George Lucas Educational Foundation
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On the Air: A Student's Dream Fulfilled

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This is the fourth post in a series on student television broadcasts and how such programs foster students' academic and social and emotional development. Visitors may want to read the previous posts first:

Small Screen, Big Success: Creating a Student-Produced Television Program
Lights! Camera!: Student News Coming Your Way
Student Broadcasters: Feature Stories Reflect Local and Global Awareness

Over the years, every student who asked to be a part of Ben Franklin Broadcast News (BFBN) has been given the opportunity. Children with special needs have been especially eager to participate. They thrive in a learning environment that offers opportunities to emphasize their strengths. Broadcasts have been aired with closed captioning for the hearing impaired (signed by students), and children with Down syndrome have been anchors and reporters.

Each year, students work with parents to produce one of the morning shows. The parents recognize the rigor of the process and the way in which BFBN exemplifies the school's commitment to nurturing the social and emotional growth of their children. BFBN reflects the effective integration of academic skills and a loving, caring, and supportive school community.

Ben Franklin Middle School

There was an eighth grader, Greg, who had a difficult time expressing his thoughts and ideas. Nevertheless, he wanted so much to be an anchor on the show. He often told us about his dream; still, he recognized his limitations. Although he knew we would support his wish to anchor, Greg was hesitant to take the leap. It seemed as if he knew that his dream might remain unfulfilled.

One morning, Greg arrived in the studio much earlier than usual. He took me aside and placed a piece of paper in my hand. He had written three sentences -- three wonderful sentences. It was the opening to the show that he thought he might be able to read as a co-anchor. He thought that if he could read his opening, he might be able to go on and read some of the scripted announcements for the day.

As you might guess, my joy was overwhelming. I gave him a resounding "Yes!" and we quickly informed everyone that we needed to make some changes to the day's broadcast. We announced that Greg would co-anchor. Although everyone was surprised, they were also happy to see Greg take such a courageous step.

As air time approached, he settled into his seat at the anchor desk, and the countdown was announced: "Five, four, three, two, one . . ." Greg was on the air, and he spoke his words. He was magnificent. He performed flawlessly. As the closing music and credits faded, the floor manager gave the "All clear" announcement, and the students erupted in applause for Greg. I have never forgotten that morning. Most of all, however, I hope Greg still remembers his truly shining moment.

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Bonnie Bracey Sutton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Maybe some of the students who dream these dreams, don't have access to the equipment that would let them be involved in multimedia in this way. So we use alternative methods to create their presence on the air. I had a wonderful friend who was a career school principal. Tom Smolenski, and there was a television studio in his career school.

In the classroom, we practiced the news, observed the news, and even did a small newspaper, scanning the various newpapers with the help of some of the programs that bring the news into the classroom in the form of a newspaper, and some online presence as well as the
initiative from the Newspaper Association to help students learn to read the news.

Then we practiced broadcasting. They would submit their news to the editor, me and a couple of parents, and then they were also editors in some ways. The wordprocessor got a work out.
The newspapers sometimes had articles that we sort of did not discuss if they were
out of the realm of classroom discussion.

Then we found that we could take a tour of the local NBC affiliate. ( we had a parent who
helped us to do this). It was so amazing to the students to actually visit a news station.
And each got their chance to be on camera.. and to be in a faux commercial. More than that, they talked to the on air personalities.

When we returned to school and prepared for our broadcast, at the high school , it was
hard work, good practice, great stories, and so on. We were told if the broadcast was
good it could air on our local educational channel. We pulled out all of the stops to make sure that it was a quality broadcast.. of course there was one kid who never had his stuff, and when it was time for the broadcast practice, he didn't have what he needed. As an aside to him, I said, what if your favorite sports broadcaster just said, well, I didn't do my work. what then? He smiled. The next time he was ready.

We learned a little about lighting, a lot about delivery, much about preparing the set and then using inclusive videotape. We weren't as good as NBC, but you know, children love the adventure of learning when it is their work.
They were so proud to be able to deliver the news. Though our school did not have a television network, we did have broadcasting in the form of radio , and it had not been used that much. We started to use it again and other classes also began. So we had our daily news.

Eventually the PTA purchased equipment for us. The media specialist often arranged reporters from different classrooms and we were on.. on television as a school delivering the news.

One child said... " Looks easier than it is!" Another wangled his way into a local broadcasting
project that involved students. This was a triumph for a school of little means, with big ideas and creative ways to get there.

Bonnie Bracey Sutton

Mechelle De Craene's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dear Tony and Bonnie,

Thank you for sharing these stories. It is so inspiring. I'm going to share this with my fellow special education teachers.

Best Wishes,
Mechelle : )

Jennifer Lynn Abdul Jabar's picture

I was wondering what kind of consent forms you used in your school when filimng the news channel and filming clips of students that may be used in your news channel.

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