LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION

BROWNSTOWN

The folding bulletin board is set up for the backdrop, and the laptop, projector, tripod and microphone are put in place.

The anchors take their seats, sit up straight and smile. Another person operates the computer, and fifth-grade teacher Becky Baker kneels on the floor behind the iPad.

“Quiet on the set,” Baker said before pressing the record button on the iPad and signaling to the anchors to begin speaking. They take turns delivering the news, birthdays, weather, joke of the day and Pledge of Allegiance.

Other happenings around school, including plays in classrooms, songs, sporting events and field trips, also are featured on occasion.

KIDS TV has been a staple at Brownstown Elementary School for about a decade. Throughout the school year, all fifth-graders get a chance to participate in the weekly newscast, staged in Baker’s classroom.

“All fifth-grade students are taking ownership of the project and look forward to helping to produce a KIDS TV newscast,” Baker said. “As a teacher, I see so many great things coming from this project. This project has not only been innovative and stimulated learning, it is developing confidence in my students in the areas of writing, speaking and the ability to deliver a quality product via up-to-date technology.”

Baker said she hopes it gives students additional skills to be more organized and career ready in the future, too.

“It has been exciting to see KIDS TV evolve over time into a quality newscast for both students and teachers,” she said. “The smiles on kids’ faces when they see themselves and friends doing exciting things on TV is priceless. That makes it all worthwhile for me.”

About 20 years ago, Larry Raymer, the school principal at the time, began having fifth-graders announce a few news items and lead the Pledge of Allegiance over the intercom system using the telephone at the office.

Then about 10 years ago, the school upgraded to newer technology. A small supply room behind the library was painted with the KIDS TV logo, and a small handheld video camera was used to make live newscasts. Dry erase whiteboards were used to prompt the kids that were on TV, and the newscast was shown on classroom TVs each morning.

When a building project was completed at the school a couple of years ago, there was a push for wireless and new technology, and interactive whiteboards were installed in every classroom.

“Because the handheld video camera often had problems that presented roadblocks for us and the new whiteboards offered much better viewing than the small classroom TVs, we were motivated to once again look for a new and better way to do KIDS TV,” Baker said.

After attending a computer conference, she decided to take on the project of using an iPad and iMovie to make that upgrade.

“The kids took to it beautifully,” Baker said. “Some of them had used iMovie and were a big help in getting it started.”

Baker received grants from the Community Foundation of Jackson County and Indiana Retired Teachers Association to purchase the iPads. She then found a folding bulletin board to use as the backdrop of the news studio, and she pulled together a laptop, a projector, a tripod and a Blue snowball microphone to begin doing the newscast in her classroom.

Using Google slides, they create a slide presentation to use as their teleprompter. Baker and the students create and write the news items.

“Each news item is typed on a slide to be projected on the interactive whiteboard to be read by the student reporters,” Baker said. “We video each news segment and then stitch them together using iMovie.”

The newscast, which typically is less than 10 minutes long, is put together each Tuesday or Wednesday and is shared via Google Drive for all of the school’s teachers to play on their interactive whiteboard on Fridays.

Baker’s class led the newscast the first nine weeks of this school year, and the other three fifth-grade classrooms each get nine weeks to participate.

“What’s more exciting than seeing fifth-graders compose, produce and video their own newscast and then share it via the latest technology to the whole school?” Baker said. “The excitement is growing throughout the school, as teachers and students now suggest and share ideas with us about things that are happening in their classrooms that are newsworthy items for KIDS TV.”

Fifth-grader Kalee Borden said she typically focuses on delivering sports reports, but she helps with other items as needed.

“When I don’t have a role, I’ll just help with slides or help set up or anything that I can help with,” she said. “It’s just fun watching it all and doing it all and just seeing everyone have the best time doing it.”

Classmate Maddie Gibson said she likes doing sports reports, too, but she is willing to help with the set and props.

“I like doing different things each time,” she said.

In recent years, Maddie said the program has improved.

“When they did it live, it wasn’t really appealing, and it wasn’t fun. They didn’t have the sports, and they didn’t have the school activities. It was just kind of plain,” she said.

“Now, it’s really cool because we’re working with the iPad, and you can do all of this other cool stuff with it, like put pictures in.”

Fifth-grader Ethan Fultz said the TV program has helped some kids break out of their shell. He said one girl was really shy and only would talk to one other person. But since helping with the TV program, she broke out of her shyness.

“It’s really cool just watching people succeed in doing it,” he said. “We were all nervous, but then I think it kind of eased down being nervous when we found out that we didn’t have to do it live.”

Baker said she has noticed that, too.

“In the past when we did it live, people would say, ‘I don’t want to do it,’” she said. “Now, people will say, ‘OK, I’ll try.’ Once they try, they realize, ‘This isn’t so bad. I like doing this.’ It does bring some of them out of their shell, so I think it does eliminate some of that shyness.”

Fifth-grader Leyton Sevakis said learning what it takes to put on a TV program could even steer some kids toward a career in front of or behind the camera.

“People might want to be something else when they were in preschool,” he said. “They really want to be like a firefighter, let’s just say, and once they come in here, they want to be a news reporter.”

Doing KIDS TV has brought out creativity in the students, Baker said.

“They have some really good ideas of what we should add,” she said.

“(A recent) week was a slow week for news, and I said, ‘We’re going to have to come up with some ideas,’ and they said, ‘OK.’ They are already thinking, ‘What can we create to put on the news? What will people be interested in to watch?’”

Baker said being involved with KIDS TV should help the students be confident in writing, speaking, listening and working together as they head to middle school. She said it would be nice for the middle school or high school to offer some type of TV program.

“I think there would be several kids that would love to take it a step further and do it in middle school and high school,” she said. “Some of them really have a knack for being on TV. They know how to enunciate and really put some pizzazz into their presentation.”

On the Web

To view recent KIDS TV programs, visit www.btownccs.k12.in.us, hover over the “Schools” tab and click on “Elementary School” and then select Becky Baker’s classroom page.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.