Elementary school teacher turns daily announcements into student-produced ‘newscast’

Elementary school newscast

BEDFORD, Ind. (WISH) — A school media club led by an Indiana teacher is reshaping academic goals and career prospects for children from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

Fourth and fifth grade students at Stalker Elementary School in Bedford produce a daily “newscast” in lieu of morning announcements.

A team of field correspondents interview peers on the playground while beat reporters walk the hallways and visit classrooms for story ideas.

“I usually talk to the aides and the teachers, and I ask, ‘Do you have anything you want to put on the news?’” said fourth-grader Brylee Holguin.

She and her fellow reporters wear laminated “press pass” badges and turn in completed worksheets with story notes — on deadline — so student anchors can write and edit scripts before taping their reads.

Students also write and anchor the weather forecast, create graphics, operate iPad cameras and make editorial decisions about how to liven up stories they described as “really dry.”

Fifth-graders Mia Roberts and Max Grace anchor the daily announcements for Stalker Wildcat News. (WISH Photo)

The 5-minute newscasts are taped a day in advance and uploaded nightly as unlisted YouTube videos by teacher Brian Young.

“I wanted to turn the daily announcements into something that students would actually pay attention to,” he told News 8. “We started last year [by reading headlines] on YouTube Live and it’s turned into this.”

Stalker Wildcat News is staffed by approximately 15 students who do “probably 70% of the work,” he said. 

The robust staff allows for “fill-in” talent to take over when main anchors Mia Roberts and Max Grace, and weatherman Gage Brown, are out sick.

Gage Brown, a fourth-grader at Stalker Elementary School, said he improves his forecasts by studying his favorite Indianapolis meteorologists. (Photo: Brian Young)

Reporter Dylan Butler and camera operator Landon Hill are both trained to front the forecast on the media classroom’s makeshift “green screen” — four pieces of cloth taped together by their innovative instructor.

Landon Hill, a fifth-grader and camera operator for Stalker Wildcat News, said he enjoys working on the newscast “even more than recess.” (WISH Photo)

Mr. Young spends hours each night editing the students’ footage, researching affordable equipment and brainstorming new ideas, according to his wife, fourth grade Stalker teacher Carrie Young.

“He’s a perfectionist,” she said. “He probably works on it from the time we get home until about 9:30 at night. When he gets in bed, he lays there and thinks, ‘Okay, tomorrow when I get up, I’m going to do this to the video before I turn it loose.’”

The student news outlet has given some Bedford children with fewer extracurricular opportunities a platform to “dream big” and “be a star,” she added.

“We probably serve a much different population than some of the other school corporations,” Mrs. Young explained. “We have a high percentage, across the board, of [students eligible for] free and reduced lunch… and a high transient population. We have a lot of rental properties [in the district and] we have students who come in and out frequently. This gives them the opportunity to participate in something that they otherwise might not be able to.”

Several students expressed interest in pursuing journalism careers after joining the Stalker Wildcat News team or watching the newscasts. Their classroom attitudes and academic engagement improved noticeably, according to Mr. Young.

“I think a lot of them need to see that there’s something else out there,” he said. “Because we’re always talking about college. That’s obviously our goal; to get to college. But I don’t think some of them actually see why. I think with some of these kids, they’ll look at [their newscast responsibilities] and say, ‘I really like doing that and hopefully I can do that [as a career].’ And then they’ll realize, ‘I might need to go to college to be able to do that.’”

The classroom-turned-newsroom also inspired high-achieving students who had already planned on pursuing higher education to rethink their professional goals.

“She wanted to be a cardiac surgeon so [pursuing a broadcast news career] is a whole new thing for her,” said Mandy Ramey, Brylee’s mother. “Maybe she’ll do both!”

“We watch the show every day,” said Mandy Ramey, fourth-grader Brylee Holguin’s mother. “It’s just a highlight of everybody’s day.” (WISH Photo)