Friday, April 8, 2016

Nellie Bly and Investigative Journalism for Kids

We just completed a unit study on journalism using the book, Nellie Bly and Investigative Journalism for Kids: Mighty Muckrakers from the Golden Age to Today with 21 Activities. I am so glad we finally got to this unit study. I put this on my list to do more than a year ago. I love this series of books with 21 activities. They are chock-full of great information and hands-on activities to reinforce learning.

Nellie Bly is such an exciting woman who my kids first "met" when we studied Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. We learned that she attempted to go around the world in less than 80 days after reading Jules Verne's book. I should say she not only attempted it but also succeeded. We followed her real life journey on our globe and listened to some of the details about the countries she passed through. We love our talking globe.

My kids loved the "You name it" project where they took their names and wrote as many words as they could think of to describe themselves. I am only showing mine because the kids used their real names for their projects.

They learned about creating a life motto and thought up ones for themselves. Anne came up with the phrase, Leap over problems so they can't get you! Dean, who we must remember is a teenage boy, thought up the motto, Cookies make the world go round; eat more cookies. That boy's mind is always on food. We learned about the life of Newsies (young boys who sold papers during the 1800's and watched the musical movie, Newsies.

We learned about how Nellie Bly got her start in investigative journalism by acting the part of a crazy woman and getting herself committed into the "Mad House". Her editor rescued her after nine days, but her articles about the mental hospital opened up this secret world to the public and helped to improve conditions for the women inside mental institutions. What a fascinating and brave woman!

The kids learned about yellow journalism and political comic strips. They also made comic strips of their own, although theirs were not political. 

One of their favorite projects was learning about Jacob Riis, a journalist and photographer who shed light on the horrible conditions in the tenements of New York City. He used photography to show how the other half lived and get the city leaders to start the slow process of reforming and improving the tenements. My kids hit the streets of our local city and took their own pictures and then turned them into collages on PicMonkey.

Anne ~ She took photos of her dance studio, favorite buildings, spring trees in bloom, and dog dishes (our city is well known for being dog friendly and many stores leave out water and treats).
Dean ~ He took photos of one of his favorite coffee shops, flowering trees, the car he would like to someday own (haha), one of the many cranes in town right now (our city is bursting with growth), and one of the many murals around town that he likes. 
The kids also learned about Ida B. Wells and all of her work to bring about improvements for African Americans in the south. We learned about the horrible practice of lynchings and all that Ida B. Wells did to try to stop them. The kids learned about pen names and chose their own. 

We also dissected a newspaper and looked at all the different parts. We found the 5 W's (who, what, where, when, why) in a famous article about the shirtwaist triangle factory in 1911.

Lastly, we learned about Upton Sinclair. We will be reading his famous book, The Jungle, when they are in high school. They got a taste of it this week while reading excerpts. It is one of the books that had a deep impact on me during my freshman year of college. The children then wrote a letter to their future selves. 

What a wonderful study -- I am glad we finally got this one off my list!

Blessings, Dawn


  1. What a unique and fun unit! I am pinning this for the future.

  2. What a unique and fun unit! I am pinning this for the future.

  3. How wonderful! It sounds like a perfect unit and I am a tad bit jealous. I love all the work the did. Thanks for sharing :-)

  4. This is such a great unusual study. I love those 21 activities books too, but I've never seen this one. So much fun!