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Orange Seeds of Civility helps middle school students develop media literacy

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Six members of the Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America at Syracuse University wanted middle school students to learn more about media literacy and created a Canva presentation.

On slide 22, the public relations majors presented their acronym for identifying reliable news sources: CRAAP or Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. On another slide, the team challenged students to spot fake news by choosing whether or not an article about Kanye West who won the 2020 election – and the first non-lizard-like person to be president – is legitimate.

“The last time I checked, there are no lizard people,” said one student.

In addition to teaching media literacy to children through the team’s Orange Seeds of Civility program, students also participated as survey samples in PRSSA’s Bateman case study competition. The competition challenges public relations students nationwide to create a campaign for an assigned customer each year.

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For the 2021 competition, PRSSA commissioned the students to promote politeness in public discourse. After teams submit their case studies on Monday, experts will evaluate each campaign and announce three finalists in April. With kids growing up in the digital age, Orange Seeds of Civility decided to launch their civility campaign about media literacy and middle school students.

“Having a middle school demographic for the campaign is going to be a little different than anyone else,” said Orange Seeds of Civility member and SU Junior DJ Davis. “In not trying to fix adults, we felt that trying to educate a younger group would be a little more effective in solving these current problems.”

The SU PRSSA chapter recruited members for its two 2021 campaigns for the first time last fall. Samantha Cooper, the chapter’s co-president, helped select the two SU teams through an application process. Cooper said she is looking for candidates who have a strong passion and a unique perspective on this year’s topic.

The Orange Seeds of Civility team gathered in October. After attending a few Bateman seminars, one of the group members, Neeve Prendergast, had the idea to focus the group’s case study on media literacy. While researching current programs, the team hopped on a Zoom call one day in November that set the Syracuse area as the location to run the campaign with the help of their professional advisor Kristy Smorol.

“This campaign is a really noble topic because it’s about instability and it’s about really tackling misinformation and the role media literacy plays in it,” said Smorol. “Reaching out to local schools and working with children means that you are helping these children build the foundation for media literacy.”

During the winter break, Kate Reynolds, a SU junior and one of the group members, emailed over 10 middle schools in central New York. The team eventually contacted three different schools.

The timing of Orange Seeds of Civility came at just the right time for Nick Luppino, a social studies teacher at Lincoln Middle School on James Street. Elective and media literacy 2020 was a focus in class for his seventh and eighth graders this school year, and the SU student program offered them another opportunity to engage with the topic.

The team started creating its presentation in February and on March 5th, it finally presented its program to middle school students throughout the day, asking questions and bringing in their own opinions. And although the program was only scheduled for a certain period of time just before noon, the program ran for 15 minutes.

At the beginning and end of each section, the team sent out a Google Forms survey to the students, whose information will be used as data for the case study. Students filled in true and false, multiple choice and open response questions, and one asked them about the importance of media literacy.

“Media literacy basically helps us understand the world around us and this era of our history,” wrote one student.

“It’s important because you have to learn the online world,” said another.

Although the six created the program for a competition, these answers were exactly what they were looking for.

Contact Christopher: cscargla@syr.edu | @chrisscargs

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