If teachers and students at F. H. Tuttle Middle School in South Burlington, Vermont, want to know the week's lunch menu, activities' schedule, or weather forecast, or if they want to find out how heavy student backpacks should be, all they have to do is tune in to their (very) local news. Each week, armed with newly acquired research and technical skills, 13 Tuttle students produce a live news show that has become their school's "must-see TV." Included: Video of an SBBN news broadcast!
|Two students at work in the SBNN studio.|
At F. H. Tuttle Middle School in South Burlington, Vermont, -- where every classroom has a television -- students and staff know where to tune in for the latest and hottest news about their school. Every Thursday morning, 13 Tuttle students produce a live video newscast called South Burlington Network News (SBNN). Known around school as "The News Kids Choose," the 15-minute show offers all kinds of information -- from the week's lunch menus to such investigative reports as "How Heavy Should Backpacks Be?"
After only four months on the air, some of the students already sound like network newshounds. "I like the bit of adrenaline you feel before each show," said 12-year-old Bailey, who reads the lunch menu and edits the weekly trivia question. "And I like seeing it all come together."
"It's amazing what they do and how they use the equipment," added Jay Hoffman, a technology teacher who, along with music teacher Karola Martin, serves as a show adviser. "They build pie charts on Excel, and use the kind of high-end editing equipment used at CNN and NBC."
LEARNING TO GO LIVE
Exposing students to high-tech equipment is just a small part of the news project, though. The SBNN news team also is learning and practicing the skills needed to prepare live television.
"It is not all about filming," said Hoffman. "The students are working as a team, and learning about stories; they have learned that a lot of reading and writing is involved, and they've learned what a challenge it is to remain unbiased."
Students spend about two-and-a-half hours a week working on the show -- during free periods and before school on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Roving reporters research some stories, while members of the student body submit others. SBNN news crew members handle the editing and graphics.
"I always thought it would be fun to be on a news team," said 12-year-old Abby, who reads the weather reports, edits stories, and adds transitions to video and text. "But since I started doing the techie stuff, that's fun, too."
Hoffman got the idea for a student news show after attending a seminar at CNN. The school's project is supported by a $40,000 grant from the South Burlington Community Fund, which paid for some equipment and broadcast training. Students began learning how to use the equipment in September, and the first show aired in January.
The original plan was to tape the show ahead of time and air it on Thursdays at 7:45 a.m. On the morning of the show's January 9, 2003 debut, however, students ran out of time for taping and had to do the broadcast live. "We really can't get a good recording anyway," Hoffman said. "We do better broadcasting live, with some pre-taped segments."
|The entire SBNN news crew.|
Adjusting to the live format took a little while though -- for everyone. "The first few times, my heart used to beat out of my chest," said Hoffman, "but they proved to us what students can do with higher expectations." Just like in the pros, some pre-broadcast jitters may always remain. "I still get a little jumpy before we go on," said Paul, 14, the show's video mixer, who switches cameras to different people. "But it becomes more routine after a while."
BACK TO YOU, TAYLOR
Student crew members said they are surprised and pleased by what they already have learned, and what they continue to learn and apply.
"The first time [being on camera] was scary," said Taylor, 13, one of the show's two anchors. (Both anchors -- one male and one female -- are named Taylor.) "But after 11 weeks, I'm not nervous any more. I'm getting used to sitting, looking, reading, and talking -- the little logistics that make the show better.
"Now I watch the [local and national] news more closely," he added, "to see how the anchors transition and where they look. I try to converse more with my co-anchor."
"At the beginning of the year, I didn't know anything," Abby said. "Now I watch the news and notice the things they do. I like the reporting part; I like being on camera."
In fact, all the students Education World spoke with said that working on the school news show makes them watch TV news more critically. "I see it differently, view it differently, and hear it differently," said Paul.
The best part of producing the show, however, can be the praise from viewers. "The most rewarding part is when your peers come up to you and say, 'That was a great story,' Abby said. "It's great when you affect someone like that."
Photos and video courtesy of F. H. Tuttle Middle School, South Burlington, Vermont.
Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Copyright © 2003 Education World