Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman, circa 1871-1876.

Each weekday, in dozens of classrooms across our coverage area, hundreds of students have access to our daily reports through the Newspapers in Education program.

Thanks to the generosity of readers, businesses and other community organizations, the NIE program provides free editions of The Citizen and digital access to auburnpub.com to area educators who sign up to participate.

Teachers use the newspaper and the website as a teaching tool in many creative ways. They have students read in search of something specific, such as coverage of the inauguration or the election. Some ask students to read in preparation for quizzes on current events. Many simply have classroom discussions about a specific article or news topic.

But as much as the day-to-day news coverage is terrific fodder for learning, we also recognize that it helps to provide some content that is aimed specifically at student readers. In the first half of the school year, we've sprinkled a few NIE special features on our pages and at the NIE Blog on auburnpub.com. And each Tuesday we publish the Shortcuts feature that provides a fun, interactive lesson on random subjects of interest to children.

The second half of the school year, though, is when we try ramp up the special NIE content. That effort began this week with the first of four essays related to Black History Month.

Thanks to the efforts of the New York News Publishers Association, an industry trade group that supports newspaper companies around the state, we have publishing rights to a Black History Month series, a Women's History Month series and an eight-part historical serial story.

The Black History Month mini-profiles, which also have a link to additional content online, began with actor Ira Frederick Aldridge and will continue each Wednesday this month with abolitionist (and famous Auburnian) Harriet Tubman, pro athlete Clarence “Fats” Jenkins and poet Lucille Clifton.

That takes us into March for Women's History Month. The profile subjects for the next four Wednesdays will be the first native American saint, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage, comedian Fanny Brice and designer Beth Levine.

That's eight weeks of historical profiles, and we're going to follow that with the eight-part weekly serial story, "The Path to Freedom." We've done serial stories via NIE for several years now, and once again author Mike Peterson and illustrator Christopher Baldwin have teamed up to give us a unique look at an aspect of New York history that also made a huge difference in the course of United States history. This year's serial explores the events leading up to a key turning point in the Revolutionary War. Here's the official description:

"When Burgoyne's forces storm down the Champlain Valley and capture the American fortress at Ticonderoga, young Luke Van Gelder joins other patriots in felling trees, destroying bridges and otherwise blocking the British army from advancing on Fort Edward, then, along with his father and his sister Sylvia, follows the American army down the Hudson to the twin battles at Saratoga that will determine the fate of this infant nation."

The serial story includes a podcast version that we'll post to our website, along with access to an author's blog and the ability for classrooms to schedule Skype sessions with the author. In addition, there will be an essay/quiz contest associated with this story in which a student in our region could win $100 and his or her school library will also get a $100 donation. Look for more details on that contest in late March when we kick off the serial.

As I mentioned before, our NIE program can't happen without support from the community and teacher participation. Donations for The Citizen's Newspapers in Education program can be sent to Newspapers in Education c/o The Citizen, 25 Dill Street. Auburn, NY 13021. Checks can be made out to The Citizen with "NIE" in the memo line.

Educators interested in signing up for NIE subscriptions can contact Tim Ferris, circulation manager, at (315) 282-2270.

Executive editor Jeremy Boyer’s column appears Thursdays in The Citizen and he can be reached at (315) 282-2231 or jeremy.boyer@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenBoyer

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