Two students at Benton Hall Academy set up in front of the green screen to be filmed singing the National Anthem.

by Dave Warner

There are plenty of interesting programs happening at Benton Hall Academy, but one that’s extremely interesting is their Broadcasters program. Each day, a group of students get together at lunch time and stand in front of the camera, recording news, sports, and other information that students in the school might find interesting.

The students that participate are changed out several times during the school year. They learn to work with green screens, cameras, and a teleprompter. The students start out reading off a clipboard before they move to the teleprompter.

Two IT support technicians assist with the production and according to Angely Ortega “They look straight ahead to the teleprompter, it’s going at a very slow pace and they look at it and start reading. They don’t even look at the camera after that. They become natural at delivering the news.”

According to teachers, this helps a lot of them improve their reading skills. “They have the mindset that they have to read at this speed in order to tell the news and act like a broadcaster,” said Ortega.

Tracy Young, who runs the program stated “We wanted to start this years and years ago. Mr Long did the morning announcements and the kids just listened. They never saw a face. He would announce Yankee scores, or the Dallas Cowboys. We started announcing Benton Hall things – Mountie scores and things that are true to the kids here.”

It’s great for the children that participate in the program as other children in the school recognize them in the halls each day. “The kids take ownership of the morning news,” said Young.

Before they give their broadcast, they are thinking about how they should say things, how they should use their hands, and how they should stand. “They’re really taking ownership of the script that we type up for them, but they make it their own,” she said.

According to the teachers and IT staff, the kids are really proud of the product that they are producing. The staff sets things up before the lunch period, and the children that are the broadcasters, come in, eat their lunch and get ready to go ‘on air’.

Young said “Most of the time we’re doing two episodes to get ahead of schedule. Right now we have six kids that are participating, but March is music appreciation month, so we have guest stars. They come in and play musical performances for the broadcast.”

Photo by Dave Warner - Two students in the broadcast class get ready to sing the National Anthem while Kevin Ciullo mans the camera.

Photo by Dave Warner – Two students in the broadcast class get ready to sing the National Anthem while Kevin Ciullo mans the camera.

The broadcast also has guests that appear from time to time allowing the students to see some different faces. “They participate in some of the answers that the kids are asking. It just gets the kids to see other people in the school that they normally would not see,” stated Young.

According to Young, these guests make for good conversation in the classrooms as well.

Kevin Ciulla is the other IT support technician that is involved in the production. “Initially I was working with this project and had worked with a team of network engineers to work to make it possible. Live streaming anything to so many devices in each and every room takes a lot of power. We weren’t necessarily ready to send that over our network, so we dealt with them to build a better network so that we could do this.”

“We prepared to do it live, but it became a little bit difficult to get the students here in the morning. Technically however, we are capable of doing it live now. The way we’re doing it now seems to work though. We do VOD (Video on Demand), so it’s almost like a YouTube video where they can go back and rewatch it or if they missed the news from yesterday, or something funny happened on it, they can go back and review them. It’s nice,” stated Ciulla.

Young stated “The kids absolutely love it. The class that hasn’t gone yet is like ‘who are you going to pick for the broadcasters? Are you going to pick me? I’d really like to be a broadcaster.’ So, it’s been a really nice motivator too.”

The teachers advise the students who want to participate that they have to be good role models and to be helpful in order to participate.

The daily shows are embedded on the school’s website and are password protected as they sometimes announce children’s birthdays on the show. “On days that there are no birthdays, we’ll post those on our Facebook page so that other people can see them and share in our excitement,” said Young.