goal is to give teachers a kind of living textbook with the newspaper that they can use to engage their students. Our curriculum is focused in different areas. “Democracy Reignited” covers something we often get asked for lesson plans on -— citizenship and government. The topic fits perfectly here,”  said Jodi Pushkin, a former high school English teacher who has worked for more than 20 years on NIE programs, first at The Tampa Tribune and, since 2005, at the Tampa Bay Times. “Teachers can use the whole publication or just a page.”

The nine-section document covers, among other things, the founding of the United States; the expansion of voting rights to Native Americans, African Americans and women; the mechanics of democracy and freedom of the press; free speech; and Florida changemakers. There’s also a section on civic engagement and how to participate in democracy by voting, volunteering, staying informed and writing letters to elected officials.

“That was an important part of this particular publication,” Pushkin said. “Getting them engaged and seeing how they are a part of democracy. It’s not a vague thing that they look at from afar. It’s to let them know that from any age they can get involved. Young people have a powerful voice and they should use it.”

The document also includes discussion questions, links to relevant newspaper articles and details for which Florida educational standards the lessons satisfy. The curriculum is based on end-of-the-year civics lesson tests taken by middle school students.

When it was first printed, “Democracy Reignited” was distributed for free to social studies teachers in middle and high schools in several counties. The publication is available for free online, but teachers can also order hard copies for their classrooms. For more information visit Tampa Bay Times | Newspapers in Education.

Janet Scherberger

Janet Scherberger, Communications Consultant

Fall 2021 FORUM Magazine Chronicling Florida

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 Issue of FORUM Magazine. Visit our collection at the USFSP Digital Archive by clicking here.