Raphael Chambers, left, interviewed author L.M. Elliott as a kid reporter for Time for Kids. (Family photo)

As a hard-hitting reporter for the news magazine and Web site Time for Kids (TFK), 13-year-old Raphael Chambers has investigated teens who are launching rockets, bridges made from Legos and the first lady’s thoughts about the Easter Bunny. Being a reporter, he says, means you get to meet tons of cool people and inform the public about the experiences you’ve had.

Recently, the Reston teenager got a sneak peek into work going on at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in preparing for its future Tyrannosaurus rex exhibit.

“The jaw was amazingly huge,” Raphael says.

Preparing to write a story about the exhibit (it opens in 2019), Raphael also interviewed a handful of paleontologists (fossil scientists) and a Montana rancher named Kathy Wankel, who found the rare T. rex bones.

“Mrs. Wankel said she was just walking along looking for fossils when she saw a weird patch of land with a nub,” Raphael says. “She walked over to it, kneeled down, took it out and it was a dinosaur arm bone.”

Getting the job

Last fall, Raphael competed against 400 other aspiring young journalists in the TFK Kid Reporter Talent Search. The home-schooled seventh-grader was one of 10 kids selected to be a reporter for a year.

“We’re really looking for kids with curiosity, good writing skills, and we find terrific kids,” says Time for Kids editor Jaime Joyce. “We get kids with such talent, such motivation, and Raphael is among those.”

In the past, TFK reporters have interviewed politicians, athletes and rock stars. Raphael visited the White House to interview Michelle Obama, toured a new library at Mount Vernon and interviewed authors, teachers and scientists.

From ideas to stories

He takes his research seriously, preparing for an interview by making an outline organized into what will be the introduction, the body and the conclusion of his article. He takes notes and records the conversations to get accurate quotes.

“I have a really, really cool pen and a little notepad that is basically for reporters,” he says. “It’s special. They also gave me a really cool, nice shirt that I wear and a really good bag, and they gave me a press pass and a book.”

After the interview, he rereads his notes, figures out what quotes he’ll use and writes notes about what he remembers from the experience. Then he writes, edits for “flow,” reads his story out loud, checks for spelling mistakes and sends it to Joyce by e-mail. She edits his work and smooths out any “bad grammar,” he says.

“Raphael is a really stylish writer,” Joyce says. “It’s unusual for a kid his age. He really has flair.”

The reporting experience has made the rising eighth-grader more confident and a better writer.

“I feel powerful almost, or more powerful, because I know all those people,” he says.

But the job has also made him more cautious, because he wants to get things right. “It has also made me feel hopeful, like there’s so much I can go out and do.”

Learn more

To read Raphael’s stories and find out more about the Kid Reporter Contest, go to www.timeforkids.com/kid-reporters. Always ask a parent before going online.

Kitson Jazynka