Middle school media moguls | AspenTimes.com

Middle school media moguls

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Aspen Middle School students aren’t couch potatoes – they’re getting inside the TV to see how it works.As part of a media literacy class, some seventh- and eighth-graders are producing “AMS News,” a five-minute announcement that plays at 8:10 a.m. to begin each school day.Creating the show is a chance for kids to tell their own stories and find out what it means to make media, organizers said.”We’re empowering them to produce this program,” said Ashley Allison, head of program development at GrassRoots TV, which tapes the show. “It’s fully produced by the students, for the students.”In two separate tapings each week, the kids record five short spots covering everything from school events to local happenings and what’ll be falling off the ladle in the lunchroom that day.Eight students take turns as on-air personalities, directors and camera operators during the afternoon shoots, Allison said.”These kids are so bright. Teaching them has been easy,” Allison said. And in coming years, veteran AMS producers will mentor new seventh-graders to produce their own shows, Allison said.Aspen Middle School vice principal Steve Nelson drives the group from the school to the TV studio twice each week during the final class period of the day (a time when many kids play sports or train for ski racing).”We’re trying to incorporate technology into everything we’re doing here,” Nelson said.In every classroom at the new school building, teachers have “smart boards” that allow them to project onto a screen from a computer. Nelson creates a hyperlink for the news show on the school website, and homeroom teachers click on the link at the same time each morning.The show also plays on GrassRoots TV weekday mornings and again every afternoon.Nelson said the show is part of Superintendent Diana Sirko’s overall plan to reach out to the community. But since the inaugural show in mid-October, the program has grown a “life of its own,” he said.”These kids are getting firsthand experience,” Nelson said. “They literally have a job.”And in the studio, they’re picking up skills on not just how to shoot and edit video, but also writing and interview skills, as well as talking about media issues and the finer points of journalism.Nelson said the show is a “work in progress,” and he hopes to build on this first semester’s effort and bring similar programs to Aspen High School.In the spring semester, students will cover events such as the X Games, Nelson said.”It gives these kids tools. And down the road you don’t know what they’ll come up with,” Nelson said.GrassRoots staff members work with kids individually, Nelson said, adding that they serve as “teachers” and “mentors” to the young producers.The school funds the project for now, but Nelson hopes for additional funding in the future.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com