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Concord fifth-grader starts digital newsletter to connect with classmates while at home 

  • Beaver Meadow School Fifth-grader Charlie Dustin works on an issue of his digital newsletter, “The Lodge,” at his home in Concord during the stay-at-home order. —Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 5/4/2020 2:44:10 PM

(Editor’s note: This week, the ‘Monitor’ will publish a series of stories exploring how students of all ages are staying engaged with the community while learning from home.)

The early days of the stay-at-home order were difficult on Concord fifth-grader Charlie Dustin. He missed seeing his friends at school and interacting with his teachers.

“It started one day when I was just sitting at my computer desk,” he said. “It was at the beginning when we started this, and I wasn’t very happy. My mom came over to me and said, ‘What if there was a way that we could still be connected to your friends?’ ”

Dustin came up with the idea for a digital newsletter where his classmates could submit entries describing what they’ve been up to while staying at home.

National news headlines have shown students of all ages, in colleges such as Cornell and Penn State, and elementary-age students, like Dustin, creating digital newsletters to share with classmates. Many of them echo themes from students wanting to spread positive news of their community amid all of the panic and fear caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

“The Lodge” newspaper, named in honor of Beaver Meadow’s mascot, has a similar aim.

“I wanted to organize it so that almost every single paragraph had a good memory of school or a lot of happiness and excitement in it so students would still feel connected to other people,” Dustin said.

Every week, Dustin sends out a notice to his classmates asking for entries to “The Lodge.” Students submit photos of them riding their bikes around the neighborhood, baking or playing games with their families.

Dustin designs the newsletter at his computer in his blue Mario-themed pajamas with his mom, Joy, in a Google Docs file that can be shared with members of his class.

Dustin also includes a weekly joke or fact in the newsletter. He included a contest where he asked his classmate to submit funny pictures they’d drawn. Lately, he’s been trying his hand at interviews.

He interviewed Suzy Brand, the state’s kid governor this year who used to attend Beaver Meadow. Dustin’s fifth edition of “The Lodge,” which came out last week, featured questions and answers with Interim Concord School District Superintendent Frank Bass.

Dustin said he’s received a lot of positive comments about “The Lodge” from fellow students and their parents.

“They were very happy and excited; they said it makes them feel good inside,” he said. “Parents especially have been loving that we created this so that their kids could keep in touch with each other when they are feeling sad and down during this time.”

Dustin, who wants to work at Nintendo designing video games when he’s older, said he’s thinking about trying to continue the newspaper when COVID-19 is over. He’s considering printing out physical copies for classmates when they get back to school.

“I just appreciate people caring about how other people are feeling during this time and wanting to make that better,” he said.

Joy Dustin said that like most kids, her son struggles with being distant from his friends.

“Putting out a newspaper that makes his classmates feel connected, and makes them smile or laugh, gives him a sense of purpose, since there is not much else he can do to help others at this time,” she said. “His whole family is really proud of him.”

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