Placerita Junior High School students run broadcast program for their community
Early Tuesday morning, the sun slowly warmed up Placerita Junior High School students as seventh and eighth graders trickled in for the school day.
Students wore their sweaters and warm jackets. Some students ran onto campus. Others walked sluggishly and rubbed sleep off their faces.
While the day was just starting for many students at Placerita Junior High, a different scene played out in Room 22.
A group of about 12 to 13 students were in the middle of producing Kid Flix, Placerita’s student-run morning announcement show. These students — lively, focused and cheerful — made the finishing touches and ran through their morning segments before they were to go live at 8:10 a.m.
“We do our morning announcements show, a monthly show, and a podcast that’s all wrapped into this program,” said Paul Kass, advisor and founder of Kid Flix, an extracurricular television production/broadcast program.
According to Kass, 20 years ago he had an idea to start a digital movie group and make movies, but that never worked out. Then, the principal at the time sent Kass on a workshop about closed circuit television.
Kass returned with the knowledge and inspiration to start Miner Morning TV. It started as a little show in the corner of a classroom and it is now a 54-member crew working to produce the show and other projects in a full studio.
“About 12 or 13 of them come in every day, and they run the morning show,” Kass said. “They come in. They set up the script. They set up the cameras, the audio, they get everything ready and put it together.”
As the advisor, Kass said he trains all the students and prepares them, but after that the students run the show.
“I’m here to help them out whenever they need to work on equipment or if anything goes wrong, but they usually fix it,” he added.
On one side of Room 22, there’s a classroom with ample space with desks, a white board and all the furniture someone could imagine for a normal classroom, but just on the other side of a wall is a studio.
There are cameras, tech and audio boards, computers to run the different software, seven basic microphones and more.
According to Kass, most of the equipment is acquired through a variety of ways. But he said the school site and William S. Hart Union High School District have supported them with funds to help purchase some of their equipment.
Kass said the program gives students the opportunity to pick up practical skills. These students in Kid Flix also create a broadcast for their fellow students and community, too.
You can also see part of this magic in the group members, he added.
“I’ve had students that have come in who are very quiet and they don’t have a lot,” Kass said. “They’ll come here and they’ll meet other students. They’ll start coming out of their shell.”
“I’ve had students who are very quiet, who take on the role of floor director. By the end of the year, they are just screaming and yelling at everyone and telling them what to do.”
There are various roles students will pick up, learn and then rotate every quarter, Kass said. Students can be in charge of the camera, anchors, script writers, floor directors, producers, audio and video editors and more.
Eighth graders Carson Kehl, Penny Reagan, Alyssa Lee and Mia Gommel and seventh graders Ruby Hasper and Ryder Brooks were eager to share their experiences working on Kid Flix.
“I like it and it’s just good because sometimes I have trouble getting out of my comfort zone. I’ve gone through a lot in the past,” Hasper said. “It’s really good for me to be around my friends. Even just getting up early in the morning because sometimes it was hard for me to get out of bed.”
The eighth graders have all served in most to all roles, including Brooks, who was able to get a taste of different responsibilities during a summer program between Kid Flix and SCVTV. Hasper was in the role of floor director last quarter and is now in charge of camera one.
Each student has a range of experience, whether it’s using the equipment, being the face of the broadcast or being a leader behind the scenes. They also agreed that their skills and confidence have grown over time.
“I like to be in front of the camera,” Kehl said. “I don’t really feel stage fright in the sense of talking in front of the school. I’m more afraid of how I look, but it’s fun to be an anchor.”
“You’re in front of the camera and you’re relaying important information to all of the school,” he added.
Each student shines in their role and that can be seen in the way they handle the tools, coordinate with one another, present themselves on and off the camera, and in the smiles and laughter that fill Room 22.
Though the crew of students work hard to produce Miner Morning TV, sometimes they run into troubles.
Reagan described a few times when audio cut out or when someone missed an announcement, or they had an issue with their video. But the team just rolled with the punches.
“One time we were doing a super Miner Morning TV and then there was a lockdown during it,” Reagan said. “Do we keep running video? We all just kept it going and kept it smooth, so no one would panic.”
Lee, who’s a producer this time around, said sometimes it’s a bit of challenge being in a leadership position. While the group is there to produce the broadcast, they are also middle school students having fun.
She has to remind herself and others to refocus — or another crew member might say something. It’s a team effort.
She also noted that the team will be attending the Student Television Network convention in March at Long Beach. According to Kass, STN is an annual event where students across the nation gather for workshops, competitions and a chance to network with each other.
Students are also able to compete in other competitions related to filmmaking, he added.
There was a sense of pride and joy when students talked about Kid Flix.
“One of my favorite [moments] was hearing that I was officially the producer. There was an application process, and I’d been having some anxiety over that, but I’d been coming in when we had no producer on some days,” Brooks said.
“I liked coming in and doing the job. That’s why I really love being in the studio,” Brooks added.
According to Kass, the other junior high schools in the hart district also have a video production elective, but not quite like Kid Flix.
“I have made a lot of new friends,” Gommel said. “Everybody here is motivated to do more, also outside of school. You get to do things outside of school with new friends you make. It really helps you bond with the people you first see in the morning.”