Frankfort kids go behind the camera to keep school informed
TV studio features green screens, teleprompter
Middle school students in Frankfort whose exposure to screen time went up dramatically amid remote learning and the COVID-19 pandemic are getting a chance to find out what’s on the other side of the camera, thanks to some kids who wanted make a broadcast television studio a reality at Hickory Creek Middle School.
Eighth grader Russell Skibinski, of Frankfort, got the idea from his teacher Renee Grady but then kept pestering principal Tricia Dotson until it got underway. Russell’s brother George, a seventh-grader, was equally psyched about the idea and helped with the effort.
“We started broadcasting sports during the COVID pandemic first and eventually built up to the studio,” Russell said. “I know want to pursue a career in broadcasting. I like learning how the studio works and enjoy practicing and learning as much as I can about broadcasting and the studio.”
The new studio space at the school includes green screens, cameras, lights and other production equipment. More than 60 students are involved in various roles — operating the cameras and teleprompter, and broadcasting the news.
Music teacher Dave Wonder, who sponsored the studio along with STEM teacher Kathryn Allison, said the idea began as an audiovisual club, but the equipment wasn’t acquired and up and running until recently. The school’s Education Foundation funded the effort and the administration was a big supporter, Wonder said.
He researched the idea of a studio and visited Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center, which had livestreaming capability. He also visited James Hart Middle School in Homewood, where students use their studio to create Panther TV, which is where he got the idea for the name Tiger TV. Wonder teaches an 8th grade Music and Video Production class and plans to use the lab for projects.
“Mrs. Grady was the one who really got these students interested in livestreaming,” Wonder said. “Once we were able to start the AV club, those students took leadership roles.”
The students broadcast news from the school, as well as fun features on student council, volleyball and special events for Valentine’s Day and Black History Month. There’s also a joke of the day where a teacher tells a joke, a teacher feature and science videos.
“We’re really proud of watching these kids create,” Wonder said. “They have to work as a team to create these live broadcasts.”
He and staff do a bit of editing on the broadcast but most of the work is student-led, he said.
And it’s not just benefiting the students with technical skills and team building, according to Wonder.
“I feel like it benefits the whole school because we have a unified message going on and people are able to see multiple aspects of our school at the same time,” he said. “It’s neat to hear all the things students are doing that some teachers don’t know.”
Principal Tricia Dotson, said the broadcast system has been an asset for the school.
“It has allowed us to bring awareness to the wonderful things going on each week at HCMS,” she said. “Students are taking leadership and pride in telling our story.”
Last year as a sixth grader, George Skibinski loved watching streams of volleyball and basketball and other events at the school when he couldn’t be there in person. Now, Tiger TV has given him a chance to share that love.
“I wanted to give the district’s friends and family from far away the chance to see their loved ones,” George said. “I think it’s important because it lets kids in the student body know what is happening and what has happened.”