Lights, camera, action

Soda Creek fifth-graders shine in front of camera, work behind the scenes

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Directing has more than one meaning in the audio/visual room at the back of Soda Creek Elementary School's media center.

For fifth-graders such as Nastasja Rost, the term defines her role this month with Soda Creek News, the school's bi-monthly TV news program scripted, filmed, edited and aired by and for students.

For Steamboat Springs School District Technology Director Cathleen Nardi, directing is what students involved with district video production classes and projects are doing with their education.

"They are directors of their own learning," Nardi said last week.

Though increasingly successful, the programs have struggled to grow because of funding issues. The Education Fund Board used revenue from the city's half-cent sales tax for education to help expand the high school's video production program this year, but no funding for any video production program was provided the previous year, and the district has been forced to make budget cuts.

The Fund Board's Technology Commission is requesting $5,000 to go toward video production programs for the 2004-05 school year.

That request, if approved and gifted to the district, will help ensure projects such as Soda Creek News -- dubbed SCN by students and staff at the school -- continue into the future.

SCN, in its sixth year, has grown to be part of the school's culture and an experience younger students look forward to when they reach fifth grade.

Though having fun and being seen by their peers on television is just as important to SCN staff as producing hard-hitting news stories, the news show production is providing students a wealth of educational opportunities, Nardi said.

The video production project sparks student creativity, improves self-esteem and public speaking abilities and tests students' reading skills.

There also are the responsibilities that come with working on the program.

Under the bright spotlights set up in the audio/visual room, the crew of students spends, on average, three days a week scripting, filming and editing the news show that airs every other Tuesday in all Soda Creek classrooms.

The only requirement to appear on air is a willingness to give up lunch and recess with friends during production time. Groups of five students produce two news programs over the course of a month before the next group of students takes over, ensuring all interested students get a shot working the camera, reporting on school news, editing the footage or directing the production.

The finished program includes pictures of birthday students, news bits highlighting school events and happenings and updates from the school's Student Council.

Fifth-grader Jeffrey Gay serves as the computer/technical guru for this month's productions.

"I just wanted to be a part (of the program) and help," Gay said. "I wanted to learn more about computer programs and how to use them."

Kindergarten teacher Sharon Clementson is in her second year overseeing SCN productions, and, like the students, she's loved every minute of it.

"All the groups I've worked with have been great," Clementson said. "It's a neat program, and the kids love it. They all love to see themselves on camera."

Each episode concludes with the production crew dancing to a favorite song, and once each quarter the show includes a "lost and found" fashion show, during which students create outfits out of the items left in the school's lost and found box.

"That's about the only time we go on location," Clementson said.

Steamboat Springs High School also produces a news show, a weekly program called the Sailors Video Magazine Broadcast. The show is produced through the school's video production class, which this semester has 33 students, Nardi said.

The progression in video production skills from elementary to middle to high school is impressive, she said.

"That's one of the reasons we feel it's imperative to keep this program going," Nardi said.

Or, as fifth-grader Rost might say, to keep the cameras rolling.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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