Harry Hurst students bring the news to their school
"Hello Gobbling Runners I’m Austin," one of the anchors said. "And I’m Emily," the other said.
A script controlled by another student in the class stationed at a computer scrolls in the background on the overhead projector screen as the hosts introduce themselves to begin the broadcast.
The anchors talk about an upcoming field trip the eighth grade will be taking that will teach them personal finance tips. The anchors also promote the school’s upcoming play ‘Frumpled Fairy Tales’ and announce the Thanksgiving break dates before segueing into a feature piece put together by another part of the eighth grade General Music Class at Harry Hurst Middle School.
The class is in its second year at the school and was brought about after music teacher Karl Harrod attended a conference in the summer of 2010.
Harrod waited until after the broadcast to give his class a few pointers.
"Can you make it a little more natural and maybe put it into your own words. And can I get a big WHOOO!!" Harrod said.
When the students go through the broadcast they give a louder joyous yawp at the mention of the upcoming Thanksgiving break.
Harrod, still not satisfied, makes another correction.
"Ok. The thing that you guys are missing that you had the last time is what? You are not talking to each other too are you? Are you looking at her when you are talking?" Harrod said. "Because these are some big speeches this time."
The class runs through the piece multiple times as Harrod checks with the student director on how much space they have available on the camera.
Meanwhile in a room down the hall, talented theatre and music teacher Ashley Santos is filming the feature portion of the broadcast – ‘The Teacher’s Lounge: On the Other Side.’
One eighth grade boy has on a long blonde wig and has a pillow stuffed under his cardigan as part of his costume. He is playing one of the school’s teachers along with a number of other who are gathered around a table in the teacher’s lounge.
Luke Marino, the director of the piece, stood above them holding his camera steady.
The premise of the piece was that students wanted to know what actually occurs in the teacher’s lounge.
Santos gave instructions to her teacher impersonators on what to say and do.
"You are kind of looking at them and then you guys turn and then you guys are going to fuss at them for being in here," Santos said.
"What are we going to be talking about,’ one of the impersonators said.
"Whatever you want. Rules, kids whatever," Santos said.
After filming begins a group of three students stumble through the door.
"We’re sorry we just want to know what you all are doing in the teacher’s lounge?" the ringleader of the three said.
"We just chill out and drink coffee and talk," one of the impersonators said.
As the director cuts and Santos gives instructions to the student to speak louder so the camera’s audio recorder can pick their voices the students seem to enjoy themselves.
Marino said he participates in all parts of production.
"Last time I wrote the script. I am usually in the feature story though," Marino said. "It’s a good class. I think we have the best class out of the whole broadcast."
In fact, the entire production is put together from script, feature story concept, to set design, costume, production, filming, acting and anchoring by the kids themselves.
Of course they have oversight from the teachers, but in the end the broadcast is a common product to which they have all made a contribution.
"Usually they kind of find their strong suit early in the semester. Some are repeat in front of the camera kids, they always want to be the anchor or in the feature news story," Santos said. "Some are really good at drawing so they do the backdrop. Some people are good at writing so they write the scripts. So they just kind of find their niche."
Santos said the program is still in its second year and working out its kinks, but she thinks it will grow as time goes on.
"I think they really enjoy it. It’s getting much better," Santos said. "There is stuff we still want to do to improve it. We want to get green screens and better equipment and we’re working on it. It’s just such a fast and frantic thing it is hard to find time to look into those new possibilities."
Santos said the class really links up with similar programs at the Satellite Center.
"We tell them this is really a good precursor to all of that," Santos said. "We mention all of the real life connections it can have."
With filmmaking of all types booming in the New Orleans area, introducing children to media production at such a young age may give them an extra step.
"I think they are really starting to get it that this is a possible career choice they may have never considered before," Santos said.
(The video above is the broadcast made on the day we visited the class.)
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