Real World Learning and Collaboration = Fun For All!

It’s barely 8AM when the AAB (Altamonte After Breakfast) news crew begins to enter the studio. The lights go on, the equipment hums to life and the crew begins to go about their daily assignments. Two crewmembers set up cameras. The sound director checks her soundboards with the anchors' microphones. The scriptwriter is making last minute changes to that day’s script, using a computer in the control room that sends its feed to the teleprompter in the studio. Still more crewmembers arrive, each going quickly about their individual tasks.

This is what I like to call organized chaos. You might be surprised to learn that this news studio is being run by elementary school students in grades three through five.

On this particular morning, the adult directors of the AAB News are just outside the studio helping other teachers at their school. The Media Specialist is explaining the library checkout system to a new first-grade teacher. The Technology Facilitator is showing the fifth-grade team leader how to print out progress reports from the online TIS (Teacher Information System). Neither of them is worried that the jobs in the studio won’t be finished or that the show won’t be ready to go live at 8:40AM.

When they do get away to peek in on the students, everything is going like clockwork. The anchors are doing a run through of that day’s show. The camera people are rehearsing different types of shots to make sure that the show will have the look they want. Our chef is practicing her French accent and asking what today’s guest thinks of her cafeteria manners tip for the day.

In the control room, the computers are on and the students are preparing to produce the live news show. Students have various pieces of equipment to run. There is an audio mixer, a video mixer, a title editor, a CD player, a DVD player, one VCR recorder and one VCR player in the control room. There are also two internet-connected computers. One is used for script writing and links to the teleprompter. The other is for Chroma Key work and information gathering.

It is amazing to watch this group of students come together every morning and produce a polished and professional live morning news show. In this endeavor, our elementary students are working on and achieving the following Sunshine State Standards by participating as a member of the AAB News Team.

  • The student uses the reading process effectively. (LA.A.1.2)
  • The student constructs meaning from a wide range of texts. (LA.A.2.2)
  • The student uses writing processes effectively. (LA.B.1.2)
  • The student writes to communicate ideas and information effectively. (LA.B.2.2)
  • The student uses listening strategies effectively. (LA.C.1.2)
  • The student uses viewing strategies effectively. (LA.C.2.2)
  • The student uses speaking strategies effectively. (LA.C.3.2)
  • The student understands the power of language. (LA.D.2.2)
  • The student understands applications of the role of theatre, film, television, and electronic media in everyday life. (TH.E.1.2)
  • The student understands and applies media, techniques and processes. (VA.A.1.2)

Each member of the news crew also functions as a field reporter, gathering information about projects or other things happening around our campus. Presently, they are working on collaboration with two local high school students to film and produce opening and closing segments for our show. The high schoolers are brainstorming concept ideas with myself about what we think the pieces should look like. I take the ideas and the list of camera shots that the high schoolers think will be needed to the AAB control room crew. They discuss the ideas and put their spin on them. In pairs, they go out and film the shots around our school. When they feel they have gotten all the film necessary it goes back to the high school students for editing. When the high schoolers have a finished product that they are happy with, it goes back to the news crew for approval before the news team puts it on air. If there is something the crew wants changed then it is sent back to the high school students and the changes are made, repeating the process all over again.

While both groups have met, they are eager to find a time when they can get together for a work session. The high school students want to teach the elementary students how to use the editing equipment for use in future projects.

The two high school students are using this collaboration to fulfill the volunteer requirements of the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship. They are also working on and achieving the following Sunshine State Standards.

  • The student uses writing processes effectively. (LA.B.1.4)
  • The student writes to communicate ideas and information effectively. (LA.B.2.4)
  • The student uses listening strategies effectively. (LA.C.1.4)
  • The student uses viewing strategies effectively. (LA.C.2.4)
  • The student engages in conversation, expresses feelings and emotions, and exchanges opinions. (FL.A.1.4)
  • The student presents information, concepts, and ideas to an audience of listeners or readers on a variety of topics. (FL.A.3.4)
  • The student analyzes, criticizes, and constructs meaning from formal and informal theatre, film, television, and electronic media. (TH.D.1.4)
  • The student understands and applies media, techniques, and processes. (VA.A.1.4)

My news crew is very excited about being a part of this collaboration. Real world learning is taking place with both groups of students. They are learning from each other in this experience. The skills, both technical and interpersonal, are skills that all these students will take with them and have for life.

At 8:00AM everyone is in his or her place and the live news show begins. Cameras are in place; the control room crew is in top form. The show is terrific, not a mistake made. All shows are not like this, but this is the show we strive for. When the show is over, the equipment is turned off, the lights begin to dim and both crews gather in the Media Center. The adults share their excitement for such a wonderful show. The kids are all smiles, knowing they will be back to do it again tomorrow.

Aven R. Baral