When slime and journalism go hand-in-hand

By Elizabeth McSheffrey, Community Journalism Trainer

On the last day of class at Sakatcheway Anishinabe School in June, someone blasted the Alice Cooper classic, ‘School’s Out’ over the public address system.

It was a cheeky move appreciated by students and teachers alike, signalling the end of academic drudgery and the start of summer fun.

I laughed along with everyone else, but on the inside, alarm bells were ringing. How could I make my program so entertaining, it would captivate youth through the dog days of summer?

If you had asked 13-year-old me whether I wanted to spend my holiday writing newspaper articles and editing audio clips, I probably would have snorted my chocolate milk.

Alas my challenge: change the journalism paradigm from ‘work’ to ‘fun.’

When I was studying to become an instructor of English as a second language, among the first lessons I learned was to teach content that is relevant to the demographic of your students.

You wouldn’t, for example, teach a roomful of executives how to say the colours of the rainbow, nor would you teach a class of six-year-olds how to speak about mergers and acquisitions.

Since the end of the school year, I’ve taken my reporter’s hat off in Grassy Narrows and shelved it for someone who is much more flexible and open-minded when it comes to news.

After watching a movie last month, for example, some of the youth asked me whether they could make their own movie. “Of course,” I told them. “What would you like to make a movie about?”

We tossed around ideas together on the floor of the community hall. Popcorn? Leprechauns? A music video? The ideas were vast and creative.

In the end, we settled on slime.

Slime is a goopy concoction made from glue and laundry detergent that has taken the children of Grassy Narrows by storm. Cheap and easy to make at home, if you drive around the community, you’re likely to see someone molding a blob of it, or stuffing it into Ziploc bags to play with later.

Still from the All About Slime shot by Skyla Roulette

Together, the kids and I interviewed the First Nation’s ‘slime experts,’ and made a short video story about its ingredients, its uses and popularity. In that sense, it was a true community news story — one that mattered to the youth here.

Published by the local school board on Facebook, ‘All About Slime’ has reached 1,450 account holders to date. Those are significant numbers for a community whose permanent residency hovers around 1,000 people.

Such was the film’s popularity, in fact, that work is already underway on ‘Slime Volume 2,’ in which our young journalists explore what happens to slime when its ingredients are swapped out for bubblegum and water.

I won’t spoil the ending just yet.

In some ways, slime was a catalyst. Since then, we have filmed awkward icebreaker games, front crawl races in the lake and conversations with the pet gecko who lives at the school.

We’ve recorded the sounds pop cans make when they’re squished, made an audiovisual slideshow about summer science camp, and knocked coverage of Grassy Narrows’ youth baseball league out of the park.

Team shot of the Grassy Narrows Lynx and their opponents from Whitefish Bay after a tie game on Thurs. July 19, 2018.

Most recently, we ran around snapping pictures for a community-wide photography scavenger hunt that included tough-to-get images of themes like love, courage and culture. Miigwetch to the trainer in Naotkamegwanning First Nation for the idea!

The end result of our wild adventures?

The kids are learning journalism skills, whether they realize it or not. They’re learning how to report, use cameras, ask questions and make judgement calls on what footage makes the cut, while dealing with topics that interest them.

If it doesn’t feel like work, then it isn’t work. Sounds like something 13-year-old me might have even enjoyed.

Community journalism training is an integral part of JHR’s larger Indigenous Reporters Program. In-community training in Ontario is generously supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

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