From the word “action,” the members of Ursuline Academy’s afterschool Broadcast Club get down to business, both in front of – and behind – the camera.
The new club of 17 seventh graders, which meets for an hour every Tuesday, is learning how to use a package of filming equipment called “Padcaster,” which includes a professional tripod, a case that mounts a standard iPad to a tripod, microphones, lighting and lenses.
The young student broadcasters also use the Padcaster’s green screen, which enables them to shoot footage with the option of adding any background they desire in the editing room.
Club members can hone skills in three specialty are-as of broadcast journalism, with the option to focus on one or try all of them:
➤ Reporters, who cultivate, do the fact-gathering for and write news, feature stories and ad copy;
➤ Anchors, who deliver the news and do additional work in front of the camera, such as acting in commercials;
➤ Technical crew members, who learn the basics of filming, editing and sound using iMovie software. These behind-the-scenes wizards also become adept at adding features such as captioning, freeze-framing and scene transitions to the club’s video footage.
Student reporter Anna Atkins has been dubbed the Broadcast Club’s “Science Girl,” responsible for the science beat. She recently reported a piece on Ursuline Academy’s Robotics Club.
“I love that I get to ask people questions and learn what people do in their lives and (then) vocally talk about it with the public,” Anna said. “When I do the interviews, I get to learn from people as they learn from me.”
Anna said she now appreciates the “fine line” reporters must walk between being well prepared for their interviews and quick enough on their feet to respond to the ever-changing flow of information.
“You have to have some questions prepared in advance,” Anna said, adding that her club work has helped her to improve her speaking skills.
Although she ultimately wants to pursue veterinary science and not television work, Anna said her immersion in journalism fundamentals will help her as a vet when she is called on to give presentations on animal health.
Anna’s report on Ursuline’s robotics program will be among the features included in the Broadcast’s Club’s first “episode,” set for release later this spring on the school’s main website. This first broadcast, still being assembled, will include reports on Ursuline’s “Mane Event” fundraiser; the “Pink Game” – a volleyball match during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month; and footage from the campuswide pet blessing on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
Another part of this first broadcast will be a whimsical feature story on unclaimed items in Ursuline’s lost and found – in the hope that their owners will spot and retrieve them.
The user-friendly Padcaster technology caught the attention of Ursuline’s IT department and principal Kimberly DiMarco at last December’s “LACUE” (Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators) technology summit.
The Broadcast Club is even getting tapped by school departments for its services. Last month, club members began shooting a PSA (public service announcement) at the request of Ursuline’s IT department to teach the student body how to back up their computer files when their iPads reach their data limit. This educational video will include a MacBook-recorded voiceover explaining the steps involved in moving computer files from an iPad to a Google drive. The PSA’s students-actors were shot against the green screen, which will enable the technical crew to add stock footage of a fast-moving, high-tech city in the background.
“It’s scary to lose all your data. That is what we’re trying to convey (in the PSA),” explained Ursuline K-7 music teacher and choir director Ben Viguerie, who co-moderates the Broadcast Club with Katie Gremillion, the seventh-grade English and reading teacher.
“They’re very comfortable with the camera now – being in front of the camera, using the camera – and they’re getting familiar with all the writing that’s involved in composing these segments,” Viguerie said. “Just learning the ins and outs of putting together a broadcast like this has taught everybody a great deal.”
Another video clip produced by the club – sent out to parents as a link in Ursuline’s weekly e-newsletter – encouraged school families to purchase their yearbooks early so they could take advantage of the discounted price. In this filmed ad, Ursuline’s lion mascot and students of all ages chase a yearbook-stealing dinosaur who erroneously thinks the yearbooks have sold out. The actors run all over campus in the nearly three-minute commercial.
“We came up with the idea, we wrote everything, and we filmed it during the week,” said club member Ashlee Robinson.
On March 11, the club shared its work with area students in grades 2-5 at an event focusing on the “STEAM” subjects of science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
Beth Donze can be reached at email@example.com.