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Why We Volunteer In Schools

For the past seven years I’ve participated in an elementary school event called Arts Alive. It’s an exciting day for the Kindergarten-5th graders who get to go to classes taught by industry professionals in the Arts disciplines. I taught motion graphics and video production to three classes of 3rd—5th graders on that day, and it was as fun as it was exhausting. (I have so much respect for teachers, my wife included, doing this routine day in and day out!) Initially, my daughter was a student of the program so it was easy for me to say yes. But as she moved on to middle school, I found myself not only continuing to participate, but looking forward to it every year. I honestly feed off the enthusiasm from the kids. This year was especially unique as we broadcasted a live newscast for the first time.

The live newscast was broadcasted from the school’s “TV Studio.” It’s actually a room where they have a green-screen wall, a camera, and some gear to connect to their closed-circuit system. I brought in a small production switcher and a streaming device to take this room “live” to the internet. Once the gear was set up, I devised a lesson orientation on the basics of a simple newscast using two “anchors” with a production team, a rehearsal, and an actual live broadcast...all in 45 minutes! A link was sent to all the parents so they can watch from work or home or wherever they happened to be.

After a brief rundown, we “auditioned” two anchors. A lot of hands eagerly went up when I asked for volunteer anchors. While hands were up, I reminded them of the attributes we were looking for… “must be a great reader” (some hands went down), ”cannot be camera shy,” (more hands went down), ”remember, there will be many folks at home watching live,” (even less volunteers), and ultimately we had 4 students vying for the position. We did a test reading and the class voted for the top broadcasters. We then selected our “crew” which consisted of a Camera Operator, Audio Engineer, Teleprompter Operator, Lighting Tech and Stage Manager. Once we had the team we were all set to proceed.

After some rehearsals, we modified the script to better match their vocabulary and we were ready to “go live.” The adrenaline rushed through the kids and the room was bursting with enthusiasm. We had achieved the feeling of any network’s pre-show live broadcast and the kids were determined to do a professional job. This was our world, at this time, and it did not matter if two people saw the broadcast or two million… these kids were ready to give it a go. And they were spectacular. They knew it was a moving train and that mistakes would happen, and that they would need to just keep going. Small hiccups were fast forgotten by these 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders who maintained their composure and successfully pushed through the newscast.

One of my most favorite moments came after I said, “cut, that’s a wrap!” I witnessed them decompressing and breathing a sigh of relief which was immediately followed by a great sense of accomplishment. They had done something fantastic in a world new to them and they felt as they were on top of did I. Why would I not want to be back next year?

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